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February 28, 2011
First title since 1992

MONTEGO BAY, JAM — It has become routine for the U.S. Men’s U17 National Team to qualify for the FIFA World Championship tournament, but winning the CONCACAF qualifying tournament has only happened three times, including Sunday's 3-0 victory over Canada at Catherine Hall Stadium.

After a scoreless draw in regulation, the U.S. got goals in overtime from Nathan Smith, Andrew Oliver and Alfred Koroma to secure the win.

It was the USA’s first U17 men’s CONCACAF title since 1992. In the process, the men exhibited good depth across its lineup in the process, working past losing several players in the last two games to red card ejections.

Canada hadn’t allowed a single goal in their previous four matches and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau held the U.S. scoreless for 90 minutes, but only two minutes into overtime Smith uncorked a highlight-reel goal for the game-winner. Collecting the ball in midfield, Smith took a couple touches to his right before unleashing a 35-yard strike past the outstretched arms of a diving Crepeau and into the upper right corner where it deflected in off the post. The goal was Smith’s first-ever with the U-17 Men's National Team.

With momentum definitely on their side, the U.S. continued to press forward and eight minutes later Oliver got beyond the Canadian backline with a quick throw-in from Jack McBean along the left sideline and finished the breakaway for his fourth goal of the tournament. Koroma, who came on as a substitute in the second half, put the game out of reach when he found the back of the net in the 119th minute off the third assist of the night by McBean.

“It was a good final and Canada was a great opponent,” said U.S. head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “A lot of things happen in finals and I'm really happy about this one. This is the first time we've won a championship like this at this level and I'm proud of the kids and the work they did. To come here, play five games and win all five shows that they've been doing a good job and working hard.”

The regional title is the USA’s third overall, having won the tournament in 1992 and also in 1983 when it was a U-16 championship. CONCACAF did not crown a champion from 1996-2007, opting for separate qualifying groups that did not crossover to play for a championship title. In 2009, the current format was re-instated but, due to concerns of the H1N1 virus in Mexico, the semifinals and finals of the tournament were canceled.

Under Cabrera, the U.S. Under-17s are undefeated in CONCACAF U-17 qualifying with an 8-0-0 record during in the past two cycles and has 24 goals scored compared to only five against.

The U.S., along with host Mexico, Canada, Jamaica and Panama, will find out their opponents for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup on May 17 when the official draw is held in Mexico City. The U.S. is the only country that has qualified for all 14 FIFA U-17 World Cups.

Including the five CONCACAF representatives, a total of 14 countries have qualified for the 24-team tournament that will take place from June 18-July 10 in seven cities in Mexico. The nine other countries that have earned a berth are Australia, Korea DPR, Japan and Uzbekistan from Asia; Burkina Faso, Congo, Ivory Coast and Rwanda from Africa; and New Zealand from Oceania. The remaining qualifying spots will come from South America, which will provide four teams, and Europe, which will provide six teams.

The first half saw the U.S. and Canada both create a few opportunities during a competitive but scoreless 45 minutes. Canada’s first opportunity of the game came in the ninth minute when a defensive mistake in the back provided Jay Chapman with an opportunity on goal, but U.S. goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh did well to come off his line and make the crucial save. McIntosh started in goal for the second straight match as Fernando Pińa, who started the first three matches, was ineligible after receiving a two-game suspension for his red card against El Salvador in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. quickly returned the favor with their first good chance on goal in the 11th minute when Marc Pelosi found some space and ripped a left-footed shot that just missed the frame.

Canada found another opportunity in the 13th minute as Keven Aleman cut in on U.S. captain Andrew Souders and placed a powerful right footed shot that flew just over the bar. Canada stayed on the attack throughout the remainder of the first half with Michael Petrasso playing a ball through in the 28th minute to Aleman, but McIntosh again made a courageous effort coming out of his goal and breaking up the play.

The U.S. had their best opportunity of the half in the 32nd minute. The U.S. pushed forward and served in a cross that was cleared out but Matt Dunn, a player from North Texas, unleashed a 30-yard a shot that skimmed the side netting and landed just outside the Canada’s left post.

The U.S. started the second half replacing Sounders with Mobi Fehr and handing the captain’s armband to Marc Pelosi. The U.S. dominated most of the game in the second half with their first chance coming in the 53rd minute when a corner kick by Dillon Serna was accidentally punched backwards towards the goal by Crepeau but defender Marco Lapenna was there to save the day and clear it off the line.

Play continued to be scrappy between both teams but the U.S. continued to create more chances than the Canadians. In the 74th minute, Pelosi passed the ball in the box to Andrew Oliver who took a shot that soared over the bar despite a nearly empty net in front of him. In the 82nd minute, Pelosi took his turn with a strike on goal, but the attempt was punched out by Crepeau.

Although the U.S. remained on the attack for the majority of the second half, it was unable to find the back of the net and regular time ended in a 0-0 tie, sending the game into extra time.

While the U.S. was able to put away three goals during the 30 minutes of overtime, Canada was never able to connect despite earning several near chances.

Late in the match, two red cards were handed out to Canada’s Marco Lapenna and the U.S.’s Andrew Oliver after a scuffle between the two got heated along the sideline. Both players will miss the first game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

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