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U.S. Under-17s qualify for World Cup after dramatic penalty shootout

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After failing to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in 2013, the United States Under-17 National Team have sealed their passage to this year’s tournament in dramatic fashion.

The U.S. U-17s qualified for this fall’s tournament by defeating Jamaica, 5-4, in a penalty kick shootout after both teams were held scoreless in regulation.

The Americans, did themselves no favors as they ended up missing the first spot kick in the shoot-out. Luckily for them, Jamaica failed to convert their second opportunity and everything stayed tied up until the sixth round of the penalty shoot-out. U.S. defender Alexis Velela drilled his kick from the spot before Jamaica failed to equalize, sending the United States to the 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile.

Even though, the United States controlled most of the early first half, they failed to really create any dangerous goal scoring opportunities, as both teams ended up the first half with 4 shots.Possession was controlled by the U.S., however, and this was due to a very active Christian Pulisic that orchestrated the American midfield.

Pulisic ended up creating most of the United States’ chances by implementing himself into the attacking third, and going up the left flank in order to make dangerous crosses throughout the game. Fortunately for Jamaica, no United States forward was capable of ever getting on the end of those crosses, largely due to a back-line that was led by a very on point Javian Brown.

Jamaica was capable of keeping the game tied in regulation in large part due to the success that Brown and Fabian Grant had in keeping a solid defensive line. Even when Pulisic or Joshua Perez were capable of sending in a dangerous pass into the box that happened to get past the back-line, Jamaican goalkeeper Jahmali Waite would use his height to intercept the ball in the air.

The second half was not far from a completely dominating performance for the United States. In the this half the American ended up getting 7 off 7 shots, but yet again the story of the first half ended up repeating itself as they failed convert for a goal.

Defender John Nelson ended up getting more into the United States attack, and this eventually allowing Joe Gallardo, Pulisic, and Perez in some dangerous shots. Eventually, this led to a dangerous shot by Perez that was inches from scoring, but Waite ended up stopping the shot at goal for Jamaica.

Between the 65th and 70th minute of the game, the U.S. had three dangerous shots, with one of the goal scoring opportunities coming via a Haji Wright flicked header towards goal off of a Pulisic corner that a Jamaican defender cleared for a throw-in.

Jamaica got closest to scoring off of a counter after catching the United States too high up. The American defense was quick to recover and eventually regained possession, but as the game went on, Jamaica showed signs of exhaustion as the United States still looked sharp.

The final minutes of the game saw some the United States ending the game as the better team, but failing to convert off of a couple of Pulisic and Gallardo crosses.

However, United States still qualified for the Under-17 World Cup after both teams took 6 spot kicks, but Jamaica failed to convert in sudden death.

The FIFA Under-17 2015 World Cup in Chile kicks off on October 10 of this year, as the United States look to winning their first ever FIFA sanctioned tournament. Their best finish in the tournament has been 4th place in 1999.


  1. Jamaican strategy of parking 9 men and awaiting a fortunate counter opportunity, usually when catching the opponent too far forward, or even better, a mistake such as a hand ball incident that awarded them a PK, ended up making them look more dangerous than they really were. Had the Americans gotten an early goal, the Jams would have been forced to send more players forward and they would have probably given up multiple goals while trying to play catch-up.

    Hadji Wright???? Man, does that kid ever need some motivational coaching! The next time he actually finishes a run might be the first. His lack of being open to finish, was astounding. One forgets that these kids are only 16yrs old I guess.

    The scoring areas at/near the end line were simply not open during the run of play, and I’m very surprised that Williams didn’t attack the middle a bit higher up, pounding shot attempts from nearer the 18, to try to open the logjam in the box some.

    Opposition coaches in their preparation for the U-17 WC now have 180+ minutes of tactical defense tutorials vs American coach Williams.

    Was not to pleased to the raining down of boo’s coming from the Honduran crowd when USA won the game. Was also not too pleased with the Honduran head referee abruptly disallowing an earned corner kick at the 91:47 mark, or that he only allowed 2 minutes of added time while allowing the Jams to tactically waste time during the entire game. The Concacaff region just loves the USA so very much! I give the players for our National Teams so much respect and admiration for having to deal with the outright hatred they face in almost every Concacaff situation.

  2. Aside from the handball penalty the US really controllled Jamaica. There were not a lot of times that you were really worried that Jamica would score.

    In this game i just think it came down to the size and physicality of the Jamican defenders. They were very big and very fast and completely clogged up the penalty area.

    The space and time that the US had against Guatemala was just not there against Jamica.

    Also the constant changing or the lineup was wierd. Where was De La Tourre in this game? He was missed.

    Having now watched a few games I see what folks mean with Wright. He just did not impose his will on the game at all, so he is not the beast his goal scoring might suggest.

    I liked both Pulisic’s, I agree with earlier post about Barbir. His passing out of the back was first rate. I also thought both outside backs were top notch.

    • I agree that these results against Jamaica had a lot to do with the fact that they had so many big, fast players and less to do with the US U17s being over hyped or under performing. The story is likely very different in three years if you put these exact same teams on the field.

      I dont agree that de la Torre was missed. I’m a fan of de la Torre but he is the same player as Pulisic only the latter is better and more dynamic. When Williams had them both on the field at the same time, it didn’t work.

      I thought Nelson was the most reliable player throughout the tournament.

      Wright was a huge disappointment. I can see he has some nice qualities but nothing to justify the hype. Maybe he’s feeling too much pressure from it, but to me it looked like he just lacked the heart.

    • I agree with you about the outside backs. Nelson was consistently good, at times great, in this tournament. And with his balls skills, I could see Olosunde developing into a central mid that could impose his will on games from that position.

  3. Good Lord this was hard to watch. Some fine individual skill interspersed among long balls, long throws, crosses to no one in particular and shots that landed in Belize.

    The Spanish language announcers yelled “Finally!” when there was a meek shot on goal midway through the 2nd half. Color me not impressed.

  4. The other thing I thought the USA did better in the second game was in winning most of the 50-50 balls instead of losing them like they did in the second half of the first Jamaica game.

    The attackers too often tried the same thing which made the job of the Jamaican defenders easier. The US beat the defense pretty routinely up the left side, got the ball near the goal line, which was good, but nearly every subsequent ball was sent into the 6 yard box where 3 or 4 Jamaican defenders were ready to clear. At least some of the time, the ball should have been played deeper to the penalty spot or 18 or a hard shot should have been tried to test the keeper. I suspect this predictability is something the US coaching staff will try to address for Chile.

  5. This team, before the tournament, was all hype about Wright, who unfortunately, did not have the best of games.

    Others did pick up the slack and looked pretty good Pulisic was fantastic until he picked up the injury and after that, missed a game, played poorly for him in the first Jamaican game and looked to be getting back in the last, but still had at best an average game for himself. When healthy Pulisic was outstanding. Playing him in the final group game was probably a questionable decision by Williams.

    No US defender had a bad game. Of the defenders, I thought Nelson was the brightest spot, he was never caught out of position, lost only 1 or 2 1v1 battles in his games and in the last game was clearly a settling, calming influence in the USA’s dominance of possession.

    • Speaking of defenders, I thought Barbir was outstanding last night. He really controlled his section of the field and used his physical gifts very well. Also, his passing out of the back was really, really good, particularly in the second half; he played a variety of balls to different players that helped the U.S. dominate possession throughout the final 45.

  6. Although the boys dominated possession, they lacked any variation to the attacking approach or the tempo of play. They were too predictable. Would love to see more interchange between central attackers.

  7. This was a much better controlled performance by the US than the game earlier in the week. Apart from a brief spell in the middle of the first half, we did not resort to 100 miles per hour play punctuated with lots of low percentage long balls. Nice to see us control the game and dominate long stretches. On a better field, I’m sure we turn this into goals. We can’t be happy about qualifying in this nail biting manner, but at least we are there.

  8. In the opening tv moments, video of the Jamacian Coach trying to shake hands with the American Coach seemed to show Williams rudely blowing off the seemingly friendly Jamacian. If this was that it seemed, I feel lousy to be associated with usa soccer. Am fairly new at following all this. But have a question: Is this normal at this level or is it the Coach or is it the manner promoted from the Head Coach or did I just misread the video?
    Atleast the team — except the defensive back who kicked the Jamacian forward in the crouch — seemed to play with sportsmenship. Would like to see less one against two, three, four dribbling. Was amazed at how often the boys had unforced turnovers. But loved the hustle!!!!!!!!!

    • I’m not disagreeing withy you because I didn’t watch any of the games, but what should Williams have done differently?

      • Have a back up to Gallardo. Sit Haji with purpose (I assume he was on there because of his size relative to the Jamaicans). Take a different approach to the second game against Jamaica. They knew Jamaica would park the bus and yet they just throw out crosses against a taller team. Playing not to lose against Honduras. It’s a shame to have a coach with little tactical skills be in charge of these young guys. I’d rather have Cabrera back if this is all we have.

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