PUEBLA, Mexico – The US Under-20 national team may already be through to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, but slacking off isn’t part of the plan ahead of their group-stage finale against Costa Rica on Friday (6:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
Head coach Tab Ramos wants to see his team play with greater intensity, keep the ball better and above all, take chances when they come in the second match of the championship.
“In these tournaments, you are very lucky sometimes to have two or three chances in a game and you have to put them away,” Ramos told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “I think in the Haiti game, we had quite a few that we couldn’t finish and in the end, that hurts.”
He added: “Hopefully we learn from that experience that when you have a team on the ropes you have to finish them.”
Ramos has already indicated that some changes are likely in the starting lineup as the US seek to lock down first position in Group A.
On the opposition, he singled out Costa Rica winger Jhon Ruiz as the best player he has seen at the tournament so far and said that stopping him will be a priority. Ramos also highlighted the quality of Costa Rica’s two central midfielders and two center backs and the Central American team’s ability to hold possession.
“That’s one of the challenges,” said Ramos. “I think we’re built to be a team to have the ball and when we don’t have it we struggle a little bit. Hopefully [Friday], we can get hold of the ball a little bit more than we did in the first game.”
Costa Rica won 1-0 against Haiti on Wednesday thanks to a fine goal from Ruiz, but the Caribbean team hit the post three times and was unlucky not to pick up a result.
The US-Costa Rica game will also go a long way to deciding the vital quarterfinal matchups. If the US lose, they will play Cuba. A victory or draw would see them face one of Canada or Nicaragua, who play later Friday in Group B.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.