The U.S. did just enough to advance to the knockout stage at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, wrapping up Group D play with a scoreless tie, then prevailing in a game of chance when defeat might have been preferable.
Saturday's result in Pachuca sent the Americans (1-1-1) and their opponent, New Zealand (1-1-1), through to the round of 16. Because the teams were even on goal difference and goals scored, lots were drawn to determine that the U.S. was second and the Kiwis third in the group, behind Uzbekistan.
Might third place have been the spot to be? Perhaps so.
The Americans will face the Group E winner Thursday in Queretaro, and unless something extraordinary occurs, that will be Germany, which has routed Ecuador (6-1) and Burkina Faso (3-0) and on Sunday takes on Panama.
New Zealand on Wednesday gets Japan (2-0-1), which eked out a victory over Jamaica, tied France and dominated an Argentina side that has not impressed. The Uzbeks will face the No. 3 team from Group F, likely Ivory Coast and possibly Australia.
Mexico, France, England, Argentina, Congo, Uruguay and Ecuador also have clinched round-of-16 berths.
Palmdale's Esteban Rodriguez (Bell Gardens HS) and North Hollywood's Mario Rodriguez (Poly HS in Sun Valley) were in the U.S. lineup again, and Galaxy forward Jack McBean (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS) and goalkeeper Wade Hamilton (Murrieta/Murrieta Valley HS) again watched from the bench.