The US Under-20 national team is heading to this summer's U-20 World Cup in Turkey after a 4-2 win over Canada in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship quarterfinals on Tuesday. It was a win made in MLS, as LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal bagged two goals, with Columbus Homegrown signing Wil Trapp and Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil adding a tally apiece as the US took full advantage of a sloppy Canadian defense.
Long-range strikes from Canada's Dylan Carreiro and Samuel Piette sandwiched the USA's four goals, but were not enough to keep head coach Nick Dasovic's side in contention.
After a fairly lackluster opening period, Canada snatched the lead in the 24th minute, when Carreiro was afforded plenty of space outside the area to unleash a shot at the far corner that caught US goalkeeper Cody Cropper out of position and nestled in the back of the net.
The US wasted little time in replying, though, taking advantage of some sloppy Canadian defending. Daniel Cuevas found Gil in the center of the area with a low cross, and the Real Salt Lake midfielder took an easy touch past a Canadian defender before slotting it into the far corner.
The Americans enjoyed most of the possession during the first half, but Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau was equal to most everything they threw at him. The 18-year-old Montreal Impact Academy product's best moment came when he was able to get over well on a Villarreal snapshot and push it wide.
Crépeau could do nothing, though, as Villarreal completed the turnaround for Tab Ramos' side, one-timing Mario Rodriguez's cutback past Crépeau to put the US in the lead.
Canada's defense continued to falter and conceded a potentially killer goal just seconds before the break when Crépeau's punch fell directly to Trapp, who hit it first time and got the benefit of a deflection to make it 3-1.
Facing a significant deficit, Canada started the second half on the front foot, and had penalty shouts waved away in the 53rd minute after Piette went down, sandwiched between two US defenders a few yards away from goal.
It would only get worse for the Canadians, as the US took the ball right back down the field. Villarreal traded passes with Benji Joya at the top of the area before cutting past a defender and putting away his second goal of the match and the USA's fourth.
Canada weren't done quite yet, though, as Samuel Piette followed up his stunner against Nicaragua with another spectacular goal. Trapp's clearing header on a corner kick bounced kindly to the Fortuna Dusseldorf man, who unleashed a perfect first-time strike from outside the area that Cropper had no chance of saving.
Crépeau did well to keep his team in the game after Piette's goal, again getting across well to tip away Joya's shot that was tagged for the upper 90 and making another stunning late save on Rodriguez. However, Canada's two-goal hero in a 5-1 win over Nicaragua, Caleb Clarke, spurned a good chance to shave the deficit to one by missing with an open look from just inside the 18, while on the other end, the Rapids' Dillon Serna almost made it five when he rattled the crossbar.
Though tempers remained relatively calm throughout the game, things finally boiled over in injury time when Canadian defender Manjrekar James saw straight red after a hard tackle on and subsequent confrontation with Joya.
The US will now await the winner of Tuesday night's game between Cuba and Costa Rica in Friday's semifinal, but in the meantime will content themselves with a return to the U-20 World Cup after falling at the quarterfinal stage of the previous CONCACAF tournament.
Update, 11:05 pm ET: The US will face Cuba in the semifinal following the latter's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Costa Rica.