The U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team stamped its ticket to the World Cup Quarterfinals with an emphatic 5-0 victory against Paraguay on Monday in New Delhi, and while offensive leaders Josh Sargent and Andrew Carleton both found the back of the net, the hat-trick performance from Tim Weah stood out in the USA’s first Knockout Round win at the tournament since 1999.
The son of 1995 World Player of the Year George Weah got the scoring started with a nifty 18th minute finish off a pass from Ayo Akinola, which took the USA into halftime leading 1-0. That set the stage for what could be the goal of the tournament thus far. After receiving a pass from Indiana Vassilev on the left, Weah cut inside and hit a swerving shot that he made look effortless as it whipped past sprawling Paraguay ‘keeper Diego Huesca in the 53rd minute.
“I don’t know what to say,” Weah remarked when asked about the goal. “I just cut back and my striker instinct told me to hit it. It ended up being a beautiful strike. Without the pass coming from [Indiana Vassilev], I wouldn’t have created the space to score this goal. I really thank him. I don’t score a lot of beautiful goals, most of my goals are tap ins – a striker’s real goal – but today I’m just so excited to have scored a brilliant goal.”
After Carleton and Sargent helped put the game out of reach, Weah then buried the game’s final strike in the 77th minute.
“This young man did it all,” head coach John Hackworth said of Weah following the match, “and the [second] goal by the way is not ‘brilliant’, it’s world class. I’m sure a lot of people are taking notice.”
If they weren’t already, they are now. Having signed his first professional contract with French giants Paris Saint-Germain in June, the younger Weah has begun to make his own name. On Tuesday, he became the first U.S. male player at any level to record a hat trick during a Knockout Round game at a FIFA World Cup. He’s also just the third American player to score a hat trick at the U-17 event, following in the footsteps of Judah Cooks (1993) and Freddy Adu (2003).
The performance came on the heels of the USA’s disappointing 3-1 defeat to Colombia on Friday, a game in which Weah played just the final three minutes after starting the side’s first two group matches.
“Sometimes if I don’t start, I come off the bench and do my job, so whenever I’m out there, whenever I’m starting, I come out there and try to give it my all,” said Weah. “I praise God today and I thank Coach Hackworth for starting me because if not for all of that, I would not have gotten the hat trick, which gives me three goals in four matches. I thank Andrew Carleton and the whole team for working with me and getting the win.”
- READ MORE: Five Things You Should Know About Tim Weah
For his part, Hackworth was pleased with how the team bounced back from last Friday’s loss.
“I alluded to the fact yesterday that I thought my team had played five [out of six] really good halves,” he said. “I always thought they’ve had a really good response when they come back from a performance that’s not up to our standards.”
Hackworth’s side now awaits the winner of Tuesday’s match between England and Japan in Saturday’s Quarterfinal in Goa. A victory in that match would see the USA move on to the Semifinals for just the second time and first since the 1999 team, featuring the likes of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, achieved the feat.