While the immediate future is a barren wasteland for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team a group of 16 and 17-year-olds is offering hope that better times are not too far over the horizon.
Led by a hat-trick from Tim Weah and a virtuoso display by Andrew “Carleton the Creator” Carleton, the Americans crushed a highly regarded Paraguay side that had been a perfect 3-0-0 by a 5-0 score to advance to the quarterfinal of the U17 World Cup in India.
With so much discussion of developing talent in the wake of the USMNT failure to qualify for the World Cup coach John Hackworth rightly told his young charges that more eyes than usual would be focused on their efforts.
Having won their first two group stage matches to advance to the Round of 16, when the Young Yanks lost 3-1 to Colombia on Thursday, it was it was easy to presume that the team felt some extra pressure.
That loss cost the U.S. a chance at winning its group, with the Americans slipping to third place after beginning the day in first. It turned out not to matter a whole lot once Weah began filling the net but the final scoreline is a little deceiving, given that Paraguay had the U.S on its heels for much of the first half.
The U.S. broke the deadlock with a wonderful team goal in the 19th minute when Weah, the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, put a first time effort past Diego Huesca on a three touch sequence initiated with a defense-splitting pass from Carlton to Ayo Akinola, who teed up Weah with a one-touch pass.
Strong defensive play led by Chris Durkin and James Sands, and some good goalkeeping by Justin Garces allowed a relieved U.S. team escape the half with a 1-0 lead but the game would change on a thunderstrike from Weah in the 53rd minute.
Weah took an innocuous-looking pass from substitute Indiana Vassilev at the top of the box and unleashed a powerful shot to beat Huesca all ends up.
That goal inspired the Americans and seemed to plant some doubt in the Paraguayan players. With Carleton freed from the isolation on the wing that had limited him in the group games the Atlanta United prospect was clearly relishing pulling the strings of the U.S. attack.
Carleton added a third U.S. goal and then turned creator when he set up Josh Sargent and then Weah for the final scores of the game.
There was some bad news for the Americans as Ayo Akinola and Blaine Ferri both went off the field injured and with Durkin picking up a yellow card suspension for Saturday’s quarterfinal match.
The U.S. will play the winner of Tuesday’s match between England and Japan at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21 in Goa (10:30 a.m. ET; FS2, Telemundo).
Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Paraguay
Date: Oct. 16, 2017
Competition: FIFA U-17 World Cup – Round of 16
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium; New Dehli, India
Kickoff: 10:30 a.m. ET (8 p.m. local)
Weather: 83 degrees; haze
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 4 5
PAR 0 0 0
USA – Tim Weah (Ayo Akinola) 19th minute
USA – Tim Weah (Indiana Vassilev) 53
USA – Andrew Carleton (Josh Sargent) 63
USA – Josh Sargent (Andrew Carleton) 75
USA – Tim Weah (Andrew Carleton) 77
USA: 1-Justin Garces, 4-James Sands, 6-Chris Durkin, 7-Ayo Akinola (16-Taylor Booth, 79), 8-Blaine Ferri (18-Indiana Vassilev, 34), 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 10-Tim Weah, 11-Andrew Carleton, 13-Sergino Dest (3-Chris Gloster, 46), 14-Akil Watts, 20-Chris Goslin
Subs Not Used: 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 5-Tyler Shaver, 12-CJ Dos Santos, 15-George Acosta, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 19-Jacobo Reyes, 21-Alex Budnik
Head Coach: John Hackworth
PAR: 1-Diego Huesca, 2-Jesus Rolon, 3-Roberto Fernandez, 5-Alexis Duarte (Capt.), 6-Braian Ojeda, 7-Antonio Galeano (9-Fernando Romero, 30), 10-Julio Baez (20-Giovanni Bogado, 78), 11-Leonardo Sanchez, 13-Marcelo Rolon, 17-Fernando Cardozo (18-Blas Armoa, 55), 21-Alan Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: 4-Pedro Alvarez, 8-Stevens Gomez, 12-Angel Roa, 14-Victor Villasanti, 15-Luis Zarate, 16-Anibal Vega, 19-Jonathan Martinez
Head Coach: Gustavo Morinigo
Stats Summary: USA/PAR
Shots on Goal: 6/1
Corner Kicks: 0/4
USA – James Sands (Caution) 14th minute
USA – Chris Goslin (Caution) 27
USA – Josh Sargent (Caution) 65