England stifles United States' hopes for solace in U17 World Cup quarterfinals

Not even two weeks removed from the senior team’s catastrophic failure to make the 2018 World Cup, American soccer fans desperate for some semblance of hope latched on to the Under-17 national side and its own World Cup endeavor.

The “Baby Nats” were in the quarterfinals against England following an impressive dismantling of Paraguay in the Round of 16.

And Saturday’s match was impressive all right. Just not for the United States.

Rhian Brewster recorded a hat trick and England continued its banner year at the youth levels with a 4-1 victory over the Yanks in Goa, India, looking like the superior side for most of the evening.

In the span of five months, England has now booked a place in the U17 World Cup semifinals to go along with triumphs at the U20 World Cup and the U19 European Championship, not to mention a runner-up finish at the U17 Euros.

The United States can’t match that accomplishment, but it can point to several young stars who have emerged over the past couple weeks in India. One of them, striker Josh Sargent, scored the Yanks’ lone goal after England had already gone up 3-0.

Sergino Dest drove a hard shot at England goalkeeper Curtis Anderson, whose parry landed fortuitously at the feet of Sargent for his third goal of the competition:

Sargent, along with striker Ayo Akinola, playmaking attacker Andrew Carleton, defender/midfielder Chris Durkin, striker Timothy Weah and midfielder Chris Goslin, are all names to watch as the United States men’s national team transitions into a new era over the next few years.

They helped the U17 team win its first two group matches to qualify for the knockout stages at this World Cup, then beat Paraguay 5-0 on the back of a hat trick by Weah, the son of former AC Milan star and world player of the year George Weah.

But beating England was ultimately too much to ask. Rife with its own starlets, especially Brewster, who’s widely considered the top prospect in Liverpool’s youth system, England was sharper and more aggressive right from the opening whistle.

England opened the scoring in the 11th minute, when American keeper Justin Garces dove to deflect a cross but punched it right at Brewster, who alertly finished with a nice bit of quick-twitch skill:

Three minutes later, England’s Phil Foden played a ball around the outside of the U.S. defense that Brewster tracked down and coolly touched over Garces:

For the rest of the first half, however, the United States had the better of possession and generated several great chances. Sargent hit the crossbar off a corner kick, Blaine Ferri dragged a left-footed shot just wide, and Taylor Booth turned a hard hit at a difficult angle on Anderson, who did well to block it.

The question at halftime then became whether or not the Yanks were truly back in the game, or if England had let up a bit after the second goal. Unfortunately for the Americans, it was the latter.

The Three Lions resumed their comprehensive ownership of the match, and in the 64th minute, Brewster played a ball in for Morgan Gibbs-White, whose shot was too close for Garces to keep out. Brewster completed his hat trick on the last kick of the game, a penalty after Dest was red-carded for bringing him down in the box.

Despite the loss, there’s little question the United States program has tangible talent developing in its ranks. With debate swirling over rampant issues at the youth levels in this country, and how they contributed to the senior team’s World Cup qualifying calamity, promising players at the age-17 level is nothing to sneeze at. In lower age groups, there aren’t great players so much as great athletes, but once players near adulthood and are still exemplary it’s a much safer bet they’re legitimate prospects.

United States striker Josh Sargent (9) battles England’s Joel Latibeaudiere on Saturday in Goa, India. (Getty)

Of course, that isn’t to say the Americans are going to turn around and win the 2022 World Cup. There’s still plenty of work to be done, starting with naming a new manager.

Whoever it is will have a tough time sifting through the deepening talent pool that’s about to break onto the scene. And that’s not a bad problem to have.

Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.