The US U-20 Men’s National Team has had an eventful trip to Jamaica in their quest to qualify for the U-20 World Cup this summer in New Zealand. After getting only one point from their first two matches, it looked like they needed to win all of their remaining three matches just to even make it into a playoff for a spot in New Zealand. After beating both Jamaica and Aruba, they came into today’s match against Trinidad & Tobago needing at least a draw to clinch a spot in the playoff, and a win to give them the top seed overall in the playoff. After 78 minutes Bradford Jamieson IV finally broke the deadlock and put the US up 1-0, finishing a great counterattack from Junior Flores and Paul Arriola to ensure that the US would be in the playoff match this Saturday, January 24th. Prepare for some epic music with the highlights that might be better suited for a slow motion battle scene.
The US dominated much of the match, creating more dangerous chances than T&T. Romain Gall was the danger man early on, but he was unable to finish his opportunities in the 6th and 30th minute. T&T’s one chance in the first half was in the 10th minute which they put wide. Emerson Hyndman almost gave the US a lead in the 40th as he ripped a shot after beating three players in the box, but the keeper was able to parry. Jamieson had two good looks early in the second half, including a shot that was cleared off the line in the 49th minute. Both Paul Arriola and Junior Flores came on as subs after the 60th minute, and both looked quite lively. Flores hit Arriola with a nice pass that created a four on three break for the US, and Jamieson slotted home the winner far post from Arriola’s cutback pass into the box, allowing both the US and all of the team’s followers to breathe a sigh of relief. Flores was unlucky not to score in the 85th minute when the T&T keeper made another nice save. The match finished 1-0, which allowed the US to surpass Guatemala on goal differential and give them the top seed in the playoff, as long as Honduras doesn’t score nine goals against Canada (you can do it, hat). Apparently the playoff matches are not 2nd of each group vs 3rd of the other group like previously published, but this is CONCACAF so really that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The critical part is that the US has clinched a playoff match, likely against El Salvador, unless Cuba beats them tomorrow.
Surprisingly enough, the US defense has really carried them so far in this tournament. Coming in to qualification it was the midfield that was receiving all of the plaudits with so much dangerous attacking talent, but the back-line of Shaquell Moore, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and John Requejo alongside keeper Zack Steffen have been impressive, giving up only two goals, one of which was a wonderstrike in the 93rd minute. Conditions on the pitch in Jamaica have been less than optimal to say the least, and on more than one occasion a referee has made a befuddling call, yet the back-line has kept it together and defended admirably, allowing few chances and limiting mistakes on pitches that have been particularly conducive to them. Each of these guys looks to have a promising career ahead of him, and Carter-Vickers and Moore have both especially been impressive on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It looks likely that the Philadelphia Union will be disappointed by Steffen’s decision to make a move to Freiburg instead of play for them (especially considering how much they love keepers) as he has been very solid, making some big saves. Hopefully the back line has one more clean sheet in them for Saturday to help send the Young Yanks on a summer vacation to New Zealand.