The U.S. MNT U20’s are heading to the U20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand after a solid 2-0 win tonight in Jamaica over El Salvador.
The Americans came out flying against El Salvador, and came close to scoring just over one minute in when Tommy Thompson’s shot flashed past the upright.
That early flourish and miss seemed to set the tone for the match, with the U.S. dominating, but not capitalizing fully on that dominance.
Finally in the 37th minute, towering striker Ben Spencer gave the U.S. the lead off of a set piece. The 6’5” inch Spencer had been giving the El Salvador backline fits all game, and his double header broke the deadlock.
Emerson Hyndman sent in a nice free kick and Spencer won the header, which he hit off the crossbar. Spencer followed the shot, and scored on his own rebound.
El Salvador had a chance to level the match from the penalty spot early in the second half, but U.S. keeper Zack Steffen came up huge to preserve the lead.
Steffen had little to do most of the evening in Montego Bay, but when called upon the recent Freiburg signing dove right and made the save.
As the game continued and the U.S. failed to add a second goal to put El Salvador away, thoughts of the “Nightmare in Nashville” were impossible for U.S. supporters to ignore.
El Salvador was the opponent back on March 26, 2012 when Sean Johnson fumbled Jamie Alas’ long range bomb into his own net in the waning seconds of what became a 3-3 tie, a result that eliminated the Americans from the London Olympics.
The young Yanks finally added that all important second goal at the 68 minute mark, quieting U.S. nerves and erasing thoughts of Nashville. The goal wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it was well deserved nonetheless. After applying heavy pressure, substitute Junior Flores carved open the El Salvador defense with a decisive run.
Bradford Jamieson IV got a shot in and another sub, Paul Arriola’s scuffed shot found the net from a deflection for the 2-0 lead.
Defense minded El Salvador were unlikely to overturn that scoreline in the time remaining, and a straight red card in the 79th minute sealed it.
So, it is on to New Zealand for Tab Ramos and company. The U20 World Cup runs from May 30- June 20, and while it is easy to point out that the U.S. were unimpressive for much of this CONCACAF Championship, the goal is to qualify, and that goal has been met.
This group showed well defensively, indeed the back four outperformed the more highly touted U.S. attack over the course of the tournament. In the midfield Emerson Hyndman showed signs of emerging as a genuine number 10, a rare commodity in a U.S. MNT uniform. Hopefully Hyndman is not too seriously hurt after leaving this match with what looked like a shoulder injury.
Despite leading the tournament in shots the U.S. struggled to score. Utrecht striker Rubio Rubin, unavailable for this event, should be a big help come May and June.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
SLV 0 0 0
USA – Ben Spencer 37th minute
USA – Paul Arriola 68
USA: 1-Zack Steffen, 2-Shaquell Moore, 3-John Requejo Jr., 4-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 5-Matt Miazga; 16-Russell Canouse (capt.), 8-Emerson Hyndman (18-Lynden Gooch, 70), 9-Romain Gall (10-Junior Flores, 62), 11-Tommy Thompson, 19-Bradford Jamieson IV, 20-Ben Spencer (7-Paul Arriola, 46)
Subs Not Used: 12-Ethan Horvath, 13-Tyler Turner, 14-Conor Donovan, 15-Fernando Arce, 17-Amando Moreno
Head coach: Tab Ramos
SLV: 1-Carlos Cañas; 2-Nelson Moreno, 4-Bryan Tamacas, 12-Cesar Flores (20-Romilio Hernandez, 46), 17-Juan Barahona; 6-Narciso Orellana (capt.), 8-Alvaro Guardado (16-Eduardo Merino, 65), 9-Byan Perez, 11-Jose Villavicencio (19-Julio Amaya, 85), 14-Andres Flores; 15-William Canales
Subs Not Used: 5-Edwin Cuellar, 10-Josue Martinez, 13-Jonathan Miranda, 18-Nicolas Pacheco
Head coach: Mauricio Alfaro
Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 9 / 5
Shots on Goal: 3 / 2
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Fouls: 25 / 17
Offside: 2 / 0
USA – Ben Spencer (caution) 38th minute
SLV – Narciso Orellana (caution) 38
SLV – Eduardo Merino (caution) 71
USA – Tommy Thompson (caution) 73
USA – Cameron Carter-Vickers (caution) 76
SLV – Andres Flores (sent off) 79