BRADENTON, Fla. — The U.S. Under-17 team fell to Mexico 2-1 in extra time of the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship Final Thursday night.
The Americans finished as runner-up but sill qualified for a record 17th FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil this fall.
Israel Luna tallied the game-winner goal in the 108th minute. Bryan Gonzalez received a pass up the left, broke towards the box and centered for Luna, whose one-time effort beat goalkeeper Damian Las from close range.
A frenetic first half played out from the opening whistle in front of a fervent pro-Mexico crowd at a near-capacity IMG Academy Soccer Stadium. Both sides had opportunities in the opening half. U.S. captain Gio Reyna and Gianluca Busio, the U.S.’s leading scorers at the tournament, were in the middle of several attacks up the left wing that threatened goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia.
The U.S.’s opening goal came in the mayhem following a corner kick. After Mexico’s initial attempted clearance, Reyna put another ball into the box that found the head of Busio and bounced to the outstretched foot of center back Tayvon Gray. He flicked it to Griffin Yow at the near post and he tucked his header home in the ninth minute.
Mexico responded eight minutes later, as Efrain Alvarez chipped a pass just over the top of the defense to find Santiago Muñoz streaking into the box. His header to the far post got past U.S. goalkeeper Damian Las for a 1-1 tie.
The Americans started to take control of the tempo and possession, enjoying several extended spells in El Trí territory. While Mexico put together a few spurts of attack, by and large it was the USA working the ball around the attacking half and threatening inside the final third, as a number of shots from Busio and Reyna went off the woodwork and Garcia was forced into action. At the halftime whistle, the U.S. held over 60 percent of possession and outshot Mexico 15-3.
A renewed Mexico side came out after the break, buoyed by two halftime substitutions, and put Las and the U.S. back line a bit more to work while making life more difficult for the U.S. attack. El Tri threatened on a number of close-range free kick opportunities and streaking headers in the box, coming close to a winner in the 89th minute. A free kick from the right deflected in the area and rose to find Israel Luna who nodded it past Las and off the cross bar, before Victor Guzman’s follow-up header went over the goal.