The Kids Are Alright

Best Performance Yet Leads U-20s to World Cup

Jose Villarreal, Luis Gil, and Wil Trapp did the scoring, and the shaky backline did enough to limit Canada's potent attack as the Americans defeated the Canucks and qualified for Turkey.
BY Josh Deaver Posted
February 27, 2013
1:17 PM
Under immense pressure to avenge recent youth team failures, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National team rose to the occasion on Tuesday night, defeating Canada 4-2 to book a spot at the 2013 U-20 World Cup. The Yanks delivered their best performance so far in the CONCACAF Championship and will advance to the semifinals where they will face Group B winners Cuba on Friday night.

After some shaky defense led to an early Canada goal, the U.S. roared back, scoring three goals in 17 minutes to close out the first half and adding another shortly after halftime. LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal picked up two tallies in the win, with Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and Columbus Crew homegrown product Wil Trapp adding one apiece.

“I have to give the players so much credit for today,” U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said following the match. “Not only are they playing a very difficult game that has a lot of pressure, but at the same time they found themselves behind. I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction on the players’ faces when they accomplished something big. I’m glad to be a part of today’s result.”

Following an uneventful opening 20 minutes, Canada grabbed an early lead thanks to an excellent strike from distance by Dylan Carreiro, who caught U.S. keeper Cody Cropper out of position after the Americans failed to close out the shooter. The goal was deflating, but the U.S. wasted little time responding. In the 29th minute, after a fabulous individual effort by Daniel Cuevas, the speedy winger slipped a pass into the box for Gil who deftly maneuvered around a Canadian defender and buried a left-footed shot just inside the far post.

The tally invigorated the Yanks, who struck again only minutes later. Receiving the ball on the left wing, Kaiserslautern prospect Mario Rodriguez charged the Canadian defense, drawing in five red shirts before finding an unmarked Villarreal who didn't miss. The lead expanded to 3-1 one minute before halftime. Following a poor clearance from Canadian goalkeeper Maximo Crepeau, Trapp struck a wonderful volley that took a deflection before finding the back of the net.

Following the break, the U-20s continued the assault. The attacking corps for the U.S—Cuevas, Joya, Villarreal, Gil, and Rodriguez—played excellent in combination, leading to several dangerous balls in the Canadian penalty area. In the 54th minute, after a spell of skillful one-two passing, Benji Joya found a slashing Villarreal inside the box. He converted a low driving shot for his second goal of the night.

The Canadians would not go without a fight, however, and managed to generate some good chances as the clock dwindled away. Fortuna Dusseldorf midfielder Samuel Piette eventually cut the deficit to two in the 74th minute. A poor clearance by the U.S. fell to the feet of the 18 year old, who delivered yet another highlight reel goal by sliding a 25-yard rocket underneath the crossbar.

Both teams had chances to add goal in the final 10 minutes. Crepeau made a pair of huge saves, denying both Joya and Rodriguez, while substitute Dillon Serna hit the crossbar with an attempt. On the other end, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Caleb Clarke had a chance to tally, but scuffed an uncontested shot to the left of goal before time expired.

Despite the convincing win, Ramos was still not satisfied with his team’s performance. “To be honest with you, I thought we would play a lot better,” he said. “We still have a lot to improve.”

With the primary task of World Cup qualification settled, the U.S. will now turn its attention to its semifinal match against Cuba on Friday. Ramos’ game plan, however, will not include several key members of the U-20 squad. Gil along with Cropper, Stuttgart’s Jerome Kieseswetter, and captain Caleb Stanko are scheduled to return to their club teams. An injury to right back Eric Miller further limits the roster, leaving only 15 players available for the remainder for the competition.

Regardless of the challenge, Ramos has only one goal: “Now we are here to win the tournament.”

Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him @USFootballGuy for daily updates.

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