April 7, 2013
U.S. U-17s down Haiti in CONCACAF Championship as Red Bulls Academy's Lema strikes twice
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Two goals from Red Bulls Academy product Christopher Lema and a late strike from Ahinga Selemani to lead the U.S. U 17 National Team to a 3-0 victory over Haiti in its opening match of the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship at Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Sunday.
The U.S. had a chance only 30 seconds into the match when Ahinga Selemani got free on the right side and unleashed a shot, but Haiti goalkeeper Cadet Cleef made the save.
Despite that early opportunity, it was Haiti that looked more likely to get on the scoreboard first with a couple quality chances by forward Jonel Desire in the first 10 minutes. In the sixth minute, Desire ran down a long ball along the right side and took a touch toward goal, but his shot from a tough angle was well wide of the far post. Two minutes later, a flubbed shot from the top of the box by one of his teammates fell precipitously to Desire inside the middle of the penalty area, but he directed his uncontested shot wide right.
The U.S. settled down around the 15th minute and began creating chances and controlling the tempo of the game. In the 20th minute, Rubio Rubin collected a cross inside the box from the left side from Alan Winn, cut to his dominant left foot and hit a shot that clanged off the right post.
The U.S. kept the pressure on and four minutes later Corey Baird was taken down inside the area after eluding his defender on the right side. Lema stepped up to take the penalty kick and slotted it home to the right side as the Haiti goalkeeper guessed the wrong way.
Haiti had a great opportunity just before halftime off a corner kick when Arcus Carlens unleashed on a poor clearance at the top of the box, but Elijah Martin came up with a huge play by heading the ball off the line near the left post.
The U.S. put the match away in the 73rd minute when Lema scored his second goal of the night, this one an impressive one-time strike from the top of the box. Baird sent in a cross from the right side and Rubin did well to win a header at the left corner of the six-yard box and direct it back to the top of the area for Lema. The New York Red Bulls Academy midfielder hit the volley low to the left corner past the 'keeper.
The final goal came in the 86th minute on a fantastic individual effort by Selemani. The forward battled with a Haitian defender down the left flank and got a fortuitous bounce near the end line that provided him with a clear opportunity on goal. Despite the tight angle, Selemani buried his shot to give the U.S. the 3-0 lead.
With the victory, the U.S. sits atop Group C with three points and can earn a spot in the quarterfinals with at least a tie in their second and final group game against Guatemala on Thursday, April 11. The match will kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET at Estadio Rommel Fernandez and will be broadcast on a 30-minute delay on FOX Soccer beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the match on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and via Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.
The top two teams in each group move on to the all-important quarterfinals. The tournament's four semifinalists will qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held from Oct. 17-Nov. 8 in the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. is the only country that has qualified for all 15 FIFA U-17 World Cups.