BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, April 8, 2013
The US U-17 national team opened their World Cup qualifying tournament with a convincing win over Haiti on Sunday night in Panama.
The US team was the expected favorites but it was Haiti who controlled the game early and had the better opportunities. US goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell was forced into action in the opening minutes and came away with several key saves.
In the 26th minute, the US broke the scoreless deadlock after being awarded a penalty after Corey Baird was fould by Haiti's American-born defender Derrick Etienne. On the kick, New Jersey native Chris Lema sent Haitian goalkeeper Cadet Cleef the wrong way for a 1-0 lead.
After the goal, Haiti would continue to press but the Americans gradually found their footing and began to dictate the pace of the game.
US head coach Richie Williams made adjustments at the half and the US dominated after the break. Most importantly, when Williams subbed Boca Juniors midfield Joel Sonora into the game in the 60th minute the US team became energized offensively.
In the 73rd, Lema found his second goal of the game in terrific fashion when he converted a pass from Rubio Ruben and volleyed home a shot past Cleef for a 2-0 lead.
In the 86th minute, the US team rounded out the scoring when Ahinga Selemani took advantage of a confused Haitian defense for a 3-0 lead.
Next up for the US U17 team is matchup against Guatemala on Thursday, April 11. IF the US team wins that game, they will clinch Group C.