PUEBLA, Mexico – It was edge-of-your-seat stuff at times and, despite his team's 2-1 victory over Haiti on Monday in the Group A opener of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, US head coach Tab Ramos is adamant his team has to improve.
“I think we have to play better,” he said in the postgame press conference. “There were some good moments for us, but we have to maintain that for a longer period of time if we are going to be successful in this tournament.”
A penalty from Luis Gil and a fine goal from Daniel Cuevas, both in the first half, were enough to give the United States the three points.
But after Wilberne Augusmat pulled one back four minutes after the break, Haiti piled on the pressure and looked likely to snatch an equalizer.
“Right after they scored the goal, there was about a 10-minute period where we really struggled to get the ball out the back,” said Ramos. “I think when we made a couple of substitutions, the game changed a little bit.”
Ramos was disappointed that his team lacked that clinical edge in front of goal to score the third to take the game beyond Haiti. He added that he felt the team left too big a gap between the midfield and the defense when players lost the ball.
But, off the back of the Olympic qualifying failure a year ago and the US U-20s not qualifying for the World Cup in Colombia two years ago, it was a positive start down in Mexico.
“We felt that we had to prepare one game at a time so, for us, this was the final,” explained Ramos. “I think we did a good job in the first half.”
The win is a giant step for the US in getting out of the group stage – if Haiti don’t win on Wednesday against Costa Rica, the US advances to the decisive quarterfinal stage. But Ramos was impressed by Haiti and isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Haiti is capable,” he said. “It demonstrated that it has a team with good technique and that are dangerous in attack.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org