The United States suffered a staggering 1-0 defeat to Panama in their CONCACAF U-20 Championship group opener in Costa Rica, losing to a side that played 77 minutes down a man.
That side featured Real Salt Lake’s four first-teamers playing 90 minutes, including Sebastian Saucedo, Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad and Danilo Acosta.
Acosta started at left back, while Glad played through the center, and Saucedo and Lennon played wide left and right in the attack, respectively.
The loss may seem like a big blow to the team, and it certainly doesn’t help their push to make the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer. But the structure of the tournament is such that a “Classification Stage,” which follows the group stage, means that the group stage only holds real value in finishing in at least second place. So a second-place finish — readily achievable for the U.S. against relative minnows Haiti and Saint Kitts and Nevis — does mitigate that somewhat.
Panama’s red card to Justin Simmons, suffered in the 18th minute, certainly added to the controversy in the match — but on replay, there’s hardly any arguing it. USA’s Tyler Adams was the recipient of a late, raking tackle on the side of his leg. He apparently was seen on crutches at halftime. Interestingly, despite the red card, Panama was given a free kick following the play.
Despite playing down a man, Panama managed a tight defensive structure, keeping ten behind the ball for the remainder of the match when not in possession. And despite all that, Panama managed to find a go-ahead goal in the first half — a wonderful strike from inside the box, with Leandro Avila curling the ball over U.S. goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann.
Highlight clips from U.S. Soccer
Sebastian Saucedo almost connects with Jeremy Ebobisse in front of the net for an equalizer, but a save keeps the U-20 #USMNT down 0-1, '87 pic.twitter.com/wDnajma8l1— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) February 18, 2017
Jeremy Ebobisse nearly finds the back of the net, but the header deflects off the crossbar. U-20 #USMNT still trailing 0-1, '48 pic.twitter.com/kmr2g4YcoZ— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) February 18, 2017