Preview: US, Canada vie for CONCACAF U-17 title

Fresh legs should push Americans past eager neighbors

U.S. U-17s

Photo Credit: 
ISI/Brad Smith

It's only fitting that the two best teams throughout the U-17 CONCACAF Championship are set to meet in the finals.

The
United States and Canada face off for the continental trophy on Sunday
(7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, ESPN Deportes and ESPN3) after running through the field. Only
the Canadians’ scoreless draw with Honduras in a virtually meaningless
group stage match kept the pair from a perfect record (the Americans did
need extra time to beat El Salvador in the vital quarterfinal, while
Canada posted an authoritative victory over Trinidad and Tobago during
the same round).

The matchup pits Canada's possession-oriented
game against the US' at-times unattractive but effective game (to be
fair, however, the poor condition of the field at Catherine Hall Stadium
has troubled the Americans.) It will be a defensive battle - Canada has
yet to concede a goal, while the Stars and Stripes have given up only
three - with the squad that capitalizes on one of their few chances
taking the victory.

United States

Wilmer
Cabrera trotted out five new starters against El Salvador, but will
have almost a full complement for the final as Fernando Pina, Kellyn
Acosta, Matt Dunn, and Mario Rodriguez return from suspension. All four
will figure into the starting XI, and their rested legs will benefit the
Red, White, and Blue in the Jamaican heat.

But
Alejandro Guido, the US's best playmaker, will miss the match after
picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in the 62nd minute
against the Young Boyz. The absence leaves Cabrera with a choice. Tarik
Salkacic got the start in central midfield against Jamaica and was solid
defensively but largely anonymous going forward.

Dillon Serna is the more offensive-minded of the duo, so the coach will look to the Colorado Rapids Academy prospect to inject creativity in the American attack.

Andrew
Oliver has emerged as the Americans’ goal-scoring star, with three
goals, including game-winners against Cuba and Panama during the group
stage. He also tallied an insurance goal against the hosts just nine
minutes after coming into the match. His impressive pace has overwhelmed
his opponents, although his decision making can improve. Still, he and
Rodriguez form an imposing duo that will trouble the Canadian defense.

Canada

Sean Fleming's side has qualified for their first World Cup since 1995. Now they want more.

They
play a possession style implemented by Stephen Hart, who managed the
U-17s squad before taking over the senior team. They waltzed through the
group stage with an 8-0 victory over Barbados and a scoreless draw with
Honduras after their qualification for the elimination stage was
already assured.

The Canadians easily dispatched T&T in the quarterfinal before slipping by a tough Panama squad, 1-0.

The
Canadians are a disciplined squad, evidenced by their lack of cards
during the tournament. Fleming started the same lineup in both
elimination matches and shouldn't alter his plan against the Americans.
Michael Petrasso and Toronto FC
Academy forward Keven Aleman lead the team with three goals apiece,
although Petrasso hasn't found the net since the 56th minute of the
first match.

Maxime Crepeau is working on a streak of four
straight clean sheets and would like nothing more than to finish the
tournament with a fifth. The team has already clinched their country's
best-ever finish at the tournament but bringing home the championship
would solidify their place in history.

Key Players

United States: Marc Pelosi

The
winger missed the first match of the tournament, but has been one of
Cabrera's most disruptive offensive forces during the past three games.
He's one of the few Americans who has managed to consistently maintain
possession and facilitate the attack. The midfielder is opportunistic in
the box, both with his finishing and his distribution. Pelosi's
fingerprints will be all over the match.

Canada: Maxime Crepeau

The
Americans will get their chances. The question is how the Montreal
Impact goalkeeper deals with the forays. If he can make a couple saves
early, the US will get discouraged and the forward line could try to do
too much. (Oliver, especially, has been guilty of attempting to take too
much on himself.) If Crepeau concedes early, however, it could be a
difficult road back.

United States Projected Starting XI

Pina; Acosta-Fehr-Souders-Smith; Rodriguez-Dunn-Serna-Pelosi; Oliver-M. Rodriguez

Canada Projected Starting XI

Crepeau; Gasparotto, Seymour, Stanese, Alderson, Lepenna, Nanco, Petrasso, Piette, Aleman, Jalali

Final Analysis

Canada
have had a wonderful run through the tournament, but the fresh legs of
the American frontline will be too much for their defenders: US 2,
Canada 1.

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