SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (June 2, 2023) – The U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team clinched its spot in the 2024 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup after beating Costa Rica 2-1 in the semifinal of the Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship. Goals from 17-year-old midfielders Jasmine Aikey and Lauren Martinho were enough to secure the win as the USA put on an attacking display despite the narrow score line.
The USA will now face Mexico in the championship match on Sunday, June 4 at 3 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer Plus) following Mexico’s dramatic 2-1 semifinal victory against Canada which saw a game-winner deep into stoppage time, while Costa Rica and Canada will face off in the third-place match on Sunday at noon ET (Tubi) for Concacaf’s final U-20 World Cup berth.
The title game will be a rematch of the last Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship Final in 2022 which saw the USA beat Mexico 2-0 on goals from Michelle Cooper and Talia DellaPeruta. The USA has advanced to the final at every Concacaf U-20 tournament that has held one, facing Canada five times and Mexico five times and has qualified for all 12 Women’s World Cups that have been contested for this age group (including the canceled 2020 tournament). The USA won the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
The tone for the match was set early as Costa Rica dropped deep into a 5-4-1 formation and defended with intensity, challenging the USA to find ways through, which the young Americans certainly did. If not for one of the finest games by a goalkeeper seen at this competition in recent memory, the USA would have put the match away early, but Costa Rica’s Genesis Perez made 10 saves, several of which were world-class.
The U.S. team made things difficult for themselves all night, creating stellar chances, but then finding the final pass or a finish lacking. The USA also had two goals called back on razor-thin decisions and saw Perez save Leah Klenke’s penalty kick at the end of the first half that would have made it 2-0 heading into the break.
The U.S. almost took the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of Sentnor, but her goal was annulled after being called for a foul when jumping over a player to head home. Costa Rica then had to adapt early as an injury forced captain Saray Benavides to be substituted after ten minutes, but a sound defense anchored by Pérez kept Las Ticas in the game despite being outshot 19-1 in the first half.
After plenty of knocking at the door, the Americans finally opened the scoring in the 38th minute after Martinho was fouled just outside the box, resulting in a free kick that Aikey buried with a great curling strike low into the left corner that beat Perez despite a good diving effort. Aikey’s goal was her first of the tournament and her first at the U-20 level.
The USA then earned a penalty kick seven minutes into stoppage time following a VAR review that ruled a hand ball against a Costa Rica defender inside the box, but Pérez denied Klenke’s shot with a dive to her right.
Despite the setback, the USA started the second half in fine fashion with an attacking sequence sparked by a brilliant individual effort from forward Onyeka Gamero. She dribbled almost the entire half to the end line and crossed, which led to a loose ball at the top of the six-yard box. An attempted clearance by Costa Rica bounced off the leg of Martinho, who was running toward the ball for the rebound, and straight into the back of the net to double the lead. Martinho’s goal marked her second of the tournament and her second at the U-20 level.
Costa Rica narrowed the deficit in the 55th minute on a rare foray into the USA’s penalty box after a foul by Klenke resulted in a penalty kick that forward Sheika Scott converted to make it 2-1. It was Costa Rica’s only shot on goal the entire night. The U.S. repeatedly threatened the Costa Rican goal the rest of the way but could not extend the lead and had another goal called back in the 82nd minute, this time from forward Madeline Dahlien, who was ruled to be just inches offside.
Tensions rose in a drama-filled period of stoppage time as a VAR review resulted in a straight red card for U.S. defender Gisele Thompson following a foul to deny a clear chance at goal and the ensuing free kick from Mariana Solano rattled off the crossbar before it was cleared out of danger. Thompson will be suspended for the championship game.
GOAL SCORING RUNDOWN:
USA – Jasmine Aikey, 38th minute: Midfielder Lauren Martinho was brought down just outside the penalty box in the center of the field and earned a free kick. Ally Sentnor ran over the ball to fake the shot and then Aikey buried a curling strike into the lower left corner. USA 1, CRC 0
USA – Lauren Martinho, 48th minute: The goal was highlighted by spectacular dribbling effort from Gamero in the lead-up that ended with chaos just outside the six-yard box. An attempted clearance by a Costa Rica defender bounced straight into Martinho, who was running onto the ball for a point-blank shot anyway, and the ball ricocheted straight into the back of the net. USA 2, CRC 0
CRC – Sheika Scott, 55th minute: Costa Rica earned a penalty kick after Verónica Mattarrita made a meal of some minor contact inside the USA box from Leah Klenke and Scott converted low and into the right corner to cut the deficit in half. USA 2, CRC 1
-U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team Match Report-
Match: United States Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: June 2, 2023
Competition: Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship - Semifinal
Venue: Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Weather: 83 degrees, humid, partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
CRC 0 1 1
USA – Jasmine Aikey 38th minute
USA – Lauren Martinho 48
CRC -- Sheika Scott (Penalty Kick) 55
USA: 1-Teagan Wy; 2-Gisele Thompson (Ejected, 90+3), 5-Elise Evans, 14-Leah Klenke, 3-Savannah King; 18-Jasmine Aikey, 16-Jill Flammia (6-Ally Lemos, 67), 8-Lauren Martinho; 17-Onyeka Gamero (7-Jordynn Dudley, 76), 9-Ally Sentnor (Capt.) (13-Tessa Dellarose, 90+5), 19-Madeline Dahlien
Substitutes Not Used: 4-Ella Emri, 10-Shae Harvey, 11-Kat Rader, 12-Valentina Amaral, 15-Maggie Cagle, 20-Sofia Cook, 21-Makenzie Gress
Head Coach: Tracey Kevins
CRC: 1-Genesis Perez; 3-Valentina Rivera, 20-Keishlyn Mena (19-Ashly Gonzalez 64), 5-Saray Benavides (Capt.) (16-Priscilla Rodriguez, 10), 15-Josselyn Briceno, 2-Britanny Vasquez; 7-Veronica Matarrita (9-Tanisha Fonseca, 82), 21-Jimena Jimenez, 4-Luciana Gonzalez (6-Sianyf Aguero, 64), 14-Monserrat Diaz (17-Marian Solano, 64); 10-Sheika Scott
Substitutes not used: 8-Dayra Dinarte, 11-Yoselin Fonseca, 12-Samira Roper, 13-Nancy Fonseca, 18-Carolina Mendez
Head Coach: Patricia Aguilar
Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 29 / 6
Shots on Goal: 11 / 1
Saves: 0 / 10
Corner Kicks: 9 / 0
Fouls: 13 / 9
Offside: 5 / 0
CRC -- Josselyn Briceno (Caution) 45+7th minute
USA -- Gisele Thompson (Ejection) 90+3
Referee: Sandra Benefitz (SLV)
1st Assistant Referee: Lidia Ayala (SLV)
2nd Assistant Referee: Ivett Santiago (CUB)
4th Official: Odette Hamilton (JAM)
VAR: Ismael Cornejo (SLV)
AVAR1: Francia Gonzalez (MEX)