Greatest Story Never Told
CONCACAF U-20 Championships
Lost in the shuffle of the MLS opening weekend, drama in Europe and whatever Trump is doing or tweeting was the the CONCACAF Under-20 Championships in Costa Rica.
The tourney which takes place every two years for passage to the Under-20 World Cup, which is taking place in South Korea this May, is a showcase for young CONCACAF region talents. The qualifiers from the region this year are the usual suspects; USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, however, this was a massive occasion for the Americans.
The youth teams have always played second fiddle to the senior teams as far as success has gone in the US. Under Jurgen Klinsmann we had seen a bit of a revitalization of our youth program as a whole, but the failures of the U-23 Olympic team to qualify twice during Klinsmann’s tenure had cast doubt over the progress. When Klinsmann was fired last November after poor results by the senior team, my first thoughts drifted to the youth national teams. I don’t feel our current manager will embrace the youth products as much as our previous one. The Nike Friendlies, which I touched on last December, was a benchmark that our youth setup still has quality talents ready to rock. Now fast forward three months to this squad led by a hold over from the Klinsmann era, Tab Ramos.
The tourney did not start well after a 1–0 loss to a 10-man Panama side left the US in danger of facing the tough road to World Cup qualification, let alone the ultimate prize. After that loss Tab rallied the team led by Liverpool youth product Brooks Lennon, Sporting KC talent Erik Palmer-Brown, Fulham teammates Luca de la Torre and Marlon Fossey and a collection of MLS youth from around the country. Winning their next two matches in their group earned them a date with arch-rival and general rogue agents of shithousery, Mexico. The US triumphed 1–0, ending Mexico’s 20 match U-20 unbeaten streak and is the Americans first win over Mexico since 1986. To book a place in the World Cup the US just needed to not lose to El Salvador by more than 2 goals, and in a chippy affair they came out victors 2–1, which saw Sebastian Saucedo receive a red card. The Final vs Honduras was PEAK CONCACAF officiating and tactics which in the end saw the US claim its first bit of hardware after a 5–3 win on penalty kicks, the final kick delivered by Danny Acosta.
With this title finally achieved the next step is advancing further in the U-20 World Cup than we ever have. This team can be as good or better than the 2007 and 2015 editions. Captain Erik-Palmer Brown was a part of the team in 2015 which lost to eventual champion Serbia on penalties in the wee hours of the morning. This squad is very good but could become ever better should we call in reinforcements that were not selected for this qualifying team. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Gedion Zelalem, who also have experience from the 2015 team are eligible as is Manchester United fullback Matt Olosunde. Forwards Haji Wright and Josh Perez could fill in if needed, and let’s not forget the prodigal son himself, Christian Pulisic, is age eligible. It could shape up to be one of our best cups in recent memory. With great ability is going to come great expectations, but I think the boys can handle it. Cannot wait for the draw. The future of the nation is shimmering like platinum.
2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, South Korea
May 20 — June 11
Games likely to occur between 1 and 4 am EST on FOX Sports