It may not have been quite as emphatic a win as they earned against Aruba, but the United States under-20 side managed to easily and comfortably beat host Jamaica 2-0 to pull themselves in to a position to qualify out of their CONCACAF U-20 Championship group. Romain Gall was the star man for the US youth side, scoring both goals on penalties and constantly being at the heart of the side's best attacks.
The US got off to a pretty dominating start, but really struggled to take full advantage. They dominated possession early, limiting Jamaica to a few ineffectual counters, but problems in the final third kept them from getting any goals in the opening half hour. Midfielder Emerson Hyndman was the only one to get and decent shots off, but even he could only get one on target, and that right at Jamaica's goalkeeeper, Nicholas Nelson.
Then, just after the half hour mark, another run in to the box from US winger Tommy Thompson saw him felled by Allando Brown for a stonewall penalty. After several minutes of Jamaica's training staff tending to Browm, who managed to hurt himself on the play, Romain Gall stepped up, stuttered his way up to the spot, and tapped the ball home for his fourth goal of the tournament.
The US kept throwing relentless pressure forward, often having eight men out past the halfway line while Jamaica tried to find a way to cope with those attacking numbers. Gall, Thompson, and Ben Spencer in particular enjoyed a lot of success penetrating Jamaica's lines, using their pace in the open field to carve the hosts apart time and time again. Despite the numbers, though, the US struggled to consistently get the supporting runs they needed to capitalize on the opportunities.
Still, if nothing else the relentless attacking gave Jamaica little chance to mount any danger themselves, and the host side could manage just one shot the entire first half. They didn't have much better luck early in the second half, though they did get forward aggressively quickly off the whistle, only for the move to be snuffed out by the physicality of Matt Miazga.
While it didn't result in a goal, Gall showed off some fancy footwork early in the half for the US, squirming his way through the middle of four Jamaica defenders with a couple of slick touches of the ball and get a strong shot off, but his strike went straight at Nelson. Gall's been an unquestionable star for the US youngsters in this tournament, and that moment showed why he's drawing the acclaim and finding the success that he is.
It was another penalty that gave the US their second goal, this one coming when Bradford Jamieson pounced on a ball over the top and was brought down by Nelson in the box. Just like the first penalty, it looked like a clear red card for a denial of a goalscoring chance, but the referee again elected to show a Jamaican a yellow card instead of what looked like the proper decision.
Regardless, it was again Romain Gall stepping up to the spot, this time striding up quickly and hammering home his finish going the other way from his earlier shot, going for the gusto instead of simple trickery. It was an impressive finish, and helped sparked off another spell of dominating play for the US. Sadly, he was denied a hat-trick as he was subbed out to give Paul Arriola a run in the side. Though when you've got hair like Gall's, a hat seems rather unnecessary.
The match wouldn't end without controversy, when Jamaica were finally shown red as Daniel Roberts, who had been introduced as a sub not long before, was shown a red card for bringing down combative midfielder Russell Canouse with a high boot. It was a fairly ugly challenge and a deserved red, and it would have been interesting to see if the USMNT had been able to play against eight Jamaican players as was probably deserved instead of ten. There was also a dustup with pushing and shoving from both sides in stoppage time, with Tommy Thompson getting a yellow card for a reactionary shove after taking a couple extra shots from a Jamaican defender at the end of a sequence in the box.
The US under-20's just need to not lose to Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday and they'll qualify for the playoff knockout stage of the tournament. They have a chance to catch Guatemeala for seeding position to take second in the group, so long as perfect Panama maintain their winning streak. It won't be an easy road, but the USMNT youth squad still has a chance to win their first CONCACAF U-20 Championship title. If they can keep up tonight's quality of play and find a way to finish the job in the final third, there's no reason to think they can't go far.