By IVES GALARCEP
Death, taxes and the United States qualifying for the Under-17 World Cup. There are just some things you could always expect.
That isn’t the case anymore.
After qualifying for 15 straight Under-17 World Cups, every World Cup ever held in the age group, the U.S. went into Sunday’s CONCACAF quarterfinal vs. Honduras fully expected to come away with the victory and the ticket to the World Cup that came along with it.
Honduras had other plans.
The Catrachos rallied to break a 1-1 tie with a pair of second-half goals, including a stunning free kick goal in the 68th minute, to post a 3-1 victory over the United States.
On Sunday, the Americans never quite took take over a match they were expected to win, and Honduras took the lead first on a long-range strike in the 42nd minute. That goal appeared to provide a wake-up goal, as Joel Sonora responded just two minutes later with his own long-distance finish to leave the match tied heading into halftime.
The U.S. never got closer to the victory they so desperately needed.
Honduras forward Alberto Elis raced onto a through-pass, out-pacing U.S. defender Tommy Redding to finish off the goal and give the Central Americans the momentum. Before the U.S. could respond again, Honduran Kevin Alvarez struck a beautiful free kick past U.S. goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell to make the score 3-1 and deflate the U.S. team, which never really threatened after that.
The stunning defeat not only eliminated the Americans from World Cup qualifying, it also calls into questions the future of the U.S. Under-17 National Team program, and the Residency Program that has helped make up the squad for he better part of the past 14 years.
U.S. head coach Richie Williams will be facing considerable scrutiny for his team’s failed mission, particularly given the limited role given to highly-regarded midfielder Junior Flores, who started just one of the team’s three matches and failed to make an appearance in the decisive loss to Honduras.
What did you think of the match? Disappointed with how the Americans played? Impressed by Honduras? Think Richie Williams is to blame for the loss, or think it was just a matter of time before a U.S. Under-17 team fell in a World Cup qualifying tournament?
Share your thoughts below.