US U-20s vow to "progress every game" after key qualifying win over Haiti

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Any worries about a shock early exit for the Americans at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship were dispelled with a three-goal second half in the 4-1 victory over Haiti on Tuesday.

But despite the daylight in the winning margin, this was certainly a grind for the US U-20s as they picked up a much-needed three points.

“Certainly, we were affected by the first loss we didn’t expect. But when the boys come down here and participate in the tournament, [they] realize that actually every win down here is difficult,” said head coach Tab Ramos afterward. “Even the wins like tonight, when you see the scores at the end it takes a lot of work to get to that point in games, and I think the boys are starting to figure that out.”

The Americans held the bulk of the possession in the first half, but they were lacking in the final third as their passing wasn’t as sharp as required.

After erasing Haiti’s early lead from the penalty spot, Brooks Lennon’s first of three goals on the night, a burst of pace really started to affect Haiti, leading to openings the US could exploit.

“The one thing we said at halftime was we wanted to play the ball a bit faster,” said Ramos. “I think at times, we played so slowly that it sort of gave Haiti opportunity to set themselves and defend well and not give us any space to penetrate. In the second half, we started to play the ball forward quickly and break lines. We found it easier to get opportunities.”

With the three points in the bag and arguably the easiest game of the group coming up on Friday against St. Kitts & Nevis, qualification to the second group stage looks to be just about in the bag. But Ramos’ team cannot look past any team in this competition, especially after what happened against Panama.

After the attacking outburst that earned them victory on Tuesday, the Americans feel that first loss was an aberration that is behind them, and that they’re growing into the competition.

“We’re going to progress every game that we play here, and get better and better every time we step on the field,” said Lennon, a Real Salt Lake academy product currently on loan with RSL from Liverpool FC. “I think we just need to keep playing together and keep moving forward and we’ll get wins.

“We knew what had to be done today and we got it done. Now we look forward to St. Kitts.”