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USA U-20s lose to Guatemala, fail to qualify for World Cup

MacMathGuatemala (Getty Images)


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.


  1. As a gringo living in Manizales, Colombia (one of this summer’s host sites), its difficult to convey my disappointment. From a completely selfish point-of-view, it has completely changed my summer plans. While still excited about the idea of seeing the world’s best prospects and future stars, I am now leaning towards coming home for a few weeks in the middle of the tourney after recovering a bit from hip surgery. But really, its that I wont see the talent available to Rongen that could have been here this summer that brings me down. The situation is as old as sports; the favorite gets dropped by the minnow host with huge implications. And so it is. We’ll all get over it, but the taste in my mouth will be sour for a little bit…

  2. Rongen has to lose his job over this, the team looked like they had no skill what so ever. they looked like great athletes but where was the midfield? where were sharp smart runs inside the box? Seriously if the US has grown up as a soccer country lets hold him accountable and get someone new in there

  3. I’m half Guatemalan so this was my worst nightmare and reality was that one of my two national teams was going to be out. Bittersweet moment. Rongen needs to go, but not completely. He sucks at coaching period. I believe THERE SHOULD BE accountability in part of the USSF that this is a huge setback for a Federation that wants to do the right thing and continue growing. If they don’t fire him as coach than the complacency and status quo will continue. He has gotten more than his chance to transform the youth levels and his results are not good. His recruiting and vision is phenomenal and at some capacity he should continue being with the USSF or an MLS academy but not coaching our youth teams.

  4. Are you referencing the same Bruce Arena that won the supporters shield last year? If so, then that’s some dust I won’t mind being left in.

  5. I think there’s a combination of specifics and generals that lead to the conclusion of poor coaching.

    There was some of shifting throughout the tournament; Kitchen from the back, to the midfield, to the back; Garza from side back to winger. This can be seen as evidence of a manager who knows who his best players are, but doesn’t know how to put them together to get the most out of them or didn’t bring the right players.

    This led to what was what I think was the bigger issue of players not knowing or being comfortable in the roles that they were playing. There were numerous times yesterday in particular where you had the three forwards and the two attacking mids all together on one line.

    From my perspective, there was too much square-peg-in-round-hole on this team. Rongen likes the 4-3-3, but that formation only makes good sense if you have quality and depth at winger. When either Wood or Gyau couldn’t play, that lack of depth was exposed. Depth at this position is only made more important because its a position that a manager is likely to sub for. Putting ill-fitting pieces in at winger pushes more attacking responsibility to Doyle and the midfield. As evidenced that the wingers accounted for no goals and no assists in the 2 and a quarter matches when Wood and Gyau weren’t both in.

    Finally, Rongen brought three field players who never played. Given the lack of natural depth at winger on the squad and the excess of players just sitting on the bench. In my eyes the coaching flaws were some combination (some flaws are mutually exclusive) of the following: playing a formation that is winger dependent; not having enough wingers in the pool to play that system or not calling up enough wingers; not clearly defining midfield roles; not taking advantage of the US’ physical advantage.

  6. Well, that was a huge choke job.
    True, it’s not the end of the world but these kids need the exposure of the World Cup as well as the experience. Yes, most of these kids are now pros but the experience and the exposure they get at a U-20 World Cup is certainly valuable.
    Also, now what happens with guys like Huerzler, Zahavi, Molano, A. Ruelas, Nungary, and Packwood? The U-20 WC was supposed to be the chance to ingrain these players into the US Soccer system (Huerzler, Zahavi and Ruelas mostly).
    Plus, I’m sure many USMNT fans really wanted to see more of this team and more of these players. I know I did.
    Very disappointing.
    Rongen should stay in the USSF system but not as a coach. He should be head of scouting. He can find players, no doubt.

  7. That is why they have positions called “Assistant” coaches.

    Rongen should be gone in the next go-round. You cannot have as much talent as the US supposedly has and fall to an opponent in the fairly week CONCACAF conference.

    This is another in a long line of failures in which supposedly strong US youth teams have failed to qualify, failed to move out of their group, or failed to win a single elimination match.

    This has been touched upon again and again that the youth coaching at the elite level is in need of a massive overhaul.

    One of the big bones of contention between the USSF and Jurgen Klinsmann and his failure to be hired as USMNT coach, was his desire to have control of the youth programs 17 and up. He identified a while ago that there was a big “bottleneck” at this level that needed to be fixed.

    Unfortunately, the powers that be are very territorial and would not allow an intrusion into their “fiefdoms” that would have been a part of the Klinsmann plan.

    This latest embarrassment is a result of that oversight.

  8. Worse is what happened to the women’s U-17’s or U-20’s (can’t remember which it was.) They lost to Canada on PK’s after a 0-0 regulation and extra time game in which they outshot Canada 30-4 or some nonsense like that. The USA ladies didn’t give up a single goal in their entire tournament run (save for the PK shootout.) Qualification -should- be table format with home and away games. However, given the attendance draws for U-XX games (both men and more so for women) that’s just not economically viable. 🙁

  9. Disappointing for sure, but not the end of the world.
    Rongen has to go, he’s never achieved anything during his tenure. Time for some new blood.

    I think we also have to congratulate Guatemala. Those kids played themselves one heck of a game, and they left blood and tears to beat the stronger opponent and make their country proud with their first qualification to the U20 WC. Well done. I’ll root for them.

    I hope the US kids eat this humble pie well. You could tell some of the US players were just slacking off. Our number 10 was horrible. Very poor decision making, selfish play, poor finishing. Should have come off at halftime for his half arsed effort.

  10. Again mate, I lead with examples – what stats for this season show Bradley ahead of Holden and Jones – both starters for their team? Bradley has not performed this season – you can’t ride on last season or the summer. Perform now, play now. Don’t perform and don’t play. Simple math.

    Where are your facts?

  11. A guy called “beachbum” replies about farting…… :/

    Sorry, Bradley did not out coach Fabio – the English team played better in the group than we did and both bombed out at the next stage… The only difference was expectations and player willingness. Our players played with heart, England did not.

  12. Except for the U-17 coach who has the players for a year or 2 at Bradenton, national team coaches do not play a big role in player development, that is the role played by their professional (or college) coaches who have them much of the time. National team coaches select players, choose tactics put those players in positions to execute those tactics and help the national team win.

    So I do not think this will have any effect on these players’ development (except they might have learned a valuable lesson about the need to approach every game and opponent with respect). If the players are honest with themselves, some of them also learned that their skill is not where it should be.

    This is something I’ve heard the US National Team coaches at various levels mention whenever they get a group into a camp. The National Team Coaches should be working on tactics, organization and building team unity, instead they need to spend too much time working on fundamentals. (Of course, practicing skills is important at every level, but at the national team level, it should not require the majority of the focus.) What was evident was that the reliable execution of fundamental technique was lacking.

  13. Real bummer. It is what can happen when the qualifying comes down to a single game.

    In soccer the best team does not always win, sometimes even the team that plays best for that day does not win because the result comes down to a few mistakes or great plays made by an individual.

    After seeing the game, I think the US would win 5 out of 5 times.

  14. Gale Agbossoumonde, the most experienced player on the team, was quoted as saying Rongen said that “even our B team is going to be the best team we are going to play.”

    Rongen is an idiot. You never underestimate the opponent!

  15. Blow me Americans, you’ve been to the last 8 World Cup. You silly americans can’t win everything. Greedy A’holes.. Winnin! VIVA Guatemala!!!!!!

  16. Lets not forget that we should have been 3-0 to the good were it not for Rowe’s wayward finishing. Open net, 1v1 were he was too slow, free header from 8 yrds…

  17. +1000000000

    This is a good summary of Rongen’s key mistakes in this game.

    I also think he should have done something about the cocky entitled “we’re better than you and we know it” attitude that our players have displayed throughout this tournament.

  18. That is some crazy conspiracy theory…

    If we had finished second in our group, OR if Guatemala had won their group, then we would not have had to face the home team in the crucial WC qualifying game.

    So how did the Soccer Illuminati screw us over like that, by fixing the results of every game? If that’s the case, we would be screwed no matter what.

  19. He is not a finished product.

    I’m not sure why Salgado was selected over a guy like Adrian Ruelas who is actually scoring goals.

    Another questionable Rongen decision, perhaps.

  20. Does the US as a result of this lose a player like Huerzeler? Since he can’t play with the US at the U20 World Cup, will he sign back up with Germany? Rognen needs to go!

  21. Has anyone seen a post game interview where Rongen explains why Garza started at forward after playing left back for the last few years? Or why he waited until the 70+ min to finally make a sub?

    I thought all the defenders looked shaky, and MacMath was underwhelming. Rowe was way off his game, and probably should have been subbed early in the second half when it was clear he had nothing on the night. On the plus side, I thought Moises Hernandez looked good, Okugo had nice moments and Leget was good when he wasn’t getting hacked.

  22. redken… I assume you don’t mean Red Ken, as in the former mayor of London… do you mean Charles Renken? He’s not even old enough for our U-20 team yet! Way to declare an 18 year old kid is done.

    And Rowe screwed up big time but he’s the second leading scorer in the tournament! Dude has three goals, now he’s Chad Barrett??


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