CONCACAF U-20 Championship: USA continues revival with victory over Jamaica

The dreams of New Zealand are firmly alive for the U.S. under-20 men’s national team after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Jamaica on Sunday night.

Romain Gall continued his influential role in this circuitous quest to procure a World Cup berth by scoring both goals from the spot to secure a deserve triumph. Gall benefited from the awareness and the industry of Tommy Thompson on the first penalty award and Bradford Jamieson IV on the second spot kick to place the Americans within touching distance of a playoff spot.

Tab Ramos’ side needs just a point against Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday (5:30p.m. ET, FOX Sports 2, FOX Soccer 2Go) to guarantee a one-off match to book a place in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next Saturday.

After fumbling through the first two games, the Americans now look well and truly capable of fulfilling the primary objective. They did not hit top gear against the Jamaicans, but they conjured the composed and opportunistic performance necessary to overcome a dreadful showing from the host nation and place themselves in position to atone for their dreadful start in this competition

It did not take long for the Americans to exploit the home side’s lack of cohesiveness and organization inside the defensive half. Gaps appear quickly and readily as the Americans scampered into threatening areas and started to ask genuine questions of a team simply unable to produce the proper answers.

Time and time again, the Jamaicans escaped through a mixture of fortune and wastefulness. Emerson Hyndman squandered a chance to fire the U.S. in front inside the opening quarter of an hour, but the Fulham midfielder sliced wide when presented with an enticing opportunity inside the penalty area.

The pressure increased and increased on the home side until a piece of slack defending ultimately cost them dearly. Thompson made a clever run behind the Jamaican line and tempted Allando Brown to barge into him from behind. Referee Merlon Mejia made the inevitable decision to point to the spot, but he curiously decided to book Brown for his challenge instead of sending him off for denying a goalscoring opportunity.

Mejia’s generous approach did little to impact the resulting opener from the spot. Gall accepted the duties from 12 yards and proceeded through them with aplomb. He hitched during his run-up and then tucked his effort to the right post to give the Americans a deserved lead after 34 minutes.

Nelson prevented Gall from doubling the advantage minutes later by kicking away his low effort. His teammates finally hacked clear, but the gulf between the two sides loomed particularly large as the match hit the interval.

The first-half service resumed after the break with the Americans in firm control and the Jamaicans flailing about in search of answers. Brown cleared off his own line in the early stages to keep the deficit at a manageable level, but the indiscipline and the sloppiness at the back ultimately forced the Jamaicans to concede a second penalty after 67 minutes.

Jamieson pounced on a dreadful back pass and surged behind the line. His clever first touch took him around Nelson, but Nelson hauled him down to prevent Jamieson from completing the move. Mejia somehow produced a yellow card yet again instead of dismissing the goalkeeper.

Gall shook off yet another suspect reprieve for the home side and strutted to the spot for a second attempt. He displayed the confidence and the precision mustered on the first attempt to slot straight down the middle. His second goal on the night and his fifth goal in the tournament essentially settled matters and eventually ushered the match into a fraught final 20 minutes.

The long-awaited red card finally arrived after 86 minutes when Daniel Roberts scythed Lynden Gooch to the ground with an exposed boot into Gooch’s groin. The match descended into farce in the waning moments, but the Americans escaped without any sort of potentially harmful side effects poised to alter their approach in midweek.

This assured victory in Montego Bay placed the requirements against Trinidad and Tobago in stark relief. Any sort of result will suffice to send the American into the playoff stage and set up a one-off tie to seal a berth in the World Cup next weekend.