Americans and Kiwis both advance to next round of the U17 World Cup after lackluster draw between the sides.
Sometimes, soccer is a cruel game.
For the USA U-17 squad, Saturday was about as unkind as a 0-0 result can be. The Americans held the advantage in shots, shots on goal, corners, and possession, but the young Yanks were unable to find a finishing touch and ultimately ended the clash with ten players.
The Kiwis never looked likely to find the back of the net with only two shots on goal throughout the 90 minutes. Coach Aaron McFarland’s game plan was relatively conservative from the start, as the Kiwis knew that a draw was enough to send them through to the knockout stage of the U17 World Cup.
The Americans controlled the play and chances early on, but had only one clear opportunity to break the dreadful deadlock before the half. Forward Alfred Koroma found himself open on a corner kick from Esteban Rodriguez in the 18th minute, but the big striker’s header sailed over the bar.
A dozen minutes later, New Zealand was dealt some bad news when starting midfielder Scott Howieson picked up his second booking in the tournament. Howieson will now miss the first knockout game due to the card accumulation.
The rest of the first stanza ended rather unremarkably, as Wilmer Cabrera’s squad struggled to break through the staunch New Zealand defense and saw many of its shots blocked by defenders.
After the break, New Zealand keeper Scott Basalaj made his best save of the game against a low, hard blast from American maestro Alejandro Guido. Midfielders Matt Dunn and Guido linked up eight yards from goal after a poorly cleared corner kick by New Zealand. The California native ripped his effort to the right corner, but Basalaj’s right hand parried the effort away.
American’s frustration in front of the net would turn to disgust with the referee when the official from Netherlands sent off captain Marc Pelosi after he received his second yellow card of the game for a light jersey tug.
Down a man, Wilmer Cabrera pulled the proverbial foot off the gas and sat his players back, content with the draw. The Kiwis were in no rush to send numbers forward and the two sides ended the fixture to a chorus of boos from the neutral supporters at Estadio Hidalgo.
In the other game from Group D, Uzbekistan defeated Czech Republic 2-1 to win the group and eliminate the European side from the knockout stages.
The Americans and Kiwis ended pool play level on points and all other tie-breakers. After lots were drawn, the U.S. finished second and New Zealand in Group D play.
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