Another performance suggesting optimism for the United States was on display at the U-17 World Cup Monday as the Americans booked a ticket into the quarterfinals in India.
Timothy Weah, son of former Liberian Balloon d’Or winner George, took the spotlight in the first game of the knockout rounds, with a spectacular strike among his hat-trick performance that led the U.S. to a 5-0 victory over Uruguay.
Already responsible for the initial lead, Weah slowed roughly five yards outside the 18-yard box, cut inside from the left and fired a looping bolt of a shot with his right foot out of the reach of the opposing keeper to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead in the 53rd minute as the highlight of the win.
“I don’t know what to say,” Weah remarked when asked about the goal. “I just cut back and my striker instinct told me to hit it. It ended up being a beautiful strike. Without the pass coming from [Indiana Vassilev], I wouldn’t have created the space to score this goal. I really thank him. I don’t score a lot of beautiful goals, most of my goals are tap ins – a striker’s real goal – but today I’m just so excited to have scored a brilliant goal.”
As the article notes, Weah’s final tally 24 minutes later made him the first player in program history at any level to score a hat trick in a knockout round game at a FIFA World Cup. Freddy Adu was the last to do so at any stage of a World Cup, scoring one at each the U-17 and U-20 level.
Akil Watts played a pass deep into the box to Josh Sargent, and the captain cut back and laid a pass across the center of the box to Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton for an excellent finish with his right foot on the third goal for the USA. The fourth goal came 12 minutes later when Carleton staved off a challenge and fed a ball behind the line to the Sargent, who made a well-timed run over the left shoulder of the defender and past him before belting his shot off the crossbar and in at the 74-minute mark.
Justin Gaceres recorded the clean sheet in goal for the U.S. side, also the program’s first in any elimination round match at a World Cup.
Tuesday morning’s match between England and Japan will decide who the USA will take on in a quarterfinal Saturday (10:30 a.m. ET, FS2). The last time the U.S. and Japan met in a U-17 World Cup? Japan got the best of the American side in 2001, winning a group stage meeting 1-0. Some talented players were part of that U.S. squad — the best of them probably striker Eddie Johnson — but just Santino Quaranta and current Seattle defender Chad Marshall are the only others from that team to record double-digit caps with the senior team. That’s not to say some had very good MLS careers — Marshall, Justin Mapp, Mike Magee — and Adu’s story is an established one, but Tuesday’s win is more proof that this could be a special side. One that could have some helpful pieces in helping the U.S. qualify for the Olympics are missing out in 2012 and 2016.
In other news, Portugal also announced several matches for the next international friendly window, including one against the U.S. on Nov. 14 in Algarve. Due to the team’s recent failings, it was widely expected that any matches scheduled for next month would take place off American soil.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati indicated in previous comments to the media that another friendly could be announced for the window.