The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team enjoyed a strong start at the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship on Saturday, but now the focus shifts to a tougher opponent in Canada on Monday.
Mikey Varas watched from the sidelines in Honduras as his team rolled past Saint Kitts and Nevis 10-0 in their tournament opener. A total of seven different players contributed goals on Saturday, as Cade Cowell, Caden Clark, and Mauricio Cuevas headlined strong performances from the Americans.
Now with a Monday night showdown against rivals Canada on the horizon, Varas and his players are focused on the job at hand.
“At the end of the day we can improve in every single area of the game,” Varas said after Saturday’s win. “Monday’s matchup is going to be a battle and right now what we’re doing is focusing on recovery, focusing on getting a very clear idea and strategy against Canada, and preparing the boys for a really important match.”
The Americans showed their quality for 90 minutes, constantly pressuring Saint Kitts and Nevis and finding different ways to wreak havoc in the final third. VAR awarded the Americans two penalty-kick opportunities, while the creativity and hunger of several attacking players truly made Saturday’s match a long afternoon for Saint Kitts.
Even after holding onto a 6-0 halftime lead, the USMNT U-20’s continued to dominate for the second half. Paxten Aaronson scored a brace in a three-minute span, Niko Tsakiris capped off his first international cap by adding his second goal of the match, and Quinn Sullivan added two assists as a substitute.
It was an all-around impressive day for the Americans, who made sure to use every minute of Saturday’s match to improve as a unit.
“I like that we took care of business, I liked that the boys entered the game with a clear identity of being brave, being relentless, and at the end of the day, playing against the opponent in front of them,” Varas said. “Saint Kitts gave an amazing effort and I thought our boys showed a lot of respect to the game and then by playing hard the entire time.”
“I felt that the group was really feeling it towards the end of the match and the goals kept coming for us,” Tsakiris said. “We have confidence in ourselves and I think that showed today and overall the group looked really strong. Everyone is excited for what’s next because we don’t have to wait a long time to get onto the field again.”
Canada’s U-20 national team suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Cuba on Saturday night, putting itself in a early hole in Group A with only two matches left to play. Led by Toronto FC II players Hugo Mbongue and Kobi Hamilton, Mauro Biello’s squad will provide a new test for the Americans on Monday night, especially with the added importance of the result for Canada to avoid elimination.
The USMNT U-20’s cruised in several areas against Saint Kitts and Nevis in its first competitive match under Varas, but is already expecting improvement to take another major step towards World Cup and Olympic Qualification.
“We just have to be focused all of the time on learning how to get over games quicker because now we have to focus on Canada,” Cuevas said. “We have to go and prepare for that, get our minds and bodies ready for that game.”