“We know the important part of the tournament is how you end and not how you start,” Coach Tab Ramos said after his team’s second game of U-20 World Cup qualifying, a 4-1 win over Haiti on Tuesday.
The USA’s start came on a Saturday, a 1-0 loss to Panama that meant a loss or even a tie against Haiti could have spelled doom for the USA at the Concacaf U-20 Championship.
Results and Schedule: Concacaf U-20 World Cup Qualifying
The Panama loss was especially discouraging because the USA played with a man-advantage for 72 minutes and failed to produce sustained attacks. The Americans didn’t come out of the gates much better against Haiti, which took a 16th minute lead when Kenley Dede struck with an acrobatic volley from nine yards.
Brooks Lennon equalized from the penalty spot in the 29th minute after Jonathan Lewis was taken down during a promising attack by the USA -- and in the second half the USA took control.
"The one thing we said at halftime is that we wanted to play the ball faster," Ramos said. "I think we played so slowly at times it gave Haiti a good opportunity to set themselves and defend well, and not give us any space to penetrate. When in the second half we started to play the ball forward quickly and break lines, we found it easier to get opportunities."
Luca De la Torre gave the USA the lead in the 52nd minute with a low 13-yard shot after Haiti keeper Isaac Rouaud stranded himself trying to swat away a corner kick.
One minute later, Lennon scored the second goal of his hat trick. Lewis stripped a Haitian defender and fed Jeremy Ebobisse, who relayed the ball to set up Lennon's shot from 14 yards.
Lennon, a RSL-Arizona product who spent the last year and a half with Liverpool’s youth teams before returning to Real Salt Lake for the 2017 MLS season, completed his hat trick when he finished the rebound off Rouaud’s block of a De la Torre shot.
Ramos made two changes from his starting lineup against Panama, Eryk Williamson for injured Tyler Adams and Jonathan Lewis for Sebastian Saucedo, who was subbed in with 19 minutes left.
“Every win down here is very difficult,” Ramos said. “Even the wins like tonight, when you see the score at the end, 4-1 … it takes a lot of work to get to that point and I think the boys are starting to figure that out.”
The USA finishes first-round group play on Friday against St. Kitts & Nevis, which lost 4-0 to Panama on Tuesday and 5-1 to Haiti in its opener on Saturday.
The Americans, with a plus-2 goal difference compared to Haiti’s plus-1, and facing a weaker final group game opponent, are well poised to reach the second round. Four teams from the two three-team groups in the second round will qualify for the 2017 U-20 World Cup.
Feb. 21 in San Jose
USA 4 Haiti 1. Goals: Lennon (pen.) 29, 53, 58; De la Torre 52; Dede 16.
USA -- Klinsmann, Fossey, Redding, Glad, Acosta, Williamson, Palmer-Brown (Gutjahr, 68), De la Torre, Lennon (Craft, 81), Ebobisse, Lewis (Saucedo 71).
Haiti -- Rouaud, Jerome, Georges, Sprangers (Damus, 61), Chevreuil (Pierre, 85), Dede, Pierre, Noel (Louima, 61), Campoy, Guillaume, Desire. Red card: Haiti (Georges) 82.
Referee: Valdin Legister (Jamaica)
Shots on Goal: 6/3
Corner Kicks: 4/4
Haiti - Georges (yellow) 39th minute, Georges (yellow) 82, Georges (red) 82, Pierre (yellow) 91+.
MLS Homegrown players face stiff competition
MLS launched its Homegrown program a decade in hopes of encouraging its clubs to develop their own talent. Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy explains why it remains difficult for young players to break into MLS -- “armed with Targeted Allocation Money, clubs have signed 45 foreign players” who are projected to start-- and provides the club-by-club history of Homegrown players’ playing time. D.C. United, FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls’ Homegrown players have seen a combined 300 or more MLS regular-season games. But only 15 Homegrown players are projected to start this season. Read the article HERE.
D.C. United's Ian Harkes, one of 15 Homegrown players expected to start.
U.S. U-18 girls beat England, 3-1
Sophia Smith of Real Colorado scored twice after PacNW SC’s Summer Yates opened the scoring in the U.S. U-18 girls national team’s 3-1 win over England in a friendly at England national team training center St. George’s Park. Brianna Martinez (New Mexico Rush) set up Smith’s second goal in 33rd minute. England got its consolation goal in the 63rd minute.
Feb. 19 in Burton-upon-Trent
England 1 USA 3. Goals: Ngunga 63; Yates 4, Smith 12 Smith (Martinez) 33.
England -- Hampton; Pattinson (Neville, 65), Palmer, Morgan, Cooke, Ngunga, Taylor (Bacon, 65), Douglas (Ravenscroft, 71), Rodgers (O’Donnell, 77), Hemp (Lalani, 77), Boydell.
USA -- Hancuff; Bell, Desiano, Martinez (Piper, 41), Holmes, Vergura (Dyke, 41), Nighswonger, Yates (Trevithick, 66), Jones (Vatne, 41), Spaanstra (21-Olivia Wingate, 61), Smith (Serepca, 41).
U.S. U-18 women’s national team
GOALKEEPERS (2): Hensley Hancuff (Oklahoma FC; Edmond, Okla.), Meagan McClelland (PDA; Kearny, N.J.).
DEFENDERS (6): Maycee Bell (Sporting KC; Wichita, Kan.), Madelyn Desiano (So Cal Blues; San Clemente, Calif.), Cassie Hiatt (Real Colorado; Parker, Colo.), Shea Holmes (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Brianna Martinez (NM Rush; Albuquerque, N.M.), Sarah Piper (Texas Rush; The Woodlands, Texas).
MIDFIELDERS (5): Cori Dyke (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), Jenna Nighswonger (Slammers FC; Huntingdon Beach, Calif.), Kali Trevithick (San Diego Surf; Temecula, Calif.), Madeline Vergura (FC Stars; Concord, Mass.), Natalie Viggiano (Michigan Hawks; Macomb Township, Mich.).
FORWARDS (7): Rachel Jones (Tophat SC; Lawrenceville, Ga.), Ashlynn Serepca (NC Fusion; Cornelius, N.C.), Sophia Smith (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), Alexa Spaanstra (Michigan Hawks: Brighton, Mich.) Emaly Vatne (Michigan Hawks; Sterling Heights, Mich.), Olivia Wingate (FC Stars of Mass.; Wilmington, Mass.), Summer Yates (PacNW SC; Pasco, Wash.).
U.S. U-14 boys train in California
A squad of 36 players, all born in 2003, is taking part in a U.S. boys U-14 national team training camp Feb. 18-25 in Carson, California, under Coach Clint Peay. The camp will include friendly games against Club Tijuana’s U-15 (2002s) and U-14 (2003s) teams Feb. 24. Twenty of the players were part of the last U-14 gathering in November.
U.S. U-14 boys national team camp
GOALKEEPERS (4): Andrew Cordes (Colorado Rapids; Denver, Colo.), Eliot Jones (NE Revolution; New Britain, Conn.), Jacob Morris (Real Colorado; Parker, Colo.), Vicente Reyes (Atlanta United; Cumming, Ga.).
DEFENDERS (12): Prince Amponsah (NYCFC; Bronx, N.Y.), Rowan Browne (AB Gladsaxe; Annapolis, Md.), Nikas Dossmann (De Anza Force; Belmont, Calif.), Reece Fragle (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas), Jacob Greene (DC United; Crofton, Md.), Isaac Homer (Portland Timbers; Portland, Ore.), Michael Lenis (Weston FC; Weston, Fla.), Morris Matthews (NE Revolution; Cambridge, Mass.), Kayden Pierre (Vardar; Rochester Hills, Mich.), Bogart Roca (Real So Cal; Sylmar, Calif.), Zachary Sardi-Santos (NE Revolution; Newton, Mass.), Jude Zamora (Crossfire Premier; Renton, Wash.).
MIDFIELDERS (11): Alejandro Araneda (FC Golden State; Montclair, Calif.), Javier Casas (Chicago Fire; Addison, Ill.), Jeremy Garay (DC United; Woodbridge, Va.), Fabian Hernandez (LAUFA; El Monte, Calif.), Luke Hille (CASL; Cary, N.C.), Martin Killeen (LA Galaxy; Brea, Calif.), Andrew McGee (Pateadores; Fullerton, Calif.), Jack McGlynn (BW Gottschee; Middle Village, N.Y.), Nicolas Pereira (Weston FC; Miami, Fla.), Kobey Stoup (Capital City Streaks; Montgomery, Ala.), Leonardo Vasquez (FC Golden State; Corona, Calif.).
FORWARDS (9): Andres Cardenas (Weston FC; Doral, Fla.), Balmore Cruz-Quinones (Atlanta United; Stockbridge, Ga.), Tyler Freeman (Sporting KC; Shawnee, Kan.), Jose Gonzalez (Crossfire Premier; Cowiche, Wash.), Brian Gutierrez (Chicago Fire; Burbank, Ill.), Patrick Leal (NE Revolution; Newton, Mass.), Alex Monis (FC United; Naperville, Ill.), Sam Sarver (Internationals; Beachwood, Ohio); Dante Sealy (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas).