U.S. tops El Salvador and qualifies for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico
It was a close-run thing but the U.S. under-17 national soccer team defeated El Salvador, 3-2, in a foul-ridden and ill-tempered match in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Tuesday to qualify for this year's FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
The game went to overtime and the U.S. finished with only nine players on the field and El Salvador with 10 as three players were ejected in the furious last 15 minutes. In all, Jamaican referee Valdin Legister whistled for 52 fouls.
The victory meant that the Americans kept alive their streak of being the only nation to qualify all 14 editions of the tournament, which was launched in 1985 and is played every two years.
"Overall, I'm happy with the personality and determination that the players showed on the field," said U.S. Coach Wilmer Cabrera. "It's a good win for us. We're in the World Cup."
The game marke the third win in a row for Cabrera's side, which earlier defeated Cuba, 3-1, and Panama, 1-0, in the CONCACAF region qualifying tournament for the World Cup. The U.S. will play the winner of Wednesday's Jamaica-Honduras quarterfinal in the semifinals on Friday.
The Salvadorans proved a handful for the Americans. Alejandro Guido gave the U.S. the lead after four minutes, but Jose Pena tied it up five minutes later. Regulation ended at 1-1, but the U.S. again took the lead five minutes into overtime on a goal by Mario Rodriguez and built a 3-1 advantage when Marc Pelosi scored in the 112th minute.
Then came the ejections, with Kellyn Acosta and Fernando Pina being sent off for the U.S. and Pena being ejected for El Salvador.
Gerardo Iraheta scored on a penalty kick in the final minute of overtime for El Salvador.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup will be played in seven Mexican cities between June 18 and July 19. The final is in Mexico City.
--Grahame L. Jones