CONCACAF U-20 Championship: Group A Round 1 & 2 Round-Up
After two rounds of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Austin Fido checks in on the kids of Group A…
If you haven’t been following the efforts of our region’s next generation of internationals, here’s your chance to catch up – with gifs! Many, many gifs. (And the hyperlinked scoreline of each match will take you to the official highlights.)
We start with Group A, and the efforts of Aruba, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA over the first two rounds.
Group A: Round 1
The opening round of the tournament brought no out-and-out shocks in Group A, though there were a couple of surprises, and an unusual number of last-minute equalizers.
The result could easily have been embarrassing for Aruba, had Panama been a little sharper in front of goal. As it was, Los Canaleros took sufficient of their chances to post a win that was at least reflective of their dominance.
Ismael Diaz bagged two of Panama’s four goals, further extending his reputation as a rising star of his nation’s youth program. But Edson Samms produced the most eye-catching moment of the game.
The first surprise result of the tournament, in only its second game. The Americans had the better of the match, but only a goal to show for their efforts as the clock ticked into the 90th minute.
Then a weak clearance fell to Guatemala’s Jose Ruiz…
This result counts as points dropped for the USA, for whom anything less than a top-of-the-group finish will constitute a failure of sorts and for whom anything less than winning all of their remaining fixtures could leave the door open for another team to grab the top spot in Group A.
T&T should have won this game by a similar margin to that of Panama over Aruba. Despite a troubled build-up to the tournament, the young Soca Warriors – perhaps energized by the match-up with their biggest regional rival – caught the hosts cold: Jamaica was 2-0 down after 15 minutes.
The game’s opening goal was memorable.
T&T should have added a couple more goals to their tally, but still appeared to be on course for a deserved three points with a 2-1 lead in the dying moments of injury time. Jamaica’s Junior Flemmings had other ideas, and the hosts’ blushes were spared.
Initial expectations are that these two teams are competing for third place in the group, behind the US and Panama. This result does nothing to change that expectation, but it does eliminate head-to-head record as a tiebreaker between them. If Jamaica and T&T end up tied on points and there is only room for one in the next round, the calculation will come down to overall goal difference and goals scored (or the drawing of lots – the one tiebreaker no one wants to see deployed).
Group A: Round 2
Another at-the-death goal (not an equalizer this time), another scorching strike from distance, and another surprise result involving the US: Group A is starting to make the unexpected its routine.
The most significant moment of this match might well prove to be Aruba’s injury-time consolation goal. First, because it continues the theme T&T established in its opening game against Jamaica: conceding last-minute goals. Second, because the Soca Warriors’ fate in this competition could well come down to goal difference.
Nonetheless, credit to Duncan Homoet for reminding the rest of Group A that his team is capable of landing a punch – that’s T&T captain Shannon Gomez he is turning inside out.
After two games, it is clear Aruba’s objective is to narrow the scale of its losses, and maybe hope to find a way to a point in one of its remaining games. For T&T, the big win was almost a necessity given the expectation that its rivals for the top spots in Group A will also beat Aruba handily.
“Anything less than winning all their remaining fixtures could leave the door open for another team to grab top spot on the Group A” said some prescient being a few paragraphs ago. Yes, the US team’s hopes of winning this group – and automatically qualifying for the U-20 World Cup – are now officially beyond its control.
Panama should be considered favorite to top the group after this result. And the USA cannot afford to drop any more points, which means it needs to start scoring. This match was close, and a draw would have been an entirely fair result. But it is also entirely reasonable when the team that scores beats the team that doesn’t.
The Americans will expect to find goals and three points in their next game against Aruba. A justly confident Panama should now be targeting a place in the Championship final.
A troubling result for Jamaica, who now have just one point from the two matches played against their most likely rivals for third-place in the group. In order to progress, the Reggae Boyz will now probably need to beat either Panama or the US (as well as making sure to get three points against Aruba).
Guatemala on the other hand is sitting pretty. A win over Jamaica was always part of its most likely route to a shot at qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, but added to a point against the US – an unexpected bonus – it puts the least-fancied of the Central American qualifiers in a stronger-than-expected position to get out of this group.
And this result was not as close as it might appear: Guatemala had the best chances, including a penalty (saved). But for Jamaica ‘keeper Nicholas Nelson, this would have been a much more comfortable victory for La Azul y Blanco.
Instead, as appears to be their preference, the Guatemalans allowed one special goal to represent their work over 90 minutes.
Group A Summary
There are still three rounds to play in the group, so no team is definitively out or through to the next round. And the next set of games should see the USA notch its first win (against Aruba), while at least two of its rivals for the top three spots in the group will drop points.
Only Aruba looks like it can really be counted out of contention for the next round at this moment, which means the only pre-tournament expectation that has been confounded is that the Americans no longer look certain to win the group.
Group A Standings after Round 2
1. Panama: 6 pts; 5 GF; 0 GA; +5 GD
2. Trinidad and Tobago: 4 pts; 7 GF; 3 GA; +4 GD
3. Guatemala: 4 pts; 2 GF; 1 GA; +1 GD
4. Jamaica: 1 pt; 2 GF; 3 GA; -1 GD
5. USA: 1 pt; 1 GF; 2 GA; -1 GD
6. Aruba: 0 pts; 1 GF; 9 GA; -8 GD
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OTF’s CONCACAF editor Austin Fido is generally a little more cheerful than Tappa Whitmore. Follow him @canetop.