USA qualifies for 2023 Under-20 World Cup, but bigger prize awaits winner of its next game

A big Fourth of July weekend of soccer begins on Friday: USA vs. Honduras in the Concacaf Under-20 Men's Championship semifinals.

At stake: a berth in the 2024 Olympic men's soccer tournament.

Sound familiar?

Honduras beat the USA to qualify for the Olympics in 2015 and 2021. The first time 2-0 at Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium in 2015. The second time, 2-1, 15 months ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.

This time, Honduras has an added advantage, hosting the semifinal encounter at San Pedro Sula's Estadio Morazan, where a sellout crowd is expected.

The USA and Honduras both clinched berths in the 2023 Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia with quarterfinal wins on Tuesday.

The USA beat Costa Rica, 2-0, on a pair of Paxten Aaronson goals, while Honduras rallied to beat Panama, 2-1, thanks to two goals by Marco Aceituno, the first on a rebound after Jeyson Contreras' penalty kick was saved and the second on his own spot kick.

A missed penalty kick loomed large in the USA-Costa Rica match.

The USA took an early lead when Aaronson scored on a pass from Philadelphia Union teammate Quinn Sullivan, but it was stymied by Costa Rica's excellent keeper, Bayron Mora, throughout the rest of the first half. Aaronson added a second goal in the 49th minute, but then the U.S. attack went silent.

Los Ticos were the better team in the second half and looked set to get back in the game five minutes after Aaronson's second goal when U.S. left back Mauricio Cuevas was whistled for a handball in the penalty area. But Brandon Aguilera, one of the stars of Costa Rica's 2-0 win over the USA on the final day of World Cup 2022 qualifying, skied his penalty kick over the goal.

The USA, which struggled all game with passes played back to keeper Christopher Brady, was pinned in its own half much of the second half and was lucky to escape another threat in the 69th minute when Doryan Rodriguez's header of Aguilera's free kick bounced off the post.

"When we went up 2-0." said U.S. coach Mikey Varas, "we probably conceded a little bit more space than we wanted to. There was a pause at a certain stage where we told the boys to calm down, continue to play. Keeping the ball for longer spells of possession was going to be in our benefit but without playing backwards too many passes in a row because they were throwing numbers at us."

Alejandro Alvarado was excellent in midfield for the USA, springing the attack on the first goal and dummying Caden Clark's ball back across the area on the second goal, and he was the only one of the USA's front six to finish the game despite being constantly fouled by the Ticos.

"Ale had a fantastic game," said Aaronson. "He did so much for the team, supporting the defense, but also getting into good positions to help us offensively. Like on that second goal, he made a great little dummy to me and that allowed me to score."

The quarterfinal was marred by a post-game brawl at midfield in which at least three American players were knocked to the ground and forward Cade Cowell had his hair pulled.

"We're happy with the qualification," said Varas. "At the same point, we're disappointed with what happened at the end of the match. Obviously, player safety is always a primary concern of ours. We're hoping that Concacaf investigates thoroughly and provides us with some clarity because this type of situation cannot happen."

• Goals (with video):
5: Aaronson (1-0)
49: Aaronson (2-0)

June 28 in San Pedro Sula
USA 2 Costa Rica 0. Goals: Aaronson 5, 49.
USA -- Brady; Halliday, Neal, Craig, Cuevas; Pukstas (Edelman, 56), Alvarado, Luna (McGlynn, 63); Sullivan (Cowell, 63), Aaronson (Wolff, 78), Clark (Tsakiris, 78).
Costa Rica -- Mora; Sequeira (Telleria, 79), Van Der Putten, Pena, Soto, Aguilera (Salmeron 72), Alcocer, Rios (Johnson, 62), Arias, Aleman (Perez, 46), Escoe (Rodriguez, 46).


7 comments about "USA qualifies for 2023 Under-20 World Cup, but bigger prize awaits winner of its next game".
  1. Wayne Norris, June 29, 2022 at 6:38 a.m.

    Union home growns have how many goals so far?

    Curtin's gotta find these guys more mins somehow!

  2. Seth Vieux replied, June 29, 2022 at 3:20 p.m.

    Think they're up to 9 goals and 4 assists between them?

  3. Santiago 1314, June 29, 2022 at 11:13 a.m.

    Sorry, Didn't "Disguise" the Actual Bad Word in my Original Post and got Deservedly"Cancelled"... I'll try to Clean it up...Repost:

    Santiago 1314, June 29, 2022 at 6:42 a.m.

    Man, that was CONcacaCrApF at it's Best(WORST)... Bad Field, Bad Opponent, Bad Referee, Bad Hair Day for Cowell....
    Just WIN BABY, WIN.!!!...
    Congrats on Getting to the World Cup(Totally Expected)...
    Because NONE OF YOU HAVE SHOWN ANY QUALITY YET, (That will get you to the USMNT,)
    and YOU will be another LOST GENERATION.!!!

  4. humble 1, June 29, 2022 at 1:45 p.m.

    No surprise they have not showed much, they are a young team, mostly 18 y.o.'s started, 1 17 y.o., 2
    19 y.o. U20s.  I did not watch the game, but saw the brawl.  On the road in Honduras this is good CONCACAF experience.  Whether these boys win the next game or not, as a unit and individuals they put a notch in their belts.  They get a chance to do
    something others have failed at three times
    in 9 years.  These boys are showing that the MLS Academy system and USLs tiered system with it's new academy setup are starting to get traction.  Make it happen boys! 

  5. Sam Bellin, June 29, 2022 at 8:53 p.m.

    Soccer nerd alert:  I've watched just about every minute of the USA games (on TUDN!) and here are a few observations:
    1) Our team is pretty good in a lot of ways, but not as good as our last U-20 team (with Dest, Richards, Weah, et al), at least not yet;
    2) The fields are in horrible shape.  I know that all teams are using the same field but I think maybe its hurting us more -- the quick passing game that our young players are being taught in today's game is almost impossible at times because of the constant bad hops;
    3) My choices for our best XI against Honduras on Friday:

    -----------   Brady ----------
    Cuevas --- Neal --- Craig --- Allen
    Sullivan ----- Aaronson ---- Cowell

    Perhaps Tsakiris, Clark, and / or Alvarez off the bench.  Putskas is a really good D mid on the defensive side of the ball but his touches are so unreliable right now I think we can't risk playing him Friday.

    Gonna be a tough one -- let's go USA!

  6. Bob Ashpole, June 30, 2022 at 1:08 a.m.

    To summarize, the players looked tired and played like it.

    All Aaronson did was finish twice. He wasn't fancy or powerful, just tactically quick. That is why he scored. He did what he is expected to do as a forward. Refreshing.

  7. R2 Dad, June 30, 2022 at 6:07 a.m.

    "The quarterfinal was marred by a post-game brawl at midfield". CONCACAF: "naw, it'll be fine."

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