ANDREW MINTZ - Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Wednesday's match between the US and Aruba should give the U-20 Americans a chance to turnaround their tumultuous start to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
After an unlucky 1-1 draw against Guatemala in the first match, Panama's Carlos Small exacerbated the damage in the American's second game with his 78th minute strike, pushing the US down to fifth place in Group A.
A once presumed place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand is becoming a distant prospect unless a turnaround transpires for the young Americans.
Coach Tab Ramos certainly has a plethora of talent at his disposal, but the former US international has not found the winning formula through two matches. With the exception of set pieces, the US ingenuity in terms of finding scoring chances has been dismal. Even with the midfield capable of maintaining possession for long stretches, a general lack of organization appears all too noticeable.
The biggest issue at hand though seems to be a lack of touch in the final third. The talent up top is indisputable, yet the American strikers seem to be doing everything but their main job-scoring goals.
Tijuana Forward Paul Arriola has had the start for consecutive matches up top, but the youngster has been relatively ineffective, conjuring just two shots on target.
Sunderland product Lynden Gooch has been featured in the midfield and as a forward. The stocky and versatile teenager is a definite goal scoring threat with his English club, so a breakthrough with the US seems imminent.
MLS forwards Bradford Jameison and Tommy Thompson have also featured up top, but neither with much success.
The American opponents, Aruba, have only managed five shots on target through two matches, compared to twenty-five by the US.
In their first match against Panama, the Aruba team was beaten handedly, 4-0. Then against Trinidad and Tobago, the Arubans let through five goals, though scoring one for themselves in a 5-1 defeat.
The US U-20 should be able to handle Aruba with ease and jumpstart its qualifying campaign towards the FIFA U-20 World Cup. A strong win could feasibly push the squad into one of top-three spots in the group destined for the playoff round, but in their precarious position, the room for error is minimal and the need for goals is urgent.