The USA (pictured) trains ahead of its CONCACAF Under-17 Championship playoff match against Jamaica, scheduled for March 15, 2015, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Up until two years ago, the United States was the only nation to participate in every edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. That streak was snapped by virtue of a 3-1 loss to Honduras in the quarterfinals of the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship.
On Wednesday, a 1-0 Group A setback to Jamaica in the current edition of the biennial Confederation competition meant that if the Americans are to secure a spot at Chile 2015, it would need to do so via a playoff route.
That alternate option will take place on Sunday, when the U.S. faces Jamaica -- once again -- at the Estadio Francisco Morazan for one of CONCACAF’s two remaining qualifying slots. The survivor goes to the World Cup, while the loser goes home.
“Of course, we wanted the first spot,” said USA head coach Richie Williams. “That was our plan all along. That was our approach, to win the group. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We have the opportunity, due to the format of the tournament, to have one more game. We’ll approach it in the way to go out and win the game.”
That objective will be difficult to accomplish. After opening the tournament with three straight wins by a combined score of 11-1, the U.S. has tied eventual group-winner Honduras (2-2) and lost to Jamaica. Conversely, the Reggae Boyz followed a 2-0 loss to Honduras with three wins and a draw.
In Wednesday’s first encounter between them, the Jamaicans played a pressing game, especially in the second half. Their willingness to force the action, physically, was a key component in the victory.
Williams, however, didn’t think that was the determining factor in the final result. Instead, he preferred to examine areas where his team may not have done enough.
“In terms of the physicality, I think we were able to create opportunities and didn’t take the opportunities,” the 44-year-old noted. “The physicality part, you know, if we take our chances early then we win the game.
“Obviously very disappointed to lose the match in the way that we lost it. As we’ve said, every team is competitive. And with the amount of chances we had and didn’t score, and to give up the one goal, we’re disappointed.”
The past is in the rearview mirror and Williams is optimistic about the rematch.
“They [the U.S. players] have another opportunity, so with the format with the way it is, we have a game on Sunday and it’s for everything to go to the World Cup,” finished the former U.S. national team midfielder. “You better be motivated.”