For the first time in 31 years, the Under-20 U.S. men’s national team has defeated Mexico. With a tight 1-0 win over El Tri on Monday, the U-20 USMNT is now one step closer to qualifying for the U-20 World Cup later this year.
Led by a standout performance from Erik Palmer-Brown, the Americans put in a gritty, smothering performance that neutralized Mexico’s strengths and put them in the driver’s seat. Palmer-Brown scored the match’s only goal on a thunderous header that was poorly defended.
The win is the American’s first over Mexico at the U-20 men’s level since a 3-0 win back in 1986. In eight other meetings since then, Mexico won, but that streak ended on Monday. For Mexico, it was their first loss in a CONCACAF U-20 match since 2009.
With the result, the U.S. men are now one big step closer to qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, which will take place in South Korea starting in May. The U-20 USMNT can secure their spot if they beat or tie El Salvador in their next match on Friday.
Though the Americans looked messy in the final third on Monday, and neither team was especially clinical, they still managed to dominate the match by bossing the midfield and using a high press. El Tri seemed unprepared for the American’s pressure and looked rattled.
Mexico especially had trouble getting into the U.S. box, as the centerback pairing of Justen Glad and Tommy Redding, plus Palmer-Brown as a defensive midfielder, left Mexico with precious few chances to shoot on frame. Palmer-Brown, who is typically a centerback, was the star of the match and put in his best minutes as a defensive midfielder, maybe ever. Mexican forwards Ronaldo Cisneros and Erick Aguirre ended up being idle passengers for much of the match.
It was the most promising performance of the tournament from the USMNT U-20s, who managed to lose the opening match vs. Panama, despite having a man advantage for most of that match. But the Americans seem to be gaining momentum with each game, which is a positive sign for their qualifying hopes.
El Salvador is a beatable team, and if the Americans play with the same discipline and organization they had vs. Mexico, they should be able to punch their ticket to the U-20 World Cup.