Monday night for the first time in 31 years the U.S. defeated Mexico in U20 play by a 1-0 score at the CONCACAF Championships/World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Costa Rica, smoothing its path to the U20 World Cup this May and June in South Korea.
On a night for slaying dragons the Americans earned that win at Saprissa Stadium, long known as a House of Horrors for the U.S. senior side.
The Young Yanks came into this match off of consecutive 4-1 wins following a 1-0 loss in the tournament opener versus Panama. Still, that pair of victories over CONCACAF minnows did little to boost the confidence of U.S watchers.
But Monday night was different.
The U.S. came out with a far more aggressive and positive approach from the start against El Tri, pressing the favorites and even if the play was a bit ragged early on the Americans eventually began to click.
U.S. coach Tab Ramos surprised more than a few pundits, this one included, when he left NYCFC winger Jonathan Lewis on the bench but Ramos was vindicated by a lineup led by a determined central midfield trio.
Captain Erik Palmer-Brown had by far his best game operating as deepest of the three and with Eryk Williamson and Tyler Adams harassed and dominated Mexico’s midfield all game. Adams in particular impressed, with the 18 year old covering acres of ground.
With the middle of the park closed off, Mexico had no choice to attack the U.S. wings but fullbacks Marlon Fossey and Danny Acosta were like a pair of NFL lockdown corners, choking off the Mexican attack.
The Yanks had the more dangerous possession and were rewarded when Palmer-Brown headed home from a corner kick in the 29th minute. The U.S. goal unnerved Mexico and the favorites had to be happy to get to the locker room trailing by just that one goal.
The second half was more of the same, although Mexico put late pressure on the the Americans, who held firm.
A win or a tie on Friday against El Salvador and it is on to South Korea for the U.S. The Americans would also advance if El Salvador pull off an upset versus Mexico on Wednesday