MACOYA, Trinidad (March 15, 2009) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team fell to Costa Rica 3-0 in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship final in front of a capacity crowd at Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya, Trinidad.
After already securing their place at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup by winning CONCACAF’s Group A, the U.S. fell short of winning what would have been its first-ever regional title. It was the third time the Americans advanced to the tournament’s championship, also appearing in 1980 and 1982. Tonight marked the first CONCACAF Under-20 championship game since 1996.
The U.S. entered the game with a 10-game unbeaten streak in CONCACAF qualifying, with its last defeat coming at the hands of Canada in 2002. Before Estrada’s 41st minute goal, the U.S. hadn’t conceded a goal in 628 minutes of CONCACAF qualifying, dating back to a 4-1 victory over Haiti in the opening match of Group B in 2007. Their streak of 628 minutes was just two shy of Mexico’s CONCACAF record 630 scoreless minutes in 1973-74.
Goalkeeper Brian Perk kept four clean sheets in Trinidad & Tobago, including 120 scoreless minutes against the hosts, before giving way to Josh Lambo and Sean Johnson, who each played a half in the final.
Including the goalkeeper switch, U.S. head coach Thomas Rongen made eight changes from the starting lineup that won Friday night’s semifinal game in a penalty shootout against Trinidad & Tobago. Aaron Maund, Amobi Okugo and Billy Schuler all made their first starts of the tournament in the final. Anthony Wallace moved up from his left back position into the midfield, and Brek Shea moved from the midfield to forward. For Okugo, Schuler, Maund and Lambo, it was their first start of the tournament.
"We made a lot of changes tonight to try to put ourselves in a situation to be successful, but also to look at some players under pressure," said Rongen. "I’m disappointed in the loss but overall satisfied with the way we’ve played throughout the finals. Getting to Egypt was our primary goal here, we reached that and to reach a final is a very good accomplishment for a team that came together in a very short amount of time. We did some very good things, and I think this team will represent us well in Egypt."
Costa Rica came at the U.S. defense early and often, with their first chance coming in just the third minute. Bryan Ovied received a throw in, carried it to the end line and slotted the ball across for Allen Guevara. Guevara was just a few feet away from Lambo’s goal, but his shot sailed high from close range.
Wallace led the charge at the other end of the field, starting the attack and continuing his run to get the ball back at the top of the box, but his ensuing shot was stopped by Esteban Alvarado.
The two teams continued to exchange possession and attack at a high pace throughout the half, and in the 41st minute, Costa Rica finally broke through. Diego Estrada pounced on a loose ball in the U.S. defensive end. He took a couple of touches before hitting a low shot that got past Lambo at the near post.
Costa Rica took control of the game in the second half as the U.S. pressed forward. Minutes after coming into the game, Johnson was called on to make two key saves. Marcos Urena played the ball over the defense for a rushing Estrada, but Estrada could not beat Johnson from the tough angle. Less than two minutes later, Johnson denied Josue Varela Martinez from point-blank range after a through ball from Urena got him one-on-one with the 6 foot 4 inch ‘keeper.
Costa Rica doubled their lead in the 69th minute, with Urena setting up another dangerous chance and Martinez converting. On the dribble, Urena spotted Martinez streaking down the left wing and slipped the ball just out of reach of Wallace. Martinez did the rest, taking a touch and placing the ball past Johnson and inside the far post.
In the 80th minute, a long ball from the foot of Alvarado, the Costa Rican goalkeeper, would set up the Ticos’ third goal. Guevara chased the ball down, beating the U.S. back line and was able to chip the ball over Johnson’s head to round out the score at 3-0.
The United States, Costa Rica, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago are the final four countries that will participate in the 24-team 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Asia will send four representatives in Australia, Korea Republic, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. Africa will have five teams in the tournament, including the hosts, as Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have qualified. The 2008 U-19 European Championship served as the qualifying tournament that saw the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Spain advance. Oceania sends Tahiti to their first ever world championship, while Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela will represent South America.
- U.S. UNDER-20 MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT -
Match: U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: March 15, 2009
Competition: 2009 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship Final
Venue: Marvin Lee Stadium; Macoya, Trinidad
Kickoff: 7 p.m. local (7 p.m. ET)
Weather: 70 degrees, humid
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
CRC 1 2 3
CRC – Diego Alonso Estrada (unassisted) 41st minute
CRC – Josue Martinez (David Alberto Guzman) 68
CRC – Allen Guevara (Esteban Alvarado) 77
USA: 18-Joshua Lambo (1-Sean Johnson, 46); 6-Amobi Okugo (15-Brian Ownby, 58, 5-Aaron Maund, 2-Kyle Davies (capt.), 11-Jorge Flores; 12-Bryan Arguez, 8-Jared Jeffrey, 3-Anthony Wallace; 14-Sam Garza (7-Daniel Cruz, 66), 16-Billy Schuler, 23-Brek Shea
Subs not used: 4-Sheanon Williams, 9-Peri Marosevic, 10-Dilly Duka, 13-Tony Taylor,
Subs not available: 22-Gale Agbossoumonde, 24-Brian Perk
Head coach: Thomas Rongen
CRC: 1-Esteban Alvarado; 2-Jose Antonio Mena, 5-Derrick Alberto Johnson (capt.), 6-Ricardo Jose Blanco, 7-Marcos Danilo Urena (11-Diego Josue Madrigal, 85), 8-David Alberto Guzman, 13-Allen Guevara, 14-Brian Jose Oviedo, 16-Diego Alonso Estrada (10-Carlos Hernandez, 90+), 17-Josue Martinez (9-Jorge Castro, 90+), 19-Jose Daniel Varela
Subs not used: 3-Kenner Gutierrez, 15-Javier Mynor Esoce, 18-Minor Jesus Alvarez
Subs not available: 4-Juan Andres Monge, 12-Cristian Gamboa
Head Coach: Ronald Gonzalez
Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 6 / 20
Shots on Goal: 2 / 12
Saves: 9 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2
Fouls: 4 / 4
Offside: 0 / 2
CRC – David Alberto Guzman 89th minute
Referee: Geoffrey Hospedales (TRI)
Assistant Referee 1: Garnet Page (JAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Venton Mars (GUY)
Fourth Official: Oscar Moncada (HON)
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