BRADENTON, Fla. (May 12, 2019) —The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team utilized second half goals from Gianluca Busio, Gio Reyna and Ricardo Pepi to defeat Panama 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship. With the victory, the USA clinched qualification to a record 17th FIFA U-17 World Cup and advanced to the semifinals of the confederation championship, where they will face Canada on Tuesday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Playing against a Panama side content to sit inside its own half and look for counterattacks, the USA carried 76 percent of first-half possession, but found it difficult to come up with many scoring opportunities against the Central American side’s defensive posture.
The early afternoon heat and humidity in Bradenton also made things challenging, though the USA did create one quality chance in the ninth minute when captain Gio Reyna cut inside from the left to rocket a right-footed effort that Panama goalkeeper Saul Espinoza put it out for a corner kick.
Things opened up on the other side of halftime as Raphael Wicky’s side continued to push for the opening goal. In the 50th minute, Griffin Yow sprung free down the right and centered a cross that deflected off Panama’s Jesus Gil to Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez. He passed back for Busio, but his one-time hit from close range went over the bar.
Busio made things right four minutes later. A nice build-up from Daniel Leyva led to Ocampo-Chavez slotting the attacker through on goal, dinking it past Panama defender Edgardo Espinosa before tucking his effort inside the left post to give the USA the 1-0 lead in the 54th minute.
Continuing to pour on the pressure, Ocampo-Chavez was upended in the box by Espinosa in the 59th minute, forcing referee Daneion Parchment to point to the penalty spot. Reyna stepped up and coolly slotted his take to the lower right corner to give the USA a 2-0 lead on the hour mark.
Having replaced Reyna in the 69th minute, Ricardo Pepi got his name on the scoresheet six minutes later as a three-pass sequence finished with Leyva slotting him through on goal, before the forward tucked his effort to the far post to give the USA an unassailable 3-0 lead in the 75th minute.
The USA closed out the match with its third-straight clean sheet, holding its opponents scoreless for the last 306 minutes.
Though now qualified for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the USA still has work to do as it takes on Canada in the semifinals of the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship. The sides met in their respective opening matches of the tournament, with Canada running out to a 2-0 first-half lead before Wicky’s side roared back with three second-half goals from Busio, Alex Alejandre and Reyna to win 3-2.
With a place in Thursday’s final on the line, the rematch takes place on Tuesday, May 14 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (6:30 p.m. ET; UDN, Concacaf Facebook). The match will be open to the public.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Gianluca Busio (Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez), 54th minute: Just minutes after missing from close range, Busio made amends. Daniel Leyva started the attack by winning the ball at midfield and spinning a Panama defender before slotting a pass forward for Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez. He slipped a pass looking for Busio into the area. After a partial deflection by Edgardo Espinosa, Busio collected and made no mistake to give the USA the crucial opening goal and register his fifth of the tournament. USA 1, PAN 0
USA – Giovanni Reyna (penalty kick), 60th minute: After Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez was taken down in the box by Edgardo Espinosa, Gio Reyna stepped up and slotted his penalty kick into the lower right corner to extend the lead. USA 2, PAN 0
USA – Ricardo Pepi (Daniel Leyva), 75th minute: Three simple passes led to the USA’s third goal. Goalkeeper Damien Las played an easy pass for Adam Saldana in midfield. He turned and picked out Daniel Leyva, who sent second-half-substitute Ricardo Pepi through the Panama back line where he bent his finish inside the left post for his first of the tournament. USA 3, PAN 0