Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Head coach Richie Williams took his U.S. Under-17 squad to Panama last February so they’d get a feel for the playing environment. After one match, it looks like it was a good decision.
Christopher Lema scored two goals and Ahinga Selemani added another as the U.S. squad got off to a winning start in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, defeating their Haitian counterparts 3-0 on Sunday night in Panama City.
Haiti had a very bright start to the match, finding spaces through the U.S. defense at ease, and frustrating the American midfielders. But once the U.S. settled in, it was a different story. Williams’ team really took control of the match when midfielder Corey Baird earned a penalty kick in the 24th minute. Lema stepped up to the spot two minutes later and coolly sent the Haitian goalkeeper Cleef Cadet the wrong way, placing the ball into the back of the net for a one-goal lead.
The U.S. kept up the pressure on either side of half time, and Lema got his second in the 73rd minute. The New York Red Bulls academy product got on the end of a snap back header from U.S. forward Rubio Rubin, and from the top of the box volleyed home a powerful strike into the net.
Selemani added a third goal in the 86th minute to put the game beyond reach of the Haitians. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native forced a turnover from a Haitian defender, getting the ball at the edge of the six-yard box, slamming past the Cadet into the net.
The U.S. next face Guatemala on April 11 for a chance to move on to the knockout stages of the competition.
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