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U.S. U-20s fall to 10-man Panama in opening game of World Cup qualifiers


As the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team prepared for the start of World Cup qualifying, Tab Ramos stressed the importance of starting the CONCACAF U-20 Championships on a high note.

They didn’t, and they will face an uphill climb because of it.

A goal from Leandro Avila led a 10-man Panama to a 1-0 win on Saturday, handing the U.S. a setback loss in the first step of World Cup qualifying. The U.S. can still seal advancement to the second stage with a first or second place finish in group play, but finishing second would likely pair the U.S. with Mexico and Costa Rica in the next stage.

The match got off to a tepid start with the U.S. maintaining the better of the play but failing to create any clear-cut chances. In the 18th minute, though, the door swung open as Panama’s Justin Simons was sent off with a straight red card for a hard tackle on midfielder Tyler Adams. Moments later, Adams was removed from the match, and reappeared on crutches after halftime, depriving the U.S. of a vital midfield piece.

Panama stunned the U.S. in the 37th minute, scoring in their first real venture forward after the red card. Contained on the left side, Leandro Avila lofted a shot up and over Jonathan Klinsmann, beating the U.S. keeper to push the score to 1-0.

The second half started better for the U.S., even if the crossbar denied an early opportunity. Jeremy Ebobisse’s header smashed off the bar, depriving the U.S. of what looked to be the equalizer. In the 80th minute, Justen Glad forced another chance, but the shot was parried out of play for a corner. Moments later, a mad scramble in the box resulted in another corner as the U.S. could not push the ball into the back of the net.

The best chance, though, came in the 87th minute. Panama goalkeeper Charles Taylor denied Ebobisse at the doorstep following a setup from Sebastian Saucedo.

The U.S. returns to action on Tuesday against Haiti before wrapping up the group stage three days later against St. Kitts & Nevis.


  1. This failure has many fathers. Blame the pay to play model that encourages winning over development (if they don’t win the parents will think the coach sucks and take their kid to another team) and the high cost that make it hard for many of the kids that actually live and breath the sport but their parents can’t afford to drop 2-3K/year to play club soccer. Blame the parents and coaches that yell “clear it!” Blame people that don’t support MLS which means the MLS teams have less resources to put to player development (and hopefully 100% free youth teams).

  2. I get waisting time, its part of the game. But Crampama started their time waisting 5 minutes into the second half. It was embarrassing to watch.

    • Agreed. You would have thought they would do better against Panama than the Red Bulls 3rd team plus trialists did against Sproting KC’s first team (the score was 1-0 for KS until nearly every player was subbed for both sides beginning at around 60 minutes.)

      In the NY_KC game it was a major keeper blunder that surrendered the PK. So maybe the NY ragtag bunch performed better as a whole than the US-U-20s did.

  3. Our team looked over coached and lacked any dynamic element in their play. You can tell these guys learned to play from a book. Only one player ran off the ball to receive a pass and when that didn’t happen guys forced their passes and gave up the ball due to poor decisions on their behalf.

    Effective off the ball movement requires multiple players moving into/out of space and we seem to lack that awareness that occurs naturally among players who learned on their own.

    Hard to believe this is the best we can put out for this age level.

    • I thought they looked un-coached, little movement off the ball, no combination play, not even the fire in the belly some coaches can get from the players. The only positive was that they won the 50-50 balls that indicates the US has bigger, stronger, and probably quicker players. (That so many would-be passes ended up being 50-50 balls is another issue),

      Thuroughly disappointing display.

    • It’s clearly not the best we can put out at the age group, because our best U20 players have already made the jump ahead of this tier of competition. Under typical circumstances as in years past players like Pulisic, Wright, Perez, CCV, etc would be with the team. Paradoxical as it seems, not having our best players playing at this age group is a sign of progress. Elite nations tend to underperform at the youth levels while it’s not uncommon to see a middling nation win tournaments for this very reason.

      What was clear to me is that several of these players seemed to be fairly inexperienced at playing the type of control possession and break down the opponent type of soccer being up a man or playing an “inferior” opponent forces you to play, not only as individuals but as a group. I think we can put that mostly on the coach and his training methods, but at some point players need to step up. I saw a team of “not good enoughs” who got pressed into this competition by circumstance, much the same as we saw during the last Olympic qualifying tournament.

      It wasn’t all terrible though. Fossey, Glad, Lennon, Klinsmann, and EPB all looked solid. Craft was decent as a sub. Luca was pretty disappointing, though. You could tell the game was meant to go through him but he was a total non-factor and no one seemed eager to link up with him.

  4. Tee up Paul Gardner’s article explaining how they played a beautiful game with Latin-flair and creativity and that we should not to worry about the results.

  5. Don’t panic. We didn’t fall to a weak county like honduras. We fell to a european powerhouse called panama with a man up …..

    Anyway, fortunately, U20 is meaningless. Individuals are important but otherwise, there is no significance

  6. Watched the game and what a HUGE disappointment. This team looked like they were down a man for 3/4 of the game. The spacing was terrible, kept dribbling because there was no one to pass to, and when they did pass they were dreadful. If we do not qualify for this U-20 WC Tab Ramos will need to go. There was very little team work on the field, needed to switch to a 4-4-2 or at least put in a winger who was faster than Lennon to vertically stretch the field. If that was Lewis then why didn’t he ever get on the field?

  7. The selection process is broken. NOT ONE of these players deserve to be on a select team. Their technique is very poor. Their first touch is abysmal. The lack of urgency is astounding. They were not coached or prepared in any way I could see. I take it back a little . The red haired defender was fairly good . The whole midfield played like peacocks. They were worried about style with no substance. The right fullback would make a pass and then WALK around as if his job was done. A man up, Panama playing with one forward and the fullbacks cant find enough enthusiasm to attack and overload their defense. The worst coaching job I have ever seen. Bring back JK for the under 20s. What a shock, And as our president says, HOW SAD !

    • While I understand and share your frustration, why on earth you think JK is the guy to bring in to fix the problems is beyond me. This is part of JK’s legacy.

      • Only fools blame their failures on other people.

        The youth failures have been like this for a long time. The funny thing is…many fools said they would gladly trade success now for a more skilled team that is more fun to watch in the future. Now that they are getting what they asked for, they no longer want it.


  8. I mentioned years ago, Tab Ramos and JK are worst coaches for US soccer. They both have good egos nothing else, win on friendly games; disater on tournaments . Shame on Gulati

  9. Tab ramos was very unhappy in choosing the
    American squad for the tournament. Which
    players on this team can play the
    playmaker? He had options: zelalem, yueill,
    akale, perez, pulisic …

    • I don’t know all the specifics for each guy, but players have to get released from their clubs for this tourney. It’s not a FIFA date so they aren’t obligated to release anyone. Pulisic and Zelalem likely wouldn’t have been allowed if asked. Maybe true for others too.

      • Granted it’s U-20, but I’m surprised they wouldn’t set up the World Cup Qualifiers on FIFA dates so that teams could have their full strength.

    • The team sucks. There are some decent players out there but they play with no heart, like theyd rather be in the hotel posting selfies on instagram.

      I remember when heart was a prerequisite of American teams…even if the talent wasn’t there. Id much rather watch those teams than these teams of kids today.

      Id rather not watch them if they cant play for their countrymen like they should…with heart and the conviction to fight until the end.

      These kids sucked. It was an embarrassment.

    • Well, he was also the Tecnical Director for US Soccer. As the official press releases stated:

      “In addition to guiding the senior Men’s National Team, Klinsmann has been extremely active in building an integrated philosophy throughout the U.S. Youth National Teams, working closely with the coaches to develop performance driven standards both on and off the field.”

      Now, for a number of years, we will see the results of his being extremelhy active in building an integrated philosophy.


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