David Ochoa - US U-23 v Costa Rica - throwing ball

David Ochoa is still just 20 years old, with a long way to go before he becomes a household name in the US men's national team player pool.


But the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper showed why he's regarded as one of the top young US talents at the position with his Man of the Match performance for the US Under-23 men's national team in its Concacaf Olympic Qualifying group stage matchup against Costa Rica on Thursday.


In a chaotic match that saw both teams struggle to stop each other from getting out in transition and generating chances, Ochoa put in a monster shift in racking up nine saves, many of which were of the highlight-reel variety. In the end, Ochoa was arguably the biggest reason why the US emerged from the match as 1-0 victors behind a goal from FC Dallas' Jesus Ferreira.

"I thought Ochoa was excellent," head coach Jason Kreis said on his video call after the match. "The decision [to start him] was based upon performance in this camp. Both of the goalkeepers that we would have thought to give the first chance to with JT [Marcinkowski] and David both came in here with a slight injury, so it was kind of interesting to watch them in the first 10 days as they built back to a place where they were 100 percent.


"And I just felt over the last couple of days, really made the decision very, very late, but it seemed pretty clear to me that at this moment right now, Ochoa is in a little bit better form. So we knew that we were going to need him to make some saves tonight and he came through in a very big way for us."


The fact Ochoa started Thursday's match at all was considered a surprise, with an older and more experienced competitor for the spot in Marcinkowski. Ochoa has just one MLS appearance to his name to date, with most of his experience at the professional level coming in his 26 matches with RSL's USL Championship affiliate Real Monarchs.

Advertising

Coming off his heroics against Costa Rica, though, Ochoa certainly made a strong case that he should be getting the lion's share of the minutes as the US continues its qualifying campaign.


"I think he was arguably the most important player for us today," Kreis said. "I think he stepped forward in a major big way. Some of the times he came off his line to re-place balls that were put in behind us were second to none. We believe that Ochoa has a huge future in front of him and it's nice to see that he's beginning to put his best foot forward."

Advertising