By DAN KARELL
For about 90 minutes, it looked as though the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team would walk away from Monday’s opening match of the Nike International Friendlies with Portugal with a well-earned point and some experience under their belt.
Instead, with a momentary lapse of concentration, Portugal turned a stoppage-time free kick into a goal via the head of Goncalo Vieira to take a 2-1 victory in the dying moments. Viera’s header completed a Portugal comeback that started when midfielder Generoso poked home from inside the box in the 27th minute.
Before there was any comeback though, the U.S. got off to as good a start as U-17 head coach Richie Williams could ask for. American midfielder Alejandro Zendejas took the ball in an advanced position, cut inside, and played teammate Haji Wright into the box. From there, Wright instinctually sent a blast into the upper 90, fooling Portugal goalkeeper Fabio Duarte and sending the Americans into the lead.
Despite conceding the goal, it actually seemed as if Portugal settled into the game more following the goal. Though the U.S. still created a few chances, they never seemed as dangerous as the overlapping runs of the Portuguese wing backs Joao Simoes and Pedro Ferreira, who caused the U.S. defense plenty of issues.
In the 27th minute, it was Simoes who played a ball into the center of the box that Generoso chested well into space, before finishing past an out-of-positioned Kevin Silva in goal for the U.S. to tie the match.
Heading into the second half, the U.S. looked a bit fresher but again, Portugal settled in once more and looked much more dangerous in attack. Luca de la Torre and Wright continued to be sharp but many of the U.S. players started to run out of ideas. It surely seemed headed towards a 1-1 draw before the USA conceded a free kick in stoppage time, which ended up in the back of the net.
Bruno Pereira stepped up as the U.S. was building their wall and floated a ball into the box. Viera rose highest to meet it and powered it past Silva to give all three points to Portugal.
Following Brazil’s 2-1 victory against the England U16s, both Portugal and Brazil are now tied with three points each, while the USA and England are bottom with no points.
The U.S. next play England on Wednesday while Brazil face Portugal.
What did you think of this match? Disappointed in the result? Think the U.S. deserved at least a point?
Share your thoughts below.