USA top Trinidad & Tobago, clinch playoff spot in CONCACAF U-20’s

The United States U-20 men’s national team survived a nervous night, then got a Bradford Jamieson IV goal with 12 minutes left to defeat Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 Wednesday to advance to a CONCACAF playoff for a spot in this spring’s FIFA Youth World Cup in New Zealand.

The Americans will have to defeat an opponent to be determined after Group B finishes Thursday when the teams meet Saturday in a sudden-death match for a spot in the finals. Cuba, El Salvador and Honduras are the possible adversaries.

While they never looked in any difficulty, Tab Ramos’ USA side did not get a true grip on the match that remained on a knife-edge until Jamieson’s late goal. Trinidad & Tobago needed to win against the Americans but, aside from a strong first 15 minutes, never put enough pressure on to secure the result they needed.

In the opener at Montego Bay, Panama wrapped up its spot in the FIFA Youth World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Guatemala. Ismael Diaz scored the second half goal that allowed the Panamanians to complete an unbeaten 5-0 run through the group stage. They will attempt to end Mexico’s stranglehold on the CONCACAF U-20 Championship when they face El Tri in the regional final on Saturday.

Guatemala will join the USA in Saturday’s playoffs. They also won’t know their opponent until Thursday’s matches complete the group stage of the tournament.

Host Jamaica, which disappointed in this event, play Aruba in the Wednesday night game that had nothing at stake but pride for each team.

Wednesday’s first half produced few chances and ended without a goal despite the Americans upping the pace a bit in the final 15 minutes. Aikim Andrews wasted what turned out to be the best Trinidad & Tobago opportunity in the 11th minute when he was open on the right but shot wide of the far post. Otherwise there was little to trouble either keeper in the opening 45 minutes.

The United States nearly broke on top in the 49th minute when a Jamieson drive was cleared off the line by Neveal Hackshaw then Jamieson had another very good look on the hour but pulled his drive past the near, right post. The Americans were still keeping it tight at the back but not forgetting to go foward when the chance was there.

Trinidad & Tobago did a good job of blunting USA chances, but their own ability to counter attack was so limited that American keeper Zach Steffen was hardly called upon to deal with any real threats. Ricardo John put a wide-open header well wide in the 74th minute in one of the few legitimate T&T second half opportunities. Leland Archer also had a chance but shot the ball directly at Steffen.

The pressure was finaly lifted shortly thereafter when Jamieson was between defenders on the six-yard line to turn home a neat 78th-minute cross that ended any remaining drama. It was a fine touch finish from Paul Arriola’s fine work down the right which created the chance.

Mexico, unbeaten in Group B and already certain of its spot in New Zealand, wraps up group play Thursday night against Haiti (live, FOX Sports 2, 8 p.m. ET). Earlier, Cuba face El Salvador and Honduras battle Canada with those second and third place playoff pairings to be determined by those results.