BRADENTON, Fla. – The U.S. Under-17 men’s national team rode a dominant second-half performance to a 4-0 defeat of Canada in the semifinals of the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship Tuesday night.
A brace from Ricardo Pepi, as well as goals from Bryang Kayo and Gio Reyna saw the USA book its place in Thursday’s final (7:30 p.m. ET; UDN, Concacaf Facebook), where it will face the winner of Tuesday’s other semifinal between Haiti and Mexico at IMG Academy.
U.S. head coach Raphael Wicky’s side dictated play in the first half, carrying 69 percent of possession and outshooting Canada, 9-2, but wasn’t able to find the final ingredient against Canada’s defense. The U.S. back line fed Reyna, a former member of the New York City FC Academy, a number of good balls over the top while the team also strung together a number of dangerous combinations through the midfield.
The U.S. nearly found the opener on a flurry of rebound attempts near the goal-line in the 12th minute. After Canada goalkeeper Benjamin Collins popped the ball up, a Canada defender cleared Ricardo Pepi’s follow-up header off the line, and Reyna misfired on his one-time attempt off the deflection. Reyna and Gianluca Busio continually threatened inside Canada’s 18-yard-box but weren’t able to find the back of the net in the opening frame.
That changed after the break, as Kayo opened the scoring for the USA in the 47th minute. Receiving the ball from Busio, the D.C. United midfielder drove past a number of defenders down the right wing before slotting a ball to the far post for his first international goal to break the deadlock.
After firing a number of shots in the first half, Reyna connected for his sixth goal of the tournament in the 64th minute. Winning the ball just beyond the 18-yard box, the U.S. captain was brought down by Simon Colyn and lined up for the free kick. On the take, Reyna hit a looping effort inside the left post for his third goal from a dead ball situation at the tournament, a tally that includes the game-winner in the USA’s 3-2 comeback victory against Canada in their group stage opener on May 2.
Busio sparked the USA’s third goal in the 76th minute as he pounced on a mishandled pass back in the Canadian defense. Charging forward, Busio drove the ball towards goal, where Pepi flew in from the right wing, made a move around the ‘keeper and slotted it home.
The two connected again four minutes later, as Busio won a ball at midfield before notching his third assist of the day by sending Pepi through the Canada back line where he slotted home his second of the day and third of the tournament.
In helping the USA to its fourth-straight clean sheet of the tournament, goalkeeper Chituru Odunze also earned his first shutout of 2019 for the U-17 MNT. The USA has also now held opponents scoreless for the last 396 minutes of play. With the victory, the USA secures a record 10th top-two finish at the Concacaf U-17 Championship and will go for its fourth confederation title on Thursday against the winner of the second semifinal between Haiti and Mexico.