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Mexico claims epic battle
by Paul Kennedy, March 4th, 2013 12:26AM

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TAGS:  mexico, mls, under-20 world cup

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[CONCACAF UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIP] The USA went toe-to-tie with youth giant Mexico before falling, 3-1, in overtime in the final of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship at a packed Estadio Cuauhtemoc in Puebla.

Both teams had plenty of chances to win the game in regulation after it opened with two goals in the first 10 minutes, but Mexico finally took command in overtime after the USA tired. It entered the game with just 12 healthy field players, and Coach Tab Ramos did not make his lone sub until after Mexico went ahead in the 99th minute.

The USA opened strongly with several chances, but Mexico took the lead in the fourth minute when Jesus Corona eluded Dillon Serna's slide tackle and Javon Torre's challenge to beat Cody Cropper from short distance.

Undaunted, the USA continued to attack and Benji Joya was rewarded with a penalty kick he converted in the 10th minute.

Both teams had plenty of chances in the first half as Cropper made great saves to stop Corona and Marco Bueno and Richard Sanchez, Mexico's California-born keeper from FC Dallas, stopped Torre on a header at the near post.

Little by little, Mexico began to take command of the game, but the USA, which showed little effects of the altitude in Puebla, did have its chances in the second half. The USA had several claims for another penalty, most notably when Francisco Flores took down Mario Rodriguez. Late in regulation, Joya fed Rodriguez, whose downward header went off Sanchez's leg and over the goal.

In overtime, Mexico piled the pressure on the tiring Americans and went ahead when Julio Gomez scored with an overhead kick off a corner kick -- just like he had done in 2011 Under-17 World Cup finals (video @1:50). In the second overtime, the Tri put the game away when Jorge Espericueta scored from the penalty spot after being taken down by Juan Pablo Ocegueda. The foul came after another foul outside the area earned Shane O'Neill a red card.

With six players from its 2011 Under-17 World Cup championship team, Mexico is the standard-bearer at the youth level but Tab Ramos' U-20s more than held their own.

Indeed, it was one of the smoothest and grittiest performances ever by a U.S. youth team and portends well for the future. Joya was outstanding in the final with the kind of game that could him a very quick callup to the national team. The Los Angeles Galaxy's Jose Villarreal, Columbus Crew rookie Wil Trapp and Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil were named to the all-tournament

Daniel Cuevas
, Joya's teammate at Mexican club Santos, was the best U.S. player in its first four games but was injured in the 2-0 semifinal win over Cuba, and Ramos did not risk any further injury by bringing him on in the final.

Also absent was Gil, the USA's most experienced player who returned after the quarterfinals to play for Real Salt Lake in its MLS opener. Captain Caleb Stanko and Jerome Kiesewetter returned to their German clubs by agreement with U.S. Soccer after the quarterfinal win over Canada clinched the USA's berth in the 2013 Under-20 World Cup.

What made this matchup so intriguing was it was a veritable match of vatos, a battle of two teams whose players have grown up playing against and -- in some cases -- alongside one another. Nine of the starters on the two teams were Mexican-Americans.

Sanchez, one of six Mexico players on the all-tournament team, had played with the excellent Danny Garcia in the FC Dallas academy before Sanchez graduated to the FC Dallas first team and Garcia went on to the University of North Carolina.

Then there's the case of Mexico midfielder Uvaldo Luna, who was raised in Houston, and Ocegueda. Both played together in the Tigres' youth system when they first moved to Mexico. And both played for the U.S. and Mexico under-20s in the current cycle before picking their current allegiances.

Perhaps the only difference between the two teams was that all of Mexico's players stayed with the team for the duration of the tournament. With Gil and Stanko, the USA would have at least had a bench to match Mexico's.

March 3 in Puebla
Mexico 3 USA 1. Goal: Corona 4, Gomez 99, Espericueta 113; Joya (pen.) 10.
Mexico -- Sanchez; F.Flores, Marin (Fuentes, 59), Briseno, Hernandez, Zamorano (Espericueta, 46), Bueno, Corona, Van Rankin, Luna (Gomez, 75), Madrigal.
USA -- Cropper; Serna, O’Neill, Torre (Allen, 107), Ocegueda; Lopez, Trapp; Rodriguez, Joya, Garcia; Villarreal.
Yellow cards: Mexico -- Marin 10, Briseno 31; USA -- Lopez 42, Garcia 61.
Red card: USA -- O'Neill 112.
Referee: Enrico Wijgaarden (Suriname).



33 comments
  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 8:11 a.m.
    This was a wide open, attractive game. The only problem I've seen with this US team is that sometimes they like to shoot when they should be passing (primarily when they're shooting from an angle and they've got teammates in front of goal), but that's a good kind of problem to have. I thought the first penalty was a bit harsh (though the ball clearly hit the Mexican defenders arm, he was on the ground, turning away from the ball and his arms were not outstretched; where else could he put his arms?), though the second non-call should have been called, so it evened out. But Paul, I disagree with your assessment about overtime. Prior to the Mexican goal, which was just an incredible piece of individual skill, the US was pressing Mexico, not the other way around (as Chris Sullivan commented, it was "against the run of play" at that point).

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 9:41 a.m.
    Now that's soccer!!! Can anyone remember a better performance by a USA Men's side ( or Women's side) in a long time. I think this is the best soccer I have seen from a USA side, EVER!!! I agree with Kent. I thought Mexico looked more tired than USA did in overtime which is amazing given the height, crowd, and limited subs. Cuevas & Gil would have undoubtably made a difference in this game. Mexico is probably a favorite for WOrld Cup U20 and USA should be right there as well after this performance. This is the style that will bring USA the fan base that they always have been missing. 11 Mexican American Players between the 2 with Cuevas and Gil. Wow!!!

  1. Eric Dibella
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 9:46 a.m.
    I really enjoyed that match. Those non calls were the harsh ones.

  1. Steve Anderson
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
    Kent excellent observations. That 1st penalty to Mexico was harsh but I applaud Tab and his tactics. The 1st goal against US did nothing to dampen their resolve as they continued to press Mexico and eventual were awarded that equalizer. Challenges were a little chippy throughtout the game but that is to be expected in a championship match with these 2 CONCACAF rivals. I was not aware that the squad was so thin and US Soccer should do a better job of negotiating players commitments to these important national tournaments. This is the future of the USMNT and if we are to continue to progress we need to field a strong team for entire tournaments. With play like last night I am optimistic that we can eventually shed our "park the bus then counter" tactics and start to play the attractive agressive soccer that the rest of the world is playing. No better example of that transition then our rivals to the south. Bien hecho EE.UU.. Felicidades México

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.
    Let's nopt forget this game was played in Mexico with a huge crowd. I havent seen the U17's play but I hope every youth team in USA will follow this style of play that the U20's displayed and get the right type of players to execute it.

  1. Efrahim Fernandez
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.
    I very much enjoyed watching this match. I have heard great things about how this team played and tuned in to watch. Much to my delight the movement of the ball and players was exceptional. There ability in tight spaces to maintain possession and the individual creativity was fantastic. There fitness was impressive however mental lapses is the first to go when tired. I believe it cost them not having a bench like Mexico. Great stuff by both teams.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.
    A great performance from our boys. Too bad US Soccer couldn't get better commitment from the Club teams. I would have liked to have had a full strength bench.But still, it doesn't detract from the game these guys played and the heart they showed.This is a team I can watch.Congratulations. Well done Tab and staff.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
    That Dallas goalie for Mexico, Sanchez, is world class. How did we miss him?

  1. Alex G. Sicre
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.
    Finally we have a U.S.Team to applaud. Tab Ramos can coach and pick an exciting team. Mexico is great good for them. I wonder what the outcome would have been if Cuevas and Luis Gil would have played.

  1. Raveen Rama
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.
    Since the prominence of Mexico this is the first time I have seen a US team match the skills of the Mexican team. And you know why! Don't you Gordon? Gordon Hayes, you don't have to have played top soccer to be a great coach. Even daddy coaches probably can teach you some! Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and some other top players, were they great coaches? Definitely not! I will stop reading Gordon Hayes' posts - it's nothing but derogatory.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.
    So now we have a USMNT team and coach for the future. (And if the senior men's team tanks a couple more, maybe the future will come sooner than we anticipated.) Tuned in to watch a brawl and a Beautiful Game broke out. And for a group of under-20s, played in a remarkably good spirit. Proud to be an American -- North, Central and South.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.
    WOW! Last night's game was one of the very best I've seen by a USMNT in quite a long time! The flow of the game, the tenacity and determination by both teams give proof that BOTH the US and Mexico are now considered to be the "giants of the north", i.e. the Central American teams are know these two national teams the teams to beat in CONCACAF competition, to wit, the Mexico/El Salvador game was proof in the pudding. I am still proudly amazed on how our guys went and played head to head against their cuzins, and our GK, this guy is for sure someone the senior team ought to be looking forward to having. And yes, the Mexican GK, a Californian(?) from up the freeway, this guy should also be looked at for the senior MexNT, I also wondered why he "got away..." The game's ebb and flow, the passing, the sheer tenacity and skill by both sides I'm sure made other national teams sit up and take due notice. And hey, maybe Sunil Gulati is looking at the potential next senior MNT in Coach Ramos?

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.
    TO ALLAN: Thank you for your comment, especially the last sentence, it is sincerely appreciated.

  1. Raveen Rama
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.
    I don't remember much of the playing days of Tab Ramos but I do remember him displaying some of his ball skills in a Snickers commercial! Kudos to Ramos for designing a great game plan against Mexico that has brought a lot of promise for us all. I hope Klinsman can see what we expect from him!

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.
    What a well played game by both teams. I was extremely impressed by the US's mentality towards the game for the fact that they were on Mexico's home turf & playing at a high altitude! I just wish the senior USMNT could play with this commitment, connectivity and enthusiasm that these young men demonstrated last night. I hope and pray that Klinnsman doesn't destroy this team in the following yr. Keep them together and let them grow together you will have a team that will be ranked in the top 10 in the world if not even better if this team isn't messed with!!!The only thing I didn't like about all the games were the slack refereering, that possibly cost the US the win last night and also the potential for serious injuries due to the slack refing! GOOD LUCK IN THE WORLD CUP USA!!!!

  1. John Soares
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.
    ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC GAME!!! Both teams. Can this be the future of USA soccer!? Let's hope so. Apparently nobody told these kids they were playing at 7000+ feet. Always an excuse with the seniors. But NOT TODAY!

  1. Sam Souza
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 4:16 p.m.
    I am Mexican and I am very proud of the US team, I loved the game and seeing the USA team finally not play counter-attack 80% of the game was refreshing and pleasant to the eye. Both teams wanted to play, win, and fight for every inch. We need more of that in our region of CONCACAF. This attitude tends to be contagious to the younger generations and definitely puts pressure on the Sr USMT team. GOOD JOB USA!! and thanks for the amazing game.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.
    Finally, quality soccer for our USA team that is fun to watch. I thought I would never say that. Viva USA!!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
    In regards to that old argument " Our best athletes are picking other sports first", I wonder what sport these kids have always picked first?? I wonder in what environment they grew up in? What sport did they grow up seeing as part of their culture?? The passion of the sport that is well engraved throughpout generations of play?? I wonder.

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.
    I will tell you this...you could see the difference between the (2) sides! Mexico and the rest of the World surpass the US of course because of "Soccer Culture!" Secondly and in the United States case is our Youth Leagues and Domestic Structure. The Professional Clubs have leagues that are "incredibly competitive" and professional. It was so obvious with the Mexicans! Our USSDA possesses an amateur philosophy...do we really think that MLS coaches are looking at the USSDA for immediate solutions? No because the majority of these players are simply not ready at 17-18. And also, our MLS coaches do not have the experience to "throw" a young player into the first team. Ramos states that Mexico is the "top" U-20 team in the World. He's so "out to lunch!" Wait til everyone sees the UEFA, CAF, CONMEBOL...these are FULL TIME PROFESSIONALS playing with top European and South American First Teams. Yes, we've made progress but not that much from when we finished "second" again to Mexico at Giants Stadium in 1980. Our Domestic Structure and Soccer culture are our main obstacles. Good job US! See you in Turkey!!!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.
    Peter, Mexico is in fact a favorite to win it all. Ramos has much to be proud about. Mexico beat Brazil in Olympics with absolutely no European based players. They did so with Mexican league players. Brazil, on the other hand had most or all of their lineup playing in Europe. This particular U20 team had 6 U17 W.C> champs. The U20 from 2011 took 3rd in W.C. How can they not be favorites to win it all this year?? Our infatuation with the European leagues doesnt let us quite appreciate what we have on our side of the world. I think this USA U20's success is more due to the selection of players than anything else. I would have whoever was in charge of assembling this team do the same for the rest of National teams. Given other recenrt results, it couldnt hurt.

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 7:17 p.m.
    Mi amigo Luis...(although we don't know each other!" Mexico is a "good" National U-20 side. No doubt...however, wait until you see like I mentioned the Confederations from UEFA England, France, Greece, Portugal,Spain and COMENBOL, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay,Uruguay...still waiting for the AFRICANS...and don't take the AFC lightly...Australia, Iraq, Korea Republic, Uzbekistan (UZB)I've been following "all" the groups. Mexico to win the "entire U-20 World Cup?" The most important is the United States and of course Greece!!!:)

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.
    Ok, I'll take your word for it. You have followed all those teams. I have not. I am going on recent results. Based on those then Mexico must be strong candidate. Given that, USA has to be optimistic. Mexican league is no slouch and are as good or better than many leagues in the world at developing young talent by playing them on the first team. How good a country develops its base p[layers should be major factor in this competition. Dont you think??

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 8:26 p.m.
    Yes Louis...Absolutely the Mexicans develop!!! It starts with their 1st Division right down to their 4th...and below into the amateur levels...and for the most part so does the rest of the world. Promotion/Relegation plays a major role in the players development with regard to pressure...players are "always" under pressure where here in the United States this does not exist...the "Maxim" cannot be exposed or elevated! Soccer Camps and Clinics, Combines, Tryouts...all a bunch of "Speical Interest Seekers" at work! Get the 3 Leagues together and start "playing football...let's start battling at the bottom of the MLS table or the top of the USL, NASL...that's how you get into the first Division...by WINNING...this will bring out another element especially in our young players. Won't happen? MLS too expensive? TV rights? BS!!!! Big Time. Stop it!!! Get your league right US Soccer so we can provide the prize so many of our young players dream of!!! "THE SHOW" as MLB depicts. Mexico a favorite for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey????????? Outsider Louis...let's see what the "Odds makers" post when the Africans are finished. I'm done for now...I have a life!

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 4, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.
    Are the Spaniards European? Wait till we see this squad...plenty of ole, ole, plenty of toca, toca...Europe correct? To be frank, I've seen their U-20's plenty of times...the ball actually "gets lost." The only side able to deal with the was the Greeks out of the Euro Zone Group...1and 2 by the way! Wait til you see the Iraquies!!! Their "loaded" with talent...let's hope not much else...come on fellas...please lighten up:) We are in America the Recreational Champion of Soccer in the World!!!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 12:46 a.m.
    Wait a minute, why did they change the name of the title on this post?? Mr. Kennedy, did somebody complain of you calling it " The Epic Battle of Vatos" ??

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
    Holy smokes, I've not read some entertaining commentary for a while! BTW Peter is of Greek origin and does know futbol soccer, and I might also add, does know something about the sport on the eastern side of the big pond. BUT, Luis, I was wondering when I'd read about SA's editor in chief call the game a "veritable match of vatos...(sic)" and I also wondered what if he had used another term, but more importantly if Mr. Kennedy knows the meaning and origin of the word "vato?" I think he doesn't, though I almost expected him to issue some sort of apologia for decrying the vaunted selection of players as a bust after the first game (my words) so I'll give him a weak pass for knowing! Luis, if possible send me your email address through SA through Mike Woitalla.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 10:07 p.m.
    oooops, I mean to say in last sentence " ...I'll give him a weak pass for NOT knowing!"

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:35 a.m.
    Ya esta Ric.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:39 a.m.
    I agree. Why not say on this night, "The All Latino Front Five were The Best a USA Soccer Team has ever Seen!!" I guess highlighting The Latino Side is best used when a bust even though they scored 2 goals on that particular night but the defense conceded 1 goal but they were not a bust. Go Figure.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
    Vatos Locos Forever Holmes!!

  1. Gordon Hayes
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.
    SA writers are not racist.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.
    Nobody said they were.


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