U-20 WNT - Sophia Smith
U-20 WNT - Sophia Smith

Five Things to Know About the U-20 WNT's Run at the CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship

Presented by Thorne

The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team is one victory away from qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France. Haiti awaits the USA in the semifinal with a World Cup berth on the line. Here are five things to know about the journey of the U.S. U-20 WNT in Trinidad and Tobago.

SWEEPING THE GROUP

The USA opened up the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship winning all three of its group stage games to top Group B and advance to the tournament semifinals. Victories have not come easy for the red, white and blue against ever-improving CONCACAF squads, but the USA still extended its tournament unbeaten streak to 22 games.

MORE: Tournament Preview: USA Ready for Stern Test at 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship

The opening match brought the first-ever meeting between the USA and Nicaragua in women’s soccer. Goals from Taryn Torres and Civana Kuhlmann lifted the U-20s over La Azul y Blanco. Kuhlmann’s goal marked the USA’s 250th all-time at the tournament and the victory earned head coach Jitka Klimkova her first-ever CONCACAF qualifying victory.

MORE: Torres, Kuhlmann Goals Lift USA Past Nicaragua 2-0 in 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship Opener

Next, Jamaica took its best shot at the USA. Despite massively out-shooting the Reggae Girlz, the USA allowed a late equalizer and needed an 89th-minute game-winner from Jaelin Howell to secure the American victory. A rivalry match against Mexico closed out pool play with the top spot in the group on the line. Needing a win to take first place, the USA got first half goals from Abigail Kim and Ashley Sanchez to earn the victory.

MORE: Late Goal Lifts USA Over Jamaica 2-1 in Second 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship Group Game

MORE: USA Defeats Mexico 2-1 to Win Group B at 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship

IMMEDIATE REPONSE HIGHLIGHTS JAMAICA WIN 

The group stage’s most exciting fixture was primed for drama from the start. The Jamaica U-20 squad is coached by Lorne Donaldson, youth club coach for Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell at Real Colorado. The duo ended up as the key players in taking down Donaldson’s Reggae Girlz.

Even though the U.S. dominated the game offensively, it led just 1-0 late in the game. Sophia Smith scored on a rocket free kick goal in the 42nd minute, but the red, white and blue were unable to convert any more chances. Jamaica kept up a dogged effort on the counterattack, and finally broke through in the 88th minute.

MORE: Resilience Sparks Howell’s Late Game Winner Over Jamaica

But the U-20s picked up the ball from the back of the net with a mission in mind. Fifty-three seconds later, Jaelin Howell knocked in the game-winning goal on a pass from Sophia Smith. The victory clinched the USA a spot in the semifinals.

OFFENSIVE OPPORTUNITY

While the U.S. has only scored two goals in each of its three games, the Americans created far more chances during group play. In total, the USA has out-shot its opponents 62 to 16. Against Nicaragua, the USA allowed just three shots while firing away 19 times. The USA also a had a huge advantage against Jamaica, piling up a 27-9 shot margin.

Match

USA Shots

USA Shots on Goal

Opp. Shots

Opp. Shots on Goal

USA vs. Nicaragua

19

8

3

1

USA vs. Jamaica

27

14

9

6

USA vs. Mexico

16

8

4

1

CONTRIBUTIONS ACROSS THE BOARD

All but one member of the USA’s 20-player roster has logged minutes in Trinidad. The outlier is Tierna Davidson. Davidson arrived to the team on Monday, Jan. 22 after spending the last few weeks with the senior Women’s National Team at its annual January Camp.

While Davidson was scheduled to arrive in Trinidad before the tournament started, she impressed WNT head coach Jill Ellis during camp to the extent that she was rostered for the WNT’s friendly against Denmark on Jan. 21 in San Diego. Davidson earned her first cap in the match, playing the full 90 minutes and assisting on Julie Ertz’s game-winning goal.

Klimkova takes pride in the team’s depth and the small margin between its starters and substitutes. That has been reflected in the team’s diversity of contributions. Nineteen players have all played at least 55 minutes. Six different players have scored the teams six goals, while four players have garnered assists. 

HAITI LOOKS TO MAKE HISTORY, USA LOOKS FOR NINTH U-20 WWC BERTH 

The semifinal winners will clinch a spot at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France, but the losers will also get one more chance. Three teams from CONCACAF qualify for the tournament: two finalists and the third-place game winner.

After topping Group B, the USA will face Group A runner-up Haiti in the semifinal. The match will be broadcast live on CONCACAF YouTube and Facebook Live. This is Haiti’s first trip to the semifinals, it has never qualified for the World Cup at this level.

A victory would also give the USA the chance to defend its CONCACAF title. The U.S. has won the last four regional titles, and five overall.