The United States Men’s U-17 team had to overcome a strong second half performance against Ghana on Monday morning, but a 75th minute goal from Ayo Akinola handed the USA their second win in two tries at the U-17 World Cup. With the win, the US remained top of the group with six points from the two games. Qualification for the next round has not yet been secured, although, even if the US fell to third place in the group, they would almost certainly go through with six points.
The US had the better of the play in the first half, and it was Chris Durkin, D.C. United’s youngest player, who supplied the best opportunity in the opening stages. Durkin, who played as a defensive midfielder after playing as a center back against India, picked up a cross that made it’s way through the box on a set piece. After skipping around one defender, he then crossed the ball back into the middle, where a header from Josh Sargent was saved off the line by the keeper.
Blaine Ferri came close on two occasions in the first half to breaking the deadlock, with the youngster showcasing his ability with his left foot. But a free kick from just outside the box skipped wide of the post, and after being set up by Sargent just as the first half come to an end, another shot curled just wide of the goal.
But the second attempt came as Ghana were on top of the proceedings, and that continued into the second half. In the opening moments of the second stanza, US keeper Justin Garces was forced into a stop. The ball was still in danger, and a second attempt was cleared off the line by Durkin, who made the save while on the ground, keeping the score level.
The US eventually slowed Ghana down in the second half, even as they failed to really threaten for a goal themselves. Then, in the 75th minute, the substitute Akinola struck, thanks in large part to a play from Durkin. Durkin won the ball in the Ghana half, and quickly played to Chris Goslin, who was making his way towards goal. Goslin picked out Akinola, who did well to finish with a defender draping him, and with little to aim for at the goal.
Akinola could have made it two just as the start of six minutes of stoppage time commenced, but the Toronto FC man skied an effort from the top of the box, after a hopeful cross somehow reached him on the left hand side. Without much fuss, the US successfully saw out the final moments, to secure their second win of the tournament.
Thursday is the final group stage day for the USA, who will play against Colombia. Later today, Colombia takes on hosts India. A win or tie by India will ensure that the US will progress out of Group A as one of the top two teams. Even so, given that four of the six third place teams also make it to the Round of 16, it’s almost certain that the US will feature in that stage.