MANISA, Turkey (Jan. 21, 2014) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team continued its sterling start at the 2014 Aegean Cup by defeating Norway 5-2 on Tuesday to book its place in the tournament’s championship match.
The USA (2-0-0; 6pts) sits atop Group B and will play Scotland on Thursday before advancing to the tournament championship on Saturday. With France and Scotland drawing 1-1, neither team can catch the USA on points. Should the USA lose to Scotland and Norway beat France on Thursday, bringing the Americans and Scandinavians even on points, the USA will still go through as the top team in Group B by virtue of beating Norway head-to-head.
The USA’s victory against Norway was secured with three unanswered goals early in the second half, after the two teams went in to half time tied at 2-2. U.S. captain Alexis Velela scored the winning goal seven minutes after the restart, and Christian Pulisic added another three minutes later to give the USA some breathing room. Pulisic’s strike was his third goal in as many games dating back to the USA’s final match against Brazil at the Nike International Friendlies in December.
Nicholas Taitague, a call up from the U-15 Boys’ National Team, capped the proceedings after coming on as a second-half sub with his first international goal for the U.S. U-17 MNT in the 58th minute.
In the first half, forward Elijah Rice started off a late barrage of goals when he opened his U-17 account in the 21st minute. However, a pair of strikes from Norway’s John Hou Saeter and Sander Berge saw the match tilt in favor of the Scandinavians with five minutes remaining until the break.
The USA evened matters in the final minute of the half through newcomer McKinzie Gaines, who was just added to U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program this semester. After playing 11 minutes in the team’s 2-1 win against France on Monday, Gaines seized his opportunity to haul the U.S. level by scoring his first international goal in his first start with the U.S. U-17 National Team.
Brilliant work McKinze!