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U.S. U-20s hang on to top Haiti in CONCACAF U-20 Championship opener


The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team got off to a winning start in their quest to qualify for this summer’s Under-20 World Cup, but they did so by the skin of their teeth.

Riding a pair of first-half goals from Luis Gil and Daniel Cuevas, the U.S. hung on to claim an ugly 2-1 win over Haiti in the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship opener at Estadio Universitario BUAP in Puebla, Mexico on Monday evening. Cuevas was involved in both goals, drawing a penalty kick early that Gil converted before rifling home a shot to double the Americans’ lead in the 25th minute.

The Haitians, who outplayed the U.S. for large stretches in the game, attempted to mount a comeback and nearly pulled it off. Wilberne Augusmat beat right back Boyd Okwuonu on the dribble in the 49th minute and fired a shot past goalkeeper Cody Cropper to trim the deficit to one.

Haiti then created a number of chances against a poor U.S. defense, but a failure to finish saw Les Grenadiers fall short of what would have been an impressive rally.

U.S. head coach Tab Ramos opted to go with a 4-3-3 formation at the start of the game and it initially appeared as if the Haitians were in for a long day. Cuevas used his speed to race in on goal before being clipped in the penalty area in the fourth minute. Gil converted the ensuing penalty kick, shooting low and to the right.

The Americans created a couple of more chances, including on a header from Gil from close range, but were unable to build on their promising start until midway through the first half.

Mario Rodriguez hit a cross from the right side of the penalty area to a wide-open Cuevas, who had enough time to bring the ball down, look up at goal and smash home a hard shot from a tough angle.

The Haitians picked things up after that, taking advantage of some sloppy marking from the U.S. defense and inaccurate passing from the three-man midfield.

Haiti got on the board shortly after halftime and had plenty of time to pull level, but the underdogs who were being cheered on by the Mexican crowd never found an equalizer despite outshooting the U.S., 12-7, and earning 10 corner kicks to the Americans’ four.

Haiti next faces the other Group A team, Costa Rica, on Feb. 20 while the U.S. battles Los Ticos two days later in the group finale.


What do you think of the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Haiti? Who impressed/disappointed you? What needs to change before the Americans take on Costa Rica?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Haiti team appeared a better coached (drilled) team. USSF (Klinsman) wants to force a Euro style 4-3-3 on without regard to having a large number of hispanics who have been weened on a latino possession style 4-2-2 DNA. Klinsman said he wants a system that the American soccer culture finds comfortable. Hey K, the American culture has a major latino influence! A good tailor designs a fit to a unique body and does not force a fit of a different body. Maybe, if the USA is embarrassed at this tourney, TAB will reconsider.

  2. I think the tone is a little too negative. These are U-20s, guys. They are bound to be inconsistent and 1 game ( a win, no less) is too small of a sample size to get upset about. Not only that, we’re missing a ton of talent due to injuries and club commitments. I don’t disagree with everything, but this is a single U-20 game. Let’s not generalize it too much, and individually, as many of you have mentioned, many of these kids are showing really good skills. Ultimately, that may be the most important development of all.

  3. I am sick and tired of defense being our problem. When is the USSF going to bring in defensive experts to teach our kids to play together, play defensively and disciplined. I understand that they are not together a whole lot but these basic skills need to be a part of every player. I am tired of seeing our strengths not showing up on the defensive side.

  4. I turned the game on for a few seconds, and don’t know much about many of the kids on the team. But quickly I noticed there is quite the hispanic influence. Am I wrong?

  5. Interesting what people see watching the same game. For me, biggest negative on defense was Boyd O., who was repeatedly smoked. Not that the rest were great, he was just truly awful. Javan Torre looks like he might be a decent centerback (the way he reacted to various plays, strong in the air), but he is a horrendous left back, especially when asked to get forward to help the attack. He had a couple of the worst crosses I have ever seen above U12 level – that looked like me crossing at the company picnic game, and that is not a compliment. Most of our attacking players, even Cuevas, put their heads down and tried to beat too many guys, too many times. I never thought I would say this, given the frustrations watching our guys be too negative over the years, but can I get a simple sideways pass (even backwards is OK sometimes) every once in a while to keep the ball and get a better angle for that killer through ball (Luis Gil, I am talking to you)? Aside from a couple of players, this team is much more talented than Haiti. There are a lot of guys I look forward to watching in the professional ranks for years to come, but please put someone else at RB, move Torre to CB or sit him and strongly consider a 4-4-2. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Jerome K., while we are at it (and unlike some guys on here, I think Trapp doesn’t even make the top 5 things to change on this team).

  6. Overall, while I think our talent is getting better, the teams are not. This was a case where the total was much less than the the sum of the parts.

    I am not a fan of the 4-3-3 in that either it ends up looking like a 4-5-1 or teams get run over in the midfield because the middle 3 get too stretched. Play a 4-4-2 with one true winger at an outside midfield position and a player that likes to pinch in some on the other side supported by an outside back who can attack and provide some width. One of the forwards needs to be someone with speed to run the channels and the other someone who can win the balls in the air and help hold up play. If you don’t have the outside guys but have more CAM types play a 4-2-3-1 allowing the 3 to interchange throughout the match as long as they are disciplined enough to do their defensive duties when on the outside.

    Setting up to use the qualities of the players available is not that difficult but the US coaching staff feels they have to play a 4-3-3 because it promotes more attacking soccer. What promotes attacking soccer is being able to win the ball, control it and move the ball forward and side-to-side quickly so the defense is continually having to adjust.

    Right now it seems all of our national teams let their opponents dictate how the game will be played.

    • So VERY spot on. GREAT post. It dovetails what I wrote above. 4-3-3 is being pushed through the academies to promote attractive footy. In the process, it seems that “something” is getting lost in the translation.

  7. I actually felt bad for Trapp. He is a player that rarely gives the ball away and usually uses it intelligently, but every US pass went forward. They were never interested in keeping it. I have never seen so many attempted through balls in my life. A couple of negative or sideways passes would have given them time to breathe and keep it, but they constantly forced it forward with little end result. The defending was terrible, whatever way you look at it.

  8. Playing a 4-3-3 dictates that you have 3 mids who can roam in the middle, interchange, and set the tempo. We have to admit that we are just not good enough to pull it off.

    This team has an easy road to qualifying, on paper, but need to make two changes;

    1. Switch to a 442

    2. Mickey Lopez in for Will Trap

    • I like Lopez for Joya. Whatever formation we play, you need a real honest to goodness #8. Joya’s a talented player, but an 8 he ain’t.

  9. It’ a repeating theme with all our teams trying to play a 4-3-3 we have better players than our opponents but this formation has been a big equalizer. Call it growing pains or whatever but we clearly are not at the point where we can just bring guys together for a few days and get the results that we should be getting.

  10. I will not lump all the teams together, but a theme of “losing heart” and not being able to go the distance is all to easy to detect. That and it seems like no one in a USA jersey knows how to defend for 90 minutes anymore.

    A well disciplined, defensive minded, athletic team that is low on technical ability will grind out results, but has historically been what the US has produced (usually to the griping of many of it’s fans).

    A team of technically gifted, attack minded and perhaps less gritty players presents different challenges.

    For better or for worse, the Klinsmann Era will be defined by a concerted effort to transition development from the first population of players to the latter.

    So, it begs the question, do we have the coaches that are capable of dealing with the problems the latter group presents? Is there a way to teach heart, grit, hustle? Or are we stuck waiting until there are enough technical players in the pipeline that we can weed out the players who are gifted but maybe a little soft?

    • The only problem with this “Do we really have the xyz required to play like this” mindset is that, that is EXACTLY what we did for the past 10 years after 2002. We sat back, we waited, we were too scared to take the next step so we “waited” until we had 5 world class players to make the transition easier.

      Well guess what, that never happened. We faced total stagnation from 2002-2012, and any quality player (Bradley?) could be attributed to basic generational chance. Our league produced “rookies” who were 22 and only knew Route 1 football. The only adjective used to describe our youth was stuff like “hustle” and “grit.” (That’s not a good thing btw).

      So, in 2013, I’d like to take our chances and push the envelope forward on our own so there’s a chance I don’t have to watch Route 1 football into my 50s.

  11. A shocking display.

    -horribly stretched with no shape defensively

    – rushed, narrow, selfish and immature in possession

    – either no passion or completely unfit, not sure what is better but is was one of them

    – completel lack of discipline, dribbling into holes, diving in, how many times did haiti get simple 2 v 1s because we sent no one to deal with thrower?

    Ramos must be a waste. Why don’t we just try mcbride or Donovan? Why bother with an experienced coach with a little pedigree? Ussf needs to take a hard look at themselves(no chance). It’s NOT working. From the top down we are a mess.

  12. Very weak. Pathetic defense. Midfield couldn’t boss the game against freaking Haiti. All these big name players like Villarael and Trapp just disappeared. Daniel Cuevas was the ONE bright spot.


    • Yep, the back line was shaky and the midfield D was so passive, it was tough to watch…zero grit.. Ramos put this team together to be able to pass and maintain possession…which we were unable to do against even Haiti. We are in deep trouble if we wind up playing Canada in the quarters. They’ll bring a disciplined, hardworking, physically intimidating game, which is a nightmare match up for us. At that point it is one and done. Hopefully Cuevas has a few more moments of brilliance in him.

  13. USA certainly fortunate to escape with 3 points, but I was impressed with the ball individual ball skills. It’s odd, but there seem to be about 6 Tab Ramos’s out there with everyone trying to run at their defender and make cute touch passes and chips. I think this team may need a few more guys to do the dirty work.

    • It’s interesting that you bring this up. 3 of my college teammates are now in the coaching ranks and recently scouted the academy tourney last month. All of them agreed that the technical ability of the average player is much higher than it was a decade ago; however, there was very little in the way of physical, defensive footy being played. Academies have emphasized technical ability which is important, but, perhaps, their is too little emphasis on defensive tactics and individual defending.

      • That was the problem with the game, we seem to have good individual offensive technical ability but no one seem to know how to defend. Just not 1v1 defending but being in position to intercept passes or pressure the guy with the ball once he receives it. Everyone was there a couple step late which allow the person receiving the ball time to look down the field to make his pass.

  14. I’m going to state the obvious and say I couldn’t have been more impressed with Daniel Cueves. Involved in two goals, with a beautiful goal. In the second half he should’ve drawn another penalty, but it wasn’t called.

    I was very disappointed with Jose Villarreal. I rarely noticed him and expected a lot more from him. I don’t know if he was well marked, or if it was a bad game, or if he played well and I just didn’t notice (I had a hard time seeing players numbers and haven’t watched too many YNT games.) I hope he does better in the upcoming games.

    I was also disappointed by the backline. It looked awful. Why is this a common problem in our national teams?

    • +1 to everything you said. especially the not being able to see the numbers part. I guess they didnt do away with the white on white numbers at the YNT levels

    • Cuevas really shined, fantastic pace and skill. Villareal was in good positions to receive the ball near goal, but rarely got the ball…very frustrating to watch, too much selfish individual play from guys that don’t have Cuevas’ ability and pace.

  15. I havent been impressed with tab ramos. Yedlin would have been so much better at RB and playing Torre at left back is a mistake. From my time watching and playing against Rodriguez he is incredibly overrated and a huge complainer. I dont understand why we try to play a 4-3-3 (it actually turns into a 4-5-1). Why do we try to cram as many CM’s as we can on the field. It makes no sense, play players in their natural positions. You cant convert two CM’s into CB’s a week before qualifying

    • I agree about Ramos, I’m not overly impressed. The team looked more like an undisciplined Rongen team. I would much rather see Perez as the U20 coach. For the talent level on the field, the passing was poor and the decision making was selfish. Also agree about the makeshift CB situation, but that was going to be tough call due to injuries. We were very lucky to get out with the win.

    • I think this team will come together alot better than the 2011 team. This team is not nearly as talented and will have to look to grind 3 points like they just did. Thankfully the road to the World Cup is not as difficult as the last teams. Gill and Cuevas showed some class, but that back four needs sorting, time now. The midfield needs to be drilled in one touch passing as well. But I can see that the final ball will eventually come in the tournament. I expect some scoring against Costa Rica.

      • Gil, even though he did have a great game, appears to be the real deal. His ball movement, technical skills and positioning were really good

  16. I really think we should just stick with a 4-4-2. There were way to many loose balls picked up in the midfield by Haiti that lead to attacks. We need that extra body in the midfield to help maintain possession. We really just need to accept that we don’t have the passing ability or technical ability to be able to dominate possession with just a three man midfield.

  17. Not a great opening game, but at least we got 3 points and control our destiny against Costa Rica. They should be a more complete opponent. We seemed okay in attack, but struggled to hold the ball at all.

    • If Costa Rica beats Haiti then we’re through to the quarters before we play again. In theory we might still care if we win or finish second except the group we’re paired with is B, which consists of Canada, Cuba, and Nicaragua. If we can’t beat even the best of that weak lot, who cares? And if we advance to the semis then we make it to Turkey already.

      But then people might have said the same thing about the U23s and the last U20s. And Haiti did outplay us for stretches of that second half.

      • STRETCHES? Are you frickin kidding me? We were embarrased by a by a tiny country with little soccer heritage that has ZERO resources

        What a disgrace.

        I actually enjoyed watching the young Haitains who forced us to bunker into a 4-5-1 formation.

        Is it me or has everything slowly gone down the shitter since Gulati took over. Same can be said for Klunksman

        And if you say no….then speak up and defend him.

      • Settle down. Each youth failure has been its own story. This team is not used to playing together. The Hatian team is. These aren’t our best players. And to be honest, even at this age, in our region, athletics still plays a huge role. The Hatians are athletic.

        Klinsi can be blamed for lots. But he gets a pass with this. Our kids lately have been entitled. They look cocky and don’t show up. Tab needs to stamp that out now.

      • I agree that each team is a unique experience. What is troubling is that so many of those experiences seem to be underwhelming performance by players who are arguably more talented individually than the team results would indicate. So you do knd of have to wonder about the common thread in all of it.

      • i agree, I’ve never seen such passive D in the midfield…wasn’t even scrimmage intensity. Cuevas was very good, a constant threat, and always looking for teammates, but the the rest of the attackers played selfish and one-dimensional. There was plenty of time and space, they should have been able to link much better in the final third.

      • Wait….did you just say Haiti had more prep time with their team than the US? Not only is that not true, it is just not a viable excuse.

        Mexico and the US were the teams that had the most preparation for this tournament. Anything other than qualification is a failure for either program.

        Haiti dominated most of the second half because they were motivated but also because they had an extra man in the midfield. Once the US moved to a 4-4-2, they were able to control the ball better and somewhat limit Haiti’s forays into the attack.

        Overall, not very impressed really. Other than Cuevas and flashes from Gil, the team didn’t really that good from a collective and individual perspective. The Haitian wingers had a field day with the US outside backs and their centermids were able to do what Trapp and Gil were not, play effective through balls down the middle all game long.

      • Maurice (sp?) impressed me. Don’t get me wrong it was fairly long stretches. But Cuevas could also have had two penalties called and the second half was more mixed bag disappointment than us getting completely outplayed.

        My two cents the de facto 451 we play under Klinsi — and apparently it’s being imposed system wide — is not actually all that suited to the talent pool. Ergo, “imposed.” I don’t like the angles for passing it seems to create, the difficulty it seems to create in possessing the ball to finish off games, etc etc. People forget we played something like a 451 in Germany and that was a tough tourney to watch. Except for the weird red card fest with Italy it just didn’t work, but we’ve always played Italy well because they back off and let us play, to a point, which we take full advantage of. But that German 451 at least reflected a cynical Arena belief we had nothing to offer up front but McBride. Now we have more attacking talent.

        I mean, did that US U20 team look like a bunch of future Barca players who are all prodigies with a ball at their feet, thinking 5 passes ahead, or did it look like the usual talented workhorses who would probably come across more effective in a controlled 442?

        The ultimate put up or shut up is this was supposed to be the big international coach who was going to come in and do for us what no domestic coach could do. He does have some spectacular individual results but in terms of international competitiveness I think the pack is actually catching up. So you have an ill-suited formation that achieves modest results, and which in some tournaments like the U23 event, could not even close out important games.

  18. Glad to see that we won, but sometimes I think that we could be playing a small team from an unknown unnamed island in the Pacific Ocean with no resources and we would still be hanging on for dear life by the end of the game.


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