CONCACAF 2015 U-20 Championship: Group A Round 3 round-up
Austin Fido checks in on Group A of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica…
Three rounds into what is, at most, a six-game tournament seems a good moment to take stock of the progress of the teams in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
A round-up of the third round of fixtures in Group A, a brief review of each of those team’s overall performance and prospects, and new key players to watch out for in the next rounds – all ahead in this edition of the regional U-20 Championship round-up.
Group A: Round 3
According to CONCACAF’s statistics, T&T had 11 attempts on goal in this match; Guatemala had one. But one of these teams keeps finding a way to get it done, and the other does not.
Trinidad should have won this game, or at least not lost it. Both goals conceded were due to unusual, avoidable and likely never-to-be-repeated defensive errors. Goalkeeper Johan Welch in particular will almost certainly never again try to dribble his way past the top scorer in a CONCACAF Central American zone qualifying tournament.
Young players make mistakes, tournaments like this are one opportunity to make them.
Guatemala, without ever really having dominated a match, now looks set for a winner-takes-all match against Panama in the last game of the group stage: the expectation is either team could win the group by winning that match. T&T will look at the standings and realize its final game of this phase has become all-important. If the Soca Warriors beat the US, they will finish above the Americans in the final standings – and that may be enough to get out of the group (barring something sensational from Jamaica in the next two games).
That’s more like what we expected from the US when this tournament began: confident, swaggering victories over its group stage rivals. Unfortunately, while an eight goal win is by no means little, it is too late to salvage anything but a remote hope of getting back on track for the regional championship title.
Maybe this game would have played out differently if Duncan Homoet had found a way to open the scoring from an early opportunity.
But probably not: the US were simply too much better in every facet of the game to be troubled by Aruba. The challenge for the Americans now is to ensure this match doesn’t stand out as their tournament highlight – they will want to press on for bigger and better things. For Aruba, it is the opposite: let this result stand as the absolute low point of the tournament, and bounce back to deliver more competitive performances over the next couple of rounds.
Not a lot has gone right for Jamaica so far in this competition, and goalkeeper Nicholas Nelson was once again the primary reason things didn’t go a lot worse.
Panama marches on to a seemingly inevitable date with Mexico in the final, led by two of the most exciting attacking talents in the tournament: Edson Samms and Ismael Diaz.
Group A Summary & Standings
1. Panama: 9 pts; GF 7; GA 0; GD +7
Flying high at the top of group, three wins out of three, no goals conceded, and that record includes games against the group favorite (USA) and the home team (Jamaica). Not bad at all for Los Canaleros, who will surely be disappointed if they are not playing in the tournament final on January 24.
Key Player: Chin Hormechea
Ismael Diaz has bagged a couple of goals so far, as has Edson Samms, but Panama’s success to date is built on its defense: it is the only team in the tournament yet to concede a goal. Captain Chin Hormochea’s role in organizing the defense will be key if Los Canaleros are to hold their nerve, clinch a place in the final, and challenge Mexico (we assume) for the regional U-20 title.
2. Guatemala: 7 pts; GF 4; GA 1; GD + 3
La Azul y Blanco hasn’t conceded a goal since the 59th minute of the opening game against USA, and Jose Ruiz’s 90th minute bolt-from-the-blue equalizer in that match would appear to have sparked the run that puts Guatemala on the cusp of at least getting out of Group A.
With Aruba up next, the assumption is this team will go into its group stage finale against Panama with qualification for the next round guaranteed and a shot at making the final.
Key Player: Nicholas Hagen
Another team for whom defense has been the key to success: their biggest win to date (2-0 over Trinidad and Tobago) was also their most fortunate. Better teams than T&T lie ahead for Guatemala, which means bigger tests are in store for Hagen.
3. USA: 4 pts; GF 9; GA 2; GD +7
The Americans’ bid to win the regional title appears to have been fatally derailed by a return of one point and one goal from their first two games. Trouncing Aruba will have restored some confidence, but even if the US kicks on from here to win out, it is no longer in control of its destiny with regard to winning the group.
Nonetheless, the minimum expectation from this tournament was that the Stars and Stripes would progress to fly their flag in New Zealand this summer. Slow start notwithstanding, they remain favorites to win their next two games (against Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago), get out of the group and get into position to qualify for the U-20 World Cup.
Key player: Romain Gall
Gall scored seven goals in nine appearances for the US U-20s in 2014. He had a first-half hat-trick against Aruba in this tournament. The US’s slow start to the competition can be attributed to a lack of goals: just one in its first two games.
For the Stars and Stripes to get to New Zealand without further cause for alarm will require a much better scoring record than they managed before the confidence-boost that is Aruba arrived on their schedule. Gall might be the man to lead the way for US’s attack for the rest of the competition.
4. Trinidad and Tobago: 4 pts; GF 7; GA 5; GD +2
The only time T&T has looked convincing in this tournament so far was against Aruba. This is not encouraging. Against Jamaica, it found quick, early goals, but couldn’t defend late in the game. Against Guatemala, it couldn’t find any goals at all, and duly capitulated.
The only way out of this group now is the hard way: beat either Panama or the USA, quite possibly both.
Key Player: Kadeem Corbin
Top scorer and MVP of the final round of the Caribbean qualifying tournament, T&T urgently need Corbin’s scoring touch to return for its toughest games of the group, against Panama and the USA.
5. Jamaica: 1 pt; GF 2; GA 3; GD -1
It has been a dismal tournament for Jamaica so far, and absent Junior Flemming’s injury-time free kick against Trinidad and Tobago it would be even worse. The point snatched at the death against T&T remains the only point the Reggae Boyz have got to show for their efforts.
The last group stage match against Aruba should bring three more, but without a win over the US in the preceding game, it won’t be sufficient to keep Jamaica in the tournament for the final round.
Key Player: Junior Flemmings
This time last year, he was being scouted by Manchester City. A team hobbled by injury – it lost Michael Seaton in its first game and captain Javaun Waugh in its second – needs inspiration, leadership, and goals.
Flemmings, whose performances as captain of his high school team drew him to the attention of MCFC, has already provided the Reggae Boyz with their most memorable goal of the tournament: the clutch, last-minute free kick that snatched a point from the match against T&T that had seemed lost after the opening 15 minutes. Jamaica needs more goals, and points, post-haste.
6. Aruba: 0 pts; GF 1; GA 17; GD -16
Conceded four goals to Panama, followed by five shipped against T&T, and most recently allowed eight into the net against the US: Aruba’s tournament has gone from bad to worse.
In theory, it could still qualify for the next round, but in all probability its best hope is to reduce the scale of its future losses, and maybe nick a point from a complacent (Guatemala) or demoralized (Jamaica) opponent.
Key Player: Duncan Homoet
The only Aruba player to have scored a goal in this tournament so far, and the one who has seemed most likely to score his team’s second. Homoet’s red card means he’ll (probably) only get one more chance to have an impact on this competition: Aruba’s last group stage match against Jamaica.
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OTF’s Austin Fido is @canetop. Follow him.