The U.S. played two matches in North Carolina, falling to Wake Forest 2-1 on Monday before coming back with a 2-2 draw against an older, more experienced Duke team on Wednesday. The U.S. was scheduled to finish the week with a match against the University of North Carolina today, but a downpour on Thursday rendered the playing fields unplayable for today's match.
"This trip was very helpful in allowing us to watch our team go against older, physically stronger players," U.S. head coach John Ellinger said. "We learned a lot about our players and our team, and this trip will undoubtedly help us as we continue final preparations for St. Louis."
Behind a strong two-goal performance from Santino Quaranta, the Under-17s bounced back from the disappointing loss to Wake Forest with a draw against Duke. Quaranta scored two first-half goals for the U.S. and nearly set up the game-winner late in the match. With a late surge in the game, the U.S. was unlucky not to go ahead again after Duke equalized in the 73rd minute.
The U.S. effort was much improved from their 2-1 loss to Wake Forest on Monday, and much of that improvement can be credited to the play of forward Erwin Diaz. The high work rate of Diaz created Quaranta's second goal and set the pace for the U.S. the entire evening. After chasing down a long ball that was scooped up by Duke goalkeeper Scott Maslin, Diaz turned and sprinted 35 yards to track down Duke defender Andy Borman. Diaz took the ball off Borman and headed toward the goal, where he played the ball to a charging Quaranta, who finished from 14 yards out.
The U.S. fell behind early for the second consecutive match after goalkeeper Ford Williams was whistled for dragging down Jordan Cila inside the U.S. box. The former U.S. Under-17 standout stepped to the penalty spot and put the ball into the lower left side of the net, just past the extended hands of a diving Williams.
The U.S. equalized on a penalty of its own in the 28th minute after Mike Magee was taken down while following up on a Diaz blast. Quaranta calmly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and slotted the ball into the left side of the goal. One minute later Quaranta added his second following Diaz's hustle.
Quaranta caused Duke problems the entire evening on the wings, as the Blue Devils were unable to cope with his pace and skill on the ball.
The Blue Devils equalized in the 73rd minute after Ford Williams did well to deflect an Adam Guren drive from 24 yards. Second-half sub Noah Lewkowitz tapped in the rebound to produce the final scoreline.
The U.S. dominated the run of play after Duke's second goal and were unlucky not to add a third goal in the 80th minute. Quaranta almost gave the U.S. the lead late in the game when he played a brilliant one-touch ball behind the defense and into the path of Diaz. The U.S. striker's shot beat the Duke goalkeeper, but stuck the upper right corner of the goalpost and bounced clear.
The team will return to Bradenton, Fla., Friday evening and will play the University of South Florida on Tuesday, April 3. The team departs for St. Louis and the CONCACAF qualifying tournament on April 12.
The U.S. used the North Carolina tour as preparation for the upcoming CONCACAF qualifying tournament in St. Louis. The U.S. opens the tournament against Jamaica on April 18 and takes on Canada on April 20, before closing the tournament against El Salvador on April 22. The qualifying tournament, which is being hosted by U.S. Soccer, will be staged at Saint Louis University's Robert R. Hermann Stadium and consists of three doubleheaders. The top team from the four-team Group A tournament will advance to the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Trinidad & Tobago in September.