The USA U-20 Men's National Team dodged the potential humiliation of a first round exit from the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship with a seven-minute scoring spree that delivered a 4-1 win over Haiti.
A must-win game for the US started badly. Kenley Dede scored in the 15th minute, and 1-0 to Haiti was a scoreline that would see the Americans eliminated. Brooks Lennon converted a penalty before the match reached its half-hour mark to tie the game, but 1-1 wasn't that much better for the US.
For the second half, the USA's task was clear: score more goals. There wasn't long to wait. Facilitated by some regrettable goalkeeping, Lennon added another two and Lucas de la Torre got one in a scoring blitz that started in the 52nd minute and was over by the 58th. When Haiti's Emerson Georges was sent off in the 82nd minute, it merely tightened the Americans' grip on the game.
The 4-1 win has transformed the USA's chances of progressing in this tournament. It was a big enough win to give the team a goal-difference advantage over Haiti, bouncing the US to second place in the group. Next up for the Americans is St. Kitts and Nevis - a team that has lost its first two games in this competition by an aggregate score of 9-1. It is expected the USA will finish the group stage with six points and a very healthy goal difference: the team is all but through to the next round.
For Haiti, the result means its final group stage game, against Panama, has turned into a playoff. Barring an unexpected American capitulation to St. Kitts, Les Grenadiers must beat Panama - by several goals - to even be in contention for a place in the Classification Stage. And Panama has yet to concede a goal in this competition.
The USA still likely needs another win, and should be a little concerned about what it will face in the Classification Stage (it looks to be heading into Mexico's group for the phase of the tournament that will determine CONCACAF's U-20 World Cup qualifiers) - but at half-time of this game it was concerned about missing out on the rest of the competition altogether.
A hat-trick for Brooks Lennon and no further significant injuries (Tyler Adams sat this one out and it is unclear whether he will be able to play again in the tournament) are also welcome boosts to the USA's cause.
Next up for the Americans: St. Kitts and Nevis on February 24.