Despite being a man down, the U.S. buried two goals in seven minutes in the first half, both coming due to the excellent play of Ellis McLoughlin. On the first goal, the lone forward buried a cross from Brek Shea in the 26th minute. Until that goal, Northern Ireland had been unscored upon in the tournament after shutouts of Finland (6-0) and Switzerland (3-0).
Six minutes later, McLoughlin turned on his defender at the top of the box to get into the penalty area and was brought down from behind. Sheanon Williams stepped up and buried the spot kick to double the lead and give the U.S. some breathing room.
"Obviously, going down a man was a huge blow so early in the game, but we played incredibly smart and didn't give anything away, while playing extremely well when we did have the ball," said U-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth. "As poorly as we played against Finland, we played as good today. It was a huge step forward for our team."
The U.S. will now face the Czech Republic in the championship match on Friday, April 28. The game will be a rematch of the Ballymena championship last year, which the Czech Republic won, 1-0. In that match, the U.S. had a number of good chances and hit the woodwork a number of times, but couldn't find the back of the net.
Dominguez was given a straight red card in the first minute of play after he attempted to shrug off the hands of an opposing player. Play had stopped after the ball went out of bounds and Dominguez, attempting to get position for the throw-in, flung his arm backwards to unleash a Northern Ireland defender's hands against his back. In a harsh call, the referee, believing he had thrown an elbow, pulled the red card from his pocket and in a flash the U.S. had more to deal with than just the pro-Northern Ireland crowd.
With Dominguez out, Ellis became the lone forward up top in a 4-4-1 formation, but he was a handful for the Northern Ireland backline. The Washington native has been on a hot streak, scoring in three of the last four international matches.
McLoughlin’s impressive form started before the U-17s arrived for the tournament when he tallied the U.S.'s two goals in a 2-2 draw in a friendly with Wales in Ryhl, Wales. He continued his frantic pace by scoring the game-winning strike in a 2-1 victory against Switzerland in the opening match of the tournament. Two days later, he wasn’t able to find the back of the net against Finland in their second match, but he did register two assists, including the crucial one to Brek Shea in stoppage time that allowed the U.S. to escape with a 3-3 draw.
In the second half, the U.S. still had the better of chances despite only fielding 10 players. Northern Ireland never got a clear opportunity as the U.S. defenders stayed compact and defended well. U.S. goalkeeper Josh Lambo was forced to make just one save in the game.
The U.S. will be looking for their first Ballymena championship as in the past four appearances (2002, 2004, 2005) they've come away as runner-up. The only time the U.S. has not advanced to the championship match was during their inaugural appearance in the tournament in 2000, when they played in the third place match and lost to Scotland.
The Czech's ran away with Group B with three dominating wins, outscoring their opponents 10-1.
"Our whole goal when we arrived here was to come away with the championship," said Hackworth. "This group wanted to be the first team to win it all at the Ballymena. We've gotten to the final in a round-a-bout way, but we're there now. We knew the Czech Republic was going to have a strong team and they've definitely showed that with three wins in Group B. It will be a tough match and one we're looking forward to on Friday."
U.S. Under-17 '90 Men's National Team Match Report
Participants: U.S. Under-17 ‘90s Men’s National Team vs. Northern Ireland
Competition: Ballymena International Tournament
Location: Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Date: April 25, 2006
Weather: Overcast and rainy, 60 degrees
1st 2nd Final
USA 2 0 2
NIR 0 0 0
USA – Ellis McLoughlin (Brek Shea) 26th minute
USA - Sheanon Williams (penalty kick) 32.
USA: 18-Josh Lambo; 4-TJ Nelson, 3-Tommy Meyer, 5-Ian Kalis, 6-Brek Shea; 14-Jared Jeffrey, 7-Danny Wenzel, 8-Kirk Urso, 9-Sheanon Williams; 15-Bryan Dominguez (sent off, 1), 10-Ellis McLoughlin (17-Brandon Tarr, 80).
Subs not used: 2-Brandon Lee, 11-Jesse Paredes, 12-Alex Dixon 13-Matthew Uy, 16-Brandon Zimmermann, 17-Brandon Tarr, 18-Chris Miller
NIR: 1-Connor Devlin; 2-Andrew King (17-Declan Bonting, 75), 4-Chris Ramsey, 5-Nevin Spence, 6-Patrick McLaughlin (7-Chris Curran, 32); 10-William Faulkner (15-Micheal McCrudden, 74), 11-Paul Gallagher (18-George Stewart, 60), 16-Kenny Keys, 19-Ryan O'Neill; 9-Dean McCormick, 14-Brian McCaul (8-Euman O'Kane, 56).
Subs not used: 3-Richard Vauls, 16-Jonathan Sergeant, 15-Michael McCrudden, 17-Declan Bunting, 18-George Stewart
Shots 12 9
Saves 1 1
Fouls 14 17
Corner Kicks 5 1
Offside 0 1
USA – Bryan Dominguez (sent off) 1st minute.
Ballymena International Tournament Standings
Final - David Cairns Memorial Trophy
USA vs. Czech Republic (7:30 local / 2:30 p.m. ET)
Third Place - Larne Plate
Northern Ireland vs. Belgium (2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)
Fifth Place - Larne Shield
Switzerland vs. Canada (2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)
Seventh Place - Ballymena Bowl
Finland vs. Scotland (2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)
Monday, April 24
USA 2, Switzerland 1
Northern Ireland 6, Finalnd 0
Tuesday, April 25
USA 3, Finland 3
Northern Ireland 3, Switzerland 0
Wednesday, April 26
USA 2, Northern Ireland 0
Switzerland 3, Finland 0
Monday, April 24
Czech Republic 2, Belgium 1
Canada 1, Scotland 0
Tuesday, April 25
Czech Republic 4, Canada 0
Belgium 2, Scotland 0
Wednesday, April 26
Czech Republic 4, Scotland 0
Belgium 1, Canada 0