ANDREW MINTZ - Monday, January 12, 2015
The United States U-20 national team found itself in an unexpected position this Sunday, 5th place in Group A, after a humbling loss to Panama.
With just 1-point through two matches (0-1-1), Coach Tab Ramos and the U-20s run to the FIFA U-20 World Cup has been much more testing than expected.
The US, after a disappointing 1-1 draw to Guatemala, were poised to bounce back against Panama, but a 79th minute score from midfielder Carlos Small put Panama atop Group A and the US near the bottom.
Despite having a roster filled with almost entirely professional players, the US has found goal scoring hard to come by with just one goal in two matches. Panama on the other hand has tallied five goals through two games.
American Emerson Hyndman, the Fulham midfielder, smashed a great shot in 17th minute, but goalie Jaime De Gracia Cortes made a solid diving save. Sunderland product Lynden Gooch had a look at goal in the 65th, but his back-heeled effort was blocked and cleared.
After Carlos Small Cardenas' 78th minute goal for Panama, the US pressed up the field, but could not find the net.
The Americans outshot Panama 10-8, but the team failed to generate any great scoring chances. The 2nd half injury to Borussia Dortmund prospect Junior Flores was also be an additional blow to the struggling US team.
Heading into the CONCACAF Championship, the Americans were expected to cruise through qualifying and make it easily into the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this May.
Despite the slow start, the US has a promising match against Aruba this Wednesday, but will face hosts Jamaica after that. The top two teams from each group (A and B) qualify for New Zealand.
The defeat to Panama was the first ever U-20 loss to Panama in four matches.