[CONCACAF UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIP] Tabbed as one of the most talented U.S. teams ever assembled and loaded like never before with pro players, the U.S. under-20 national team won't be going to the world championships. Guatemala, host of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship, pulled a stunning upset when it beat Thomas Rongen's Americans, 2-1, at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City.
(Click here for video highlights.)
Sloppy play contributed to both Guatemala goals, but it can't be said that the Guatemala win was a fluke. It had its share of chances against a U.S. team that didn't live up to its hype -- and certainly appeared to suffer from overconfidence.
Gale Agbossoumonde, the most experienced player on the team, was quoted as saying Rongen said that "even our B team is going to be the best team we are going to play."
But it couldn't even beat Guatemala, which had not beaten the USA at the U-20 level in 47 years and will be going to the Under-20 World Cup for the first time.
The USA was playing without Juan Agudelo, who has been called up to the senior national team since last summer, and several other highly touted U-20s remained with their clubs in Europe or Mexico. It had some bad luck when Bobby Wood, who debuted this winter for German Second Division club 1860 Munich, limped off early in Saturday's game against Panama and didn't suit up for the Guatemala game.
UCLA's Kelyn Rowe, the lone collegian in the U.S. starting lineup, missed a hat trick of early chances, and Gerson Lima put Guatemala ahead in the 33rd minute when he beat U.S. goalie Zac MacMath to Kendel Herrarte's corner kick.
Derby County's Conor Doyle equalized in the 66th minute with a nifty chip over Guatemala keeper Jose Carlos Garcia, but Henry Lopez put Guatemala back ahead three minutes later when he fended off a weak challenge from Agbossoumonde and beat MacMath easily to the far post.
Having already coached the USA to the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals in 2003 and 2007 but coming off a two-year cycle in 2009 that featured one of the weakest U-20 teams ever assembled, Rongen had left no stone unturned before picking this year's team that features several players with the potential to contribute to the senior national team.
Unfortunately, the Dutchman couldn't get the U-20s over the hurdle in the one game that mattered, and it almost surely will mean his tenure as U-20 coach will be over.
“Obviously we are extremely disappointed by this result,” said Rongen. “If you look at the game, you have to take your hat off to Guatemala. The home team came to play. They had a good game plan. We have to move on, and I firmly believe that within this group we have very capable players who will move on to represent our team at the senior team or Olympic level, but today wasn’t our day. It was a good host team and our team wasn’t able to click on all cylinders.”
Guatemala joins Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama as the four Concacaf representatives at the 2011 U-20 World Cup.
April 6 in Guatemala City
Guatemala 2 USA 1. Goals: G.Lima 33, Lopez 69; Doyle 66.
Guatemala -- Garcia, Moreno, Ramirez, Enoc, Del Aguila, Ceballos (Norales, 73), Castillo, Lopez (Bonilla, 79), Herrarte, Lemus, G.Lima (C.Lima, 46)
USA -- MacMath, Valentin, Kitchen, Agbossoumonde (Orozco, 82), Hernandez, Lletget, Okugo, Rowe, Garza (Salgado, 77), Doyle, Gyau.
Referee: Roberto Garcia (Mexico).