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After another poor start, U.S. U-20s learn lesson in finishing strong with win over Haiti


As they marched into the locker room for the halftime break, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team knew there was work to do. They were tied with Haiti, 1-1, following an opening match setback against Panama, one that left their backs against the wall in World Cup qualifying. Their goal came from the penalty spot, a welcome lifeline for a team that faced what was essentially a must-win scenario.

Head coach Tab Ramos stressed that poor starts won’t define this team, both in the tournament and in Tuesday’s match and, to his pleasure, the U.S. proved him right as the game wore on.

A second half barrage of goals helped push the U.S. to a lopsided 4-1 victory on Tuesday via a scoreline that looked all too flattering given the team’s first half performance. It’s a testament to just how different Ramos’ squad performed in the second half, one which saw Jonathan Lewis, Luca de la Torre and hat-trick scorer Brooks Lennon explode to lead the U.S. to a much-needed win.

“Every win down here is difficult,” Ramos said. “Even wins like tonight when you see the score is 4-0, 4-1, 5-1, it takes a lot of work to get to that point in games. I think the boys are starting to figure that out. I think our staff knows, having had experience at this tournament the last three times, the important part of this tournament is how you end, not how you start.”

The U.S. started about as poorly as possible on Tuesday night. Much like in their opener, a 1-0 loss to 10-man Haiti, the U.S. looked tentative on the ball, afraid to push for that one key pass that could prove the difference. They misplaced simple passes while moving far too slowly for a team desperate for goals.

Defensively, the U.S. looked sloppy as well, at least on the opening goal. It was a relatively tame cross, one which should have been easily dealt with as, for the second straight match, the U.S. conceded an entirely preventable goal.

“The one thing that we said at halftime was that we wanted to play the ball faster,” Ramos said. “I think we played, at times, so slowly that it sort of gave Haiti a good opportunity to set themselves and defend well and not give us any space to penetrate. Once, in the second half, we played the ball forward quickly and break lines, we found it a little easier to create opportunities.”

Those opportunities came quickly in the second half. Just seven minutes into the second 45, De la Torre was pushing the U.S. ahead, firing how a rebound to finish the eventual game-winning goal. One minute later, it was Lennon’s turn as Lewis and Jeremy Ebobisse turned provider to free the Real Salt Lake loanee for a one-on-one finish.

Lennon removed all doubt just five minutes later, completing his hat-trick on yet another rebound while pushing the scoreline to 4-1. Three goals in six minutes, a goal explosion that seemingly came out of nowhere following 135 minutes of disappointing attacking play.

Now, the task is replicating it, not just in Friday’s clash with group punching back St. Kitts and Nevis, but in the games to come. A win on Friday would likely mean a second-place finish, unless Haiti can upset group favorites Panama to throw the standings into disarray. Second-place likely means a date with Mexico and possibly Costa Rica, creating a gauntlet of the region’s three top nations battling for a spot in South Korea.

That gauntlet may eventually come, but after Tuesday night, the U.S. feels ready for it. They’ve endured slow starts and disappointing moments but, if the second half is any indication, there’s still plenty of energy and fight left for what remains a battle for a World Cup spot.

“They got an early goal on us but we stuck together and showed our fight and got back right in the second half,” Lennon said. “I think that was important for us and now we need to look forward and keep doing the same thing.”


  1. Another disheartening performance . Why cant we find some good, positive coaching in the USA for goodness sakes. Its like this strange coaching elite has a stranglehold on all coaching jobs. I can see it in college with incompetents like Dorrance, But why does it persist on the national level? This old boy structure is killing any creativity in our kids. In this system, you can be a failure as a coach for ever and still have a job if you are part of the old boy network.

  2. This team is poorly coached. The long ball in the air from the back line bypassing the midfield to the forwards does nothing but lose possession of the ball. This team plays much better with short passes on the ground with the team moving up the field as a more compact unit. This long ball from the back this is a coaching decision.

  3. We won, but we did not play well. The score was lopsided but we still lacked any real quality in the offensive half. I think it is going to be very hard for this team to qualify.


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