The U.S. U17 team blew a 2-0 halftime lead today at the U17 World Cup in Chile before somehow hanging on to escape with a 2-2 draw against a rampant Croatia side.
The U.S. emerged from an evenly played first half with a 2-0 lead with Christian Pulisic scoring the first goal before setting up Brandon Vasquez for the second.
Following the team’s 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the Cup opener coach Richie Williams made some changes, installing Luca de la Torre from the start with Vasquez another new starter.
de la Torre was especially inspired in that good U.S. first half, unsettling the Croatian defense with several strong runs, and placing Pulisic for the first goal in the game’s 20th minute.
U.S. keeper Will Pulisic made some big stops in the opening stanza, doing his best to keep up with cousin Christian.
The second half though was a whole different story with Croatia coming out firing on all cylinders right from the restart.
Croatia put the Americans on their heels winning a series of corner kicks as the half began. Keeper Pulisic was called into action again and again and as the half went on a Croatian goal began to seem inevitable.
That inevitability was finally realized in the 65th minute via Croatian dangerman Karlo Majic. After the goal the game continued to be played entirely in the American end and despite some effective desperation defending from John Nelson, in particular, the dam was bound to break and it did in the 77th minute.
Despite being surrounded by U.S. defenders, Luka Ivanusec scored after a series of pinpoint passes to level the match on the scoreboard, if nowhere else.
Williams went to his bench for Eric Calvillo, Joe Gallardo, and Haji Wright, and the Americans actually launched a few late forays at the Croatian net.
Those U.S. attacks all fell apart before the game ended with an offensive onslaught from Croatia, who managed to hit the crossbar and an upright in the final seconds, with both shots coming after the three minutes of added time had elapsed.
In the end, it was a tremendously fortunate result for the U.S., although it should be remembered that the Young Yanks played quite well in the opening 45 minutes.
Next up for the Americans is a Friday showdown with host nation Chile, where a win will be needed to survive into the next round.
That still might not be enough, but anything less will see the Americans heading home after the group stage.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 0 2
CRO 0 2 2
USA – Christian Pulisic (Luca de la Torre) 20th minute
USA – Brandon Vazquez (Christian Pulisic) 40
CRO – Karlo Majic 65
CRO – Luka Ivanusec (Jospi Brekalo) 77
USA: 1-Will Pulisic, 5-Hugo Arellano (capt.), 3-John Nelson; 20-Alejandro Zendejas, 11-Josh Perez (6-Eric Calvillo, 68); 8-Luca de la Torre (7-Haji Wright, 83); 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Danny Barbir, 16-Tommy McCabe, 18-Tyler Adams, 19-Brandon Vazquez (9-Joe Gallardo, 75)
Subs Not Used: 2-Matthew Olosunde, 4-Auston Trusy, 12-Kevin Silva, 13-Alexis Velela, 14-Tanner Dieterich, 17-Pierre Da Silva, 19-Brandon Vazquez,20-Alex Zendejas, 21-Eric Lopez
Head Coach: Richie Williams
CRO: 1-Adrian Semper, 3-Borna Sosa, 4-Martin Erlic, (13-Luka Ivanusec, 44); 5-Branimir Kalaica, 6-Vinko Soldo, 7-Josip Brekalo, 8-Neven Durasek (16-Marko Gijra, 44); 9-Karlo Majic (17-Matko Babic, 83); 10-Nikola Moro (capt.), 11-Davor Lovren, 15-Marin Sverko
Subs Not Used: 2-Matej Hudecek, 12-Bruno Sutalo,14-Marin Karamarko, 18-Luca Pasaricek, 19-Ivan Delic, 20-Dino Halilovic, 21-Ivan Nevistic
Head Coach: Basic Dario
Stats Summary: USA / CRO
Shots: 6 / 27
Shots on Goal: 2 / 6
Saves: 3 / 0
Corner Kicks: 4 / 14
Offside: 0 / 0