By Michael Lewis
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Corey Baird scored the lone goal of the match to lift the United States to a 1-0 win over Guatemala and to the Group C title at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship on Thursday night.
Prior to the kickoff, both teams already had booked quarterfinal berths.
The Americans (2-0-0, six points) will play the second-place finisher in Group D between Mexico and Honduras at 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Guatemala (1-0-1, 3 pts.) will take on the Group D winner at 9 p.m. EDT on Sunday. The Mexicans and the Hondurans played in the second game of the doubleheader at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
Guatemala had several tries at goal, but could not put any of its attempts in the first half on target. The Central Americans' best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes came in the 23rd minute when Luis Samayoa's free kick did not miss by much as it went just over the top of the net. Samayoa also had a 35th-minute effort that wound up wide right.
The Americans had their three best chances of the first half squeezed together during a six-minute span at the end of the half as goalkeeper Nicolas Hagen made three impressive saves with his left hand to keep the game scoreless.
First, Hagen knocked away Rubin's shot with in the 39th minute. Barely a minute later, Ahinga Selemani fired a shot that Hagen knocked away. A minute into stoppage time, Hagen again came up big, tipping Joel Sonora's attempt away.
The U.S. continued it pressure in the second half and finally found the back of the net in the 49th minute. Rubin sent in a high left-wing cross that Hagen jumped for but could not get a hand on. The ball fell to Corey Baird on the right side and he slotted home the ball from seven yards for his first goal of the tournament.
Trying for the equalizer, Guatemala's Mario Hernandez headed a six-yard shot over the net in the 62nd minute.
With time running short in the 88th minute, the Guatemalans' Christopher Ortiz put a shot on net, but Caldwell caught his effort without any problem.