U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth didn’t mince words when it came to Timothy Weah’s performance on Tuesday.
“This young man did it all,” Hackworth said of Weah, “and the [second] goal by the way is not ‘brilliant’, it’s world class. I’m sure a lot of people are taking notice.”
There was a lot to take notice of when it came to Weah and the U.S. U-17 performance on Tuesday, a 5-0 destruction of Paraguay that sent the U.S. to the U-17 World Cup quarterfinals. There was Weah’s hat-trick, one which featured the stunning long-range rocket that Hackworth aptly described as world class. There was Andrew Carleton’s playmaking, as the Atlanta United midfielder provided two assists and a goal of his own. There was even a bit of defending as the U.S. shut out a Paraguay team that scored 10 goals across three group stage matches.
Despite the scoreline, the match was closely-contested throughout the first half until Weah scored his opener. After space was opened up by a Carleton pass, Ayo Akinola slid a pass to Weah for a close-range finish to open the scoring in the 19th minute.
The match stayed at 1-0 until after halftime, but momentum soon turned after Weah’s 53rd minute missile began the onslaught.
“I don’t know what to say,” Weah said. “I just cut back and my striker instinct told me to hit it. It ended up being a beautiful strike. Without the pass coming from [Indiana Vassilev], I wouldn’t have created the space to score this goal. I really thank him.
“I don’t score a lot of beautiful goals, most of my goals are tap ins – a striker’s real goal – but today I’m just so excited to have scored a brilliant goal.”
From there, the U.S. put on what was likely the most impressive performance of the entire cycle. Just days after the U.S. Men’s National Team’s lack of attacking cohesion doomed them to World Cup elimination, the U-17 attack showed promise for the future with several attacking sequences that destroyed the Paraguay defense.
Josh Sargent, the player widely regarded as the most promising prospect in the pool, was all but certainly the third best attacker on the day, despite getting a goal of his own. It was a complete team attacking performance, one which served as a major statement following the team’s setback loss to Colombia closed the group stage.
“I alluded to the fact (Sunday) that I thought my team had played five [out of six] really good halves,” Hackworth said. “I always thought they’ve had a really good response when they come back from a performance that’s not up to our standards.”
Now, the U.S. looks ahead to the next test. The quarterfinal awaits and, with it, a chance to make a legitimate run towards the tournament finale. To do so, the U.S. will need to replicate a performance like Monday’s.
Hackworth will have some options due to the depth of the attacking group. Weah, Sargent, Akinola and Carleton are all in-form, and that’s good news for the U.S.
“Sometimes if I don’t start, I come off the bench and do my job, so whenever I’m out there, whenever I’m starting, I come out there and try to give it my all,” said Weah. “I praise God today and I thank Coach Hackworth for starting me because if not for all of that, I would not have gotten the hat trick, which gives me three goals in four matches. I thank Andrew Carleton and the whole team for working with me and getting the win.”