It was tough and not pretty at times but the US U-20 squad qualified for the U-20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand. They had to beat El Salvador in the playoff round in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in order to qualify. They join Honduras, Panama and Mexico as the four CONCACAF representatives this Summer. Panama and Mexico will meet in the Final game Sunday.
Their CONCACAF tournament started out with a few hiccups. First, they almost defeated Guatemala and were well on their way to getting the three points. Andy Ruiz from Guatemala had other ideas. He ripped a volley from just outside the box and scored a golazo regardless of age group. Guatemala and the US drew 1-1.
After Guatemala, the US faced Panama. Uh, it wasn’t pretty. The team looked lifeless and lost and Panama got a pretty easy 1-0 win. The result vaulted Panama into the top spot of the group and never looked back as they advanced to the Final.
After this game, there was some uneasiness surrounding the U-20 team. Many wanted to blame manager Tab Ramos for the team’s struggles. Some blamed Jurgen Klinsmann since he is Technical Director and theoretically “the buck stops” with Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati. Either way, there were many who were feeling uneasy about the US’ chances on advancing.
After an 8-0 thrashing of Aruba and 2-0 defeat to Jamaica, the US only needed to defeat Trinidad and Tobago in order to advance to the Playoff Round of the CONCACAF U-20 Tournament.
US U-20’s against Aruba
US U-20’s against Jamaica
US U-20’s against Trinidad and Tobago
That brought us to the Playoff Round against El Salvador. The winner of the game would advance to the U-20 FIFA World Cup. The US started off slow but got it together soon enough. Ben Spencer opened up the scoring in the 37th minute collecting his own rebound off a corner kick. Right after halftime, Zack Steffen made an incredible PK save to keep the lead. The US then added another goal from Paul Arriola to cap off the tournament for the United States.
While it wasn’t in dominating fashion, the US still achieved their goal and are advancing to the U-20 FIFA World Cup. And if Mexico from the 2014 World Cup is any indication, it doesn’t matter how you get into the World Cup, it’s what you do in the World Cup that will be remembered.