[CONCACAF UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIP]The USA opened play at the Concacaf Under-20 Championship with a 2-1 win over Haiti. Baffling is the only word to describe the performance of Tab Ramos' team that did not lack for preparation -- he had his players at eight camps in the past year -- but performed like it had never played together before. Luis Gil and Daniel Cuevas scored to put the Americans ahead 2-0 after 25 minutes, but they struggled for much of the evening in Puebla and were very lucky to escape with a win.
With the exception of Cuevas, who was taken down for a penalty on the first goal, scored with a blast to the far post for the second goal and should have been awarded a second penalty, and to a lesser extent Cody Cropper in goal, the Americans were very, very disappointing.
The backline was disorganized and spent much of the game chasing the Grenadiers. The midfielders didn't help out, turning the ball over time and again. And except for Cuevas, the frontline was largely invisible.
Players playing out of position and key absences could be used as excuses, but that it is a reality all teams face at the U-20 level.
But Ramos will have a lot to think about before Friday's final group match against Costa Rica.
With all his best center backs unavailable because of commitments abroad (John Anthony Brooks) or injuries (Walker Zimmerman and Will Packwood), Ramos went with Caleb Stanko and Shane O'Neill, both better suited to play in midfield, as his center backs, and went with Boyd Okwuonu and Javan Torre, both center backs in college, on the outside with disastrous results.
Ramos went with the 4-3-3 formation national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been preaching for all national teams, but it left the Americans badly exposed as they failed to hold on to the ball in midfield and showed absolutely no attacking spark except for what Cuevas provided.
The all-Latino front five -- a first for a national team in a competitive match -- was, on this night, a bust.
Wilberne Augusmat pulled a goal back in the 49th minute, burning Okwuonu badly, and Haiti pressed for the equalizer. It finished with a 12-7 edge in shots and 10-4 edge in corner kicks and was the better team throughout.
Feb. 18 in Puebla
USA 2 Haiti 0. Goal: Gil (pen.) 3, Cuevas 25; Augusmat 49.
USA --Cropper; Okwuonu, Stanko, O'Neill, Torre; Trapp, Joya, Gil (Kiesewetter 77); Villarreal (Lopez 63), Rodriguez (Ocegueda 86), Cuevas.
Haiti --Elusma; Saint-Louis, Voltaire, Charles, Saint-Jean (Nazon 59), Chery, Amicy, Horat, Augusmat (Metellus 61), Maurice, Estama (Fede 79).
Yellow cards:USA -- Kiesewetter 89, Lopez 90; Haiti -- Amicy 28, Charles 90.
Referee:Jafeth Perea (Panama).