Honduras tops U.S., earns U-17 WC spot

By Michael Lewis

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Honduras recorded a 3-1 quarterfinal win to stun the United States to qualify for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup and reach the semifinals of the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championship on Sunday night.

The result denied the Americans from qualifying for the U-17 World Cup for the first time. The U.S. was the only country that had participated in every FIFA U-17 world championship, having qualified a record 14 times.

The Hondurans will play the winner of the Mexico-Guatemala quarterfinal match in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Christopher Alegria, Alberth Elis and Kevin Alvarez scored for the Central Americans, who defeated the U.S. for the first time in eight meetings in the U-17 championship. Honduras entered the match with a 0-0-7 record vs. the U.S.

The Americans controlled the early part of the game, but had little to show from their efforts.

With the match barely three minutes old, the U.S. had the first opportunity as Shaquell Moore had close-range header off a corner kick.

Corey Baird fired a left-footed shot that bounced to Honduras goalkeeper Cristian Hernandez, who bobbled the ball a bit, but covered up for his second save in the 10th minute.

Three minutes later, Hernandez was up to the task again, denying Joel Sonora from eight yards.

The Hondurans got back into the swing of things, placing their first shot on goal in the 18th minute. Devron Garcia tapped captain Luis Santos a free kick and Santos launched a low shot that went right to goalkeeper Jefferson Caldwell.

Brayan Velasquez broke through the U.S. defense in the 26th minute and raced in on Caldwell, who managed to knock the ball away before the Honduran could get off a shot. Velasquez was injured on the play and limped off the field before rejoining the action minutes later.

Honduras grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute on a screaming, 30-yard drive by Alegria. Alvaro Romero, on the left flank, passed the ball to an unmarked Alegria toward the middle of the field and he fired a line drive that Caldwell got a hand on, but could not stop from going into the far right corner.

Sonora equalized for the U.S. in the 45th minute. The Boca Juniors youth product took a pass from Christopher Lema and as Honduran players converged, he sent a 30-yard rocket to the near left post for a 1-1 tie.

Velasquez turned playmaker for Honduras in the 57th minute. He sent a diagonal pass to an onrushing Elis, who beat defender Thomas Redding to the ball, before he tipped it past Caldwell from six yards for a 2-1 lead. An exuberant Elis took off his blue shirt to celebrate as referee Henry Bejarano of Costa Rica issued him a yellow card.

Elis almost gave the Hondurans a two-goal lead off a counterattack in the 66th minute. He raced down the field with U.S. defender John Requejo Jr. and fired 12-yard blast that hit the underside of the crossbar. The game officials ruled that the ball did not cross the goal line and play continued.

However, Honduras did give itself some breathing room only two minutes later. This time Alvarez powered home a 28-yard rocket off a free kick to the left near post past a leaping Caldwell for a 3-1 advantage. Copying Elis, Alvarez also ripped off his shirt to celebrate his goal and was assessed a yellow card.