BRADENTON, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2018) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team booked a second consecutive trip to the Concacaf U-20 Championship title match with a 1-0 win vs. Honduras, who the USA beat in the 2017 final to claim its first regional title at the U-20 level. Despite its defeat, Honduras will join the U.S., Mexico and Panama at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup by virtue of a better goal difference than fellow Group G participant Cosat Rica.
The U.S. will face Mexico, who edged out Panama to reach the final on fair the play tie-breaker after a 2-2 draw in the day’s earlier game. The 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship title game kicks off on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. ET (concacafgo.com, UDN) from IMG Academy Stadium.
Having secured its place at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Friday night with a convincing 4-0 win against Costa Rica, the USA slowly imposed its will against Honduras, ultimately claiming over 80 percent possession in the first half, a foundation that allowed the U.S. to tee up seven shots (four on goal) compared to just two shots (one on target) for Honduras.
In a sign of things to come, Ayo Akinola got loose to produce the first clear cut chance for the U.S. but sent his header inches wide midway through the first half. Soon after, a well-rehearsed corner kick routine by the USA teed up Alex Mendez to shoot from close range, but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot to tuck it beneath the on-rushing goalkeeper, who again did well at the stroke of half time to deny Sebastian Soto after the U.S. forward had got behind the Honduras defense.
Knotted at 0-0 to begin the second half, the game continued much the way the first 45 ended with the USA taking the attacking initiative and Honduras attempting to counter. But a long, diagonal ball over the Honduras defense from Brandon Servania finally unlocked their backline in the 51st minute and allowed Akinola to race in from the right wing to collect the ball that had rolled into the top right corner of the box. The USA forward chopped a well-placed one-timer past the out-stretched hand of Reyes and just inside the left post for the 1-0 lead and his seventh goal of the tournament.
As the clock ticked along both teams began to be more cautious about going forward; Honduras in an effort not to concede too many goals and lose its place in the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the U.S. in a wise effort to kill the game and secure its place in the 2018 Concacaf Championship title game. U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made all three available subs in the final 15 minutes to help steer the 1-0 lead into a 1-0 victory the will put the USA in the Concacaf U-20 title match for the third time in the last four editions under his guidance.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Ayo Akinola (Brandon Servania), 51st minute: From inside his own half, U.S. midfielder Brandon Servania spotted the run of Akinola down the right flank and sent a long diagonal ball in his direction. Honduras’ left back nearly intercepted the pass but succeeded only in knocking it down for Akinola to smack a one-time shot from the top corner of the box beyond the grasp of Honduras goalkeeper Oscar Reyes and into the bottom left corner for what proved to be the match winner. USA 1, HON 0 [WATCH] FINAL
- With the result, U.S. head coach Tab Ramos moves to 19-3-2 all-time in Concacaf U-20 Championship play and has led the team to four straight World Cups.
- The USA is unbeaten in its last 12 Concacaf U-20 Championship matches dating back to the opener of 2017, establishing a new team record for longest stretch without a loss in this tournament. Previously, the USA went unbeaten in 10 games from the opener of 2005 (5-0-1), 2007 (2-0-1), before falling to Costa Rica in the 2009 final after going 2-0-2.
- The USA now has a 2-4-4 all-time record versus Honduras in this competition, including scoreless draws in the last three meetings, two wins on PKs, and a few matches of significance:
- In the 1980 semifinal, the USA edged Honduras on PKs to advance to its first FIFA Youth Championship (now U-20 World Cup). In 1983, the USA fell in the final, but Honduras was later disqualified for age irregularities and the USA advanced to that World Cup. In 2017 the USA defeated Honduras on penalty kicks to win its first Concacaf U-20 Championship.
- Ayo Akinola scored his seventh goal of the tournament, drawing him into a tie with Ulysses Llanez for the team lead.
- Akinola and Llanez’s seven goals leave them one shy of the USA’s tournament high of eight, set by Ricky Davis in 1978.
- David Ochoa earned his second shutout in as many games played this tournament. It was also the team’s fifth of the competition.
- Ramos made four changes from the team that started vs Costa Rica: Ochoa for Brady Scott; Frankie Amaya for Juan Pablo Torres; Ayo Akinola for Uly Llanez; and Chris Richards made his tournament debut in place of Matt Real.
- Mark McKenzie served as captain, his second time this tournament (also vs. Suriname)
- Paxton Pomykal and Justin Rennicks appeared in their team-high seventh game.
- Chris Gloster made his team-high sixth start.
- U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team vs. Honduras
Date: November 19, 2018
Competition: 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship; Qualification Round
Venue: IMG Academy Stadium; Bradenton, Fla.
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Weather: 72 degrees; partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
HON 0 0 0
USA – Ayo Akinola 51st minute
USA: 12-David Ochoa; 22-Sergiño Dest (14-Manny Perez, 80), 4-Mark McKenzie (capt.), 26-Chris Richards, 3-Chris Gloster; 8-Alex Mendez, 6-Brandon Servania (7-Juan Pablo Torres, 77), 20-Frankie Amaya; 17-Ayo Akinola, 23-Sebastian Soto, 10-Paxton Pomykal (9-Justin Rennicks, 84)
Substitutes not used: 1-Brady Scott, 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 5-Matt Real, 11-Ulysses Llanez, 19-Samuel Rogers, 16-Julian Araujo
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
HON: 12-Oscar Reyes; 18-Jonathan Nuñez (13-Selvin Guevara, 45+2), 3-Darwin Diego, 5-Wesly Decas (capt.), 2-Elison Rivas; 20-Gerson Chavez, 16-Jack Jean Baptise, 6-Everson Lopez, 4-Axel Gomez; 23-Patrick Palacios (10-Carlos Mejia, 55), 11-Josue Villafranca (17-Luis Palma, 90)
Substitutes not used: 1-Jose Garcia, 7-Cristian Calix, 9-Cesar Romero, 14-Mikel Santos, 15-Cristian Moreira
Head coach: Carlos Tabora
Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 9 / 2
Shots on Goal: 5 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 6 / 0
Fouls: 15 / 14
Offside: 1 / 0
HON – Gerson Chavez 57th minute
USA – Paxton Pomykal 74
Referee: Fernando Hernandez (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Humberto Panjoj (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Karen Diaz (MEX)
4th Official: Ivan Baron (SLV)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Ayo Akinola