By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. U-20 men's national had its chances, but lackluster finishing and defending saw its CONCACAF U-20 Championship campaign end with no World Cup ticket to claim.
The United States was eliminated from the regional tournament and failed to qualify for the World Cup with a 2-1 loss to Guatemala in the quarterfinals at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City on Wednesday night. Henry Lopez scored the game-winner in the second half, finishing a one-timed shot past Zac MacMath two minutes after Conor Doyle had equalized for the Americans.
The loss not only eliminated the United States, but also gave Guatemala its first World Cup qualification ever. The result was a crushing blow to Thomas Rongen's side, which was considered by the head coach to be among the most talented he had coached at the youth level.
An inspired Guatemala team began the match with good energy, but it nearly conceded a goal early on as Kelyn Rowe had a pair of open looks that he failed to convert. The Americans also struggled to send in a final ball despite getting into Guatemala's final third often, partly because of Greg Garza's contributions as a left winger and Joe Gyau being marked heavily on the right flank.
The hosts withstood the pressure and attempted to find a goal rather than sit back and defend, an approach that payed dividends as in the 33rd minute Gerson Lima found an open lane and headed home a corner kick. Lima was unmarked as he made his run and MacMath did a poor job of coming off his line to intercept the ball, which floated into the 6-yard box.
That goal, along with the United States continued squandering of chances, gave the Guatemalans and its home crowd confidence.
That was until Amobi Okugo made a nice run down the center of the field before releasing a pinpoint pass to Doyle, who beat the offside trap and equalized for the Americans with a chipped shot in the 66th minute.
The Americans weren't celebrating for long as two minutes later a long ball saw Perry Kitchen move up the field to clear it, leaving an open gap behind him. Guatemala recovered the ball and lofted it into the vacated area, and Gale Agbossoumonde's challenge to clear it from an attacker saw them both fall down, resulting in Lopez's finish from the center of the penalty box.
The United States attempted to find another equalizer, but the hostile crowd and bunkered in Guatemalan side proved too much to overcome.
What do you think of the United States' 2-1 loss to Guatemala? How upset are you that the Americans couldn't pull out the win? Who were you impressed/disappointed by? Think Rongen should go?
Share your thoughts below.