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April 2, 2011
U.S. U-20s win Group, advance CONCACAF quarters

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala –The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team defeated Panama 2-0 on Saturday to finish first in Group B of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and secure a spot in the quarterfinals. Kelyn Rowe’s brace, his second and third goals of the tournament, provided all the offense the U.S. needed to defeat the Panamanians, who also will advance to the next round.

The U.S. will face Group A runners-up Guatemala on Wednesday, April 6 (7:30 pm ET, ESPN Deportes) in the all-important quarterfinal match that will send one team to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.

Panama will play Group A winner Honduras on Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET.

“Going into this tournament our most important goal was to get to the third game,” said U.S. Under-20 MNT head coach Thomas Rongen. “That was accomplished after Panama beat Suriname, but we still wanted to use this game to play well and get a result, which we did. We accomplished a lot today as far as finding out a lot about some of our players, some chemistry. I liked some of it and I didn’t like some of it. Going forward I think we have a pretty good idea of what our best 11 is and what our substitution pattern needs to be, which guys are sharp. We are where we wanted to be. We have two wins and we’re ready to play our third and most important game.”

Rongen made three changes to his lineup from the team that topped Suriname on March 29, inserting Sebastien Ibeagha for Amobi Okugo, Eder Arreola for Joe Gyau and sliding Perry Kitchen into midfield.

The first sustained attack for the U.S. came in just the ninth minute. Sebastian Lletget played the ball to Kitchen, who then found Rowe. On the dribble, Rowe slipped the ball to his left for Arreola, but Panama goalkeeper Kevin Melgar did well to come off his line and force Arreola to chip the ball wide.

The U.S. got on the board just four minutes later. Arreola started the attack with a nice back-heel pass along the sideline for Greg Garza on the left wing. Garza crossed the ball perfectly to the far post where Rowe fired a half volley into the side netting for the game’s first goal.

Panama put together a quick attack – perhaps their most dangerous of the game – when Jairo Jimenez got around Garza and down the touchline in the 15th minute. Jimenez looked up and played a ball across for Javier Caicedo, but his shot went right to goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

Five minutes after his first goal, Rowe’s second of the game doubled the U.S. lead. The U.S. build-up began with Arreola passing the near the top of the penalty area where Conor Doyle and Rowe both dummied the ball to allow it through for Lletget. The midfielder flicked the ball ahead for Rowe who had darted into the box. On his first touch, Rowe flicked the ball with the outside of his foot over the sliding Melgar and into the net to make it 2-0.

Just before halftime Panama nearly pulled one back. A poor clearance inside the U.S. box put the ball right on the foot of Gabriel Avila, who had just entered the game. Avila hit a shot with his first touch but could only manage to steer it to the wrong side of the far post.

In the 51st minute, Avila touched the ball around Gale Agbossoumonde to get inside the penalty box. He did well to get a good shot off from a difficult angle, but MacMath was up to the task, tipping the ball over the net for a corner.

Just three minutes later, Panama once again put the U.S. defense on their heels. Josimar Gomez pounced on a turnover from the U.S. back line and split the two central defenders, but as he moved into the area he couldn’t keep the ball close and MacMath alertly pounced on it to smother the chance.

The last opportunity of the game for the U.S. came in the 75th minute when Omar Salgado dribbled the ball down the center of the field. He got around the last defender, but was not able to create much space. He took his shot while sliding, and it ended up in Melgar’s arms.

The U.S. played the last seven minutes with only 10 men as Arreola pulled up clutching his hamstring during a run and had to come off after the U.S. had used all three substitutes.

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