Poor finishing dooms USA in Concacaf U-17 final loss to Mexico

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Roy K. Miller
The Americans dominated play and created a plethora of scoring chances, but some excellent goalkeeping and poor U.S. finishing helped Mexico prevail

The U.S. Under-17 national team learned a harsh lesson in Thursday's Concacaf Championship final against Mexico. The Americans were taught that no matter how much you dominate a game, if you don't finish your chances, you leave yourself open to disappointment, and ultimately failure.

The United States failed to capitalize on a dominant first half, allowing a game Mexican side to gain confidence in the second half and eventually paying the price, with Israel Luna converting the winning goal in the 108th minute to give Mexico its fourth straight Concacaf Under-17 title.

The defeat was a painful one for a U.S. team that dominated large chunks of the final and swept through the tournament undefeated before the final. On Thursday, the Americans managed to finish just one of the many chances they created, with the goal frame and Mexican goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia thwarting many of them.

D.C. United's Griffin Yow opened the scoring for the Americans, heading home a cross from Tayvon Gray, who collected a mis-hit header from Gianluca Busio to deliver a dangerous cross that found Yow in front of goal in the ninth minute.

The U.S. lead lasted just eight minutes because LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez delivered a beautiful chip pass right to the head of Santiago Munoz, who headed home the equalizer past Damian Las, marking the first goal allowed by the Americans in five matches.

Mexico entered the final as three-time defending Concacaf champions in the U-17 age group, but it was the Americans who dominated play in the first half. The United States created a half-dozen dangerous chances but hit the woodwork on three occasions, while Mexico goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia made a pair of top-shelf saves to deny Busio and Giovanni Reyna.

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The rivals played a more even second half, with the Americans appearing to tire later in the second half. That allowed Mexico to put together their most dangerous chances of the half, with Mexico missing a free header directly in front of goal in the 88th minute.

The Americans started strong at the beginning of extra time, but still couldn't put another goal past Garcia, and eventually the U.S. defense began to fade and broke down on Mexico's winner, which started with a simple run down the left flank, followed by a low cross that found a wide-open Luna for an easy finish from close range.

The United States and Mexico already qualified for the Under-17 World Cup after reaching the Concacaf Championship semifinals, and will be joined by Canada and Haiti at the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil in October.