Mexico waited until injury time to tie the United States and then proceed to win the CONCACAF U-17 title on a penalty shootout (5-4). It was a totally different story from a their Group stage game where the US had been the better team and had gotten a deserved win. This time it was Mexico who was the better team and at times completely dominated but were unlucky to allow a goal after a goalkeeper mistake. After the goal, Mexico took complete control of the game but couldn't come close and were even dangerously close to getting scored in the last minutes of the game off a 3 v 1 counter attack. But 2 minutes into injury time, Carlos Robles headed in after a cross and Mexico tied the game. In the ensuing penalty shootout, Mexico scored all their opportunities while the US missed one to crown Mexico, for third straight time, as champion of the CONCACAF U-17 title.
Mexico and the United States, it bears repeating, were clearly the two best teams of the competition. They dominated all of their opponents in every game besides their group stage match, which had been the only even game played for both of them. That game had seen a very close first half, while the US then dominated the second half and took the victory. A similar situation happened today in the final, as both teams were evenly matched throughout. The US started looking like the better team and had some opportunities, like a miss by Ayo Akindola, and Mexico wasn't creating much. They would soon settle in, though. Jairo Torres and Roberto de la Rosa came close with De la Rosa even forcing the US keeper to make the best save of the half. Mexico would also need to make two substitutions because of injury when Raul Sandoval and Marco Ruiz had to leave the field.
The second half was a different story for Mexico and it looked to be the same story from the first game except with the teams switched. Mexico started to dominate and then took control of the game. Daniel Lopez seemed to have scored but the goal was called back after a handball call that appeared to be a referee mistake after the replay.
Soon after, Jairo Torres hit the post off a free kick and by that time it looked like Mexico had the game under control. But against the run of play, Mexican Goalkeeper Cesar Lopez made a terrible mistake when he first misskicked a ball that fell to Andrew Carleton. He then went late to his line and failed to clear Carleton's shot and the US had undeservedly opened the scoring.
The game continued with the preceding momentum as the US started to sit back and Mexico had even more of the ball. In the 89th minute and with Mexico all over the US area, a counter attack by the US ended with Chris Goslin hitting the post, in what would have clinched the victory for the stars and stripes.
Three minutes later though, a great cross by Lopez was headed in by Carlos Robles to give Mexico a heroic but fully deserved equalizer.
The format of the tournament meant that the game would go straight into a penalty shootout. The US went first and had Josh Sargent, Tim Weah and Goslin all score for them. Mexico responded with scores from Lopez, Robles and Torres. Then for their fourth kick, Akil Watts, who had come in as a defensive sub for Carleton, went up and missed his kick. Alexis Gutierrez then converted his. James Sands would keep the US alive, but Roberto de la Rosa would come up and convert his spot kick to give Mexico the win and the three-peat as CONCACAF U-17 Champions.
Mexico deservedly became champions today, although one could say the US was evenly matched to them this tournament. Still, it was a solid win and performance all around for, especially in comparison to previous CONCACAF titles. Mexico won five out of six games (although technically the final counts as a draw) while outscoring their opponents 22 to 7. The team looked great offensively, but faced somewhat weak opposition. The teams needs to look at certain areas especially goalkeeping, where they looked especially lackluster. The question still is if America will allow Diego Lainez to go to the World Cup in India in October. A team with Lainez and Ian Torres (who was by far the best Mexican player on the team and won the Golden Ball of the tournament) can be a forced to be reckon with, which is already a constant for a team that has been a semifinalist in this age group for the last three World Cups. This team looks poised to make a repeat on those performances if they plan accordingly and have the support back home to do so.