Most expected the United States to roll through the U-20 CONCACAF Championship. Instead, they struggled through the start of the tournament -- which also serves as U-20 World Cup qualifying -- and entered Wednesdays group stage finale needing a result just to advance. But they did get the result they needed, topping Trinidad and Tobago 1-0, and setting up a playoff for a spot in the World Cup.
The match was hardly pretty. Both teams used an intense press defensively and completely took the rhythm away from the other. Toss in an atrocious field that made it tough for a ball to roll more than 10 feet before bouncing and there wasn't a lot in the way of attractive play.
The one thing that the U.S. did do well was play quickly, and that earned them a few set pieces chances. Of course, they didn't take those very well so that didn't mean much.
Luckily for the U.S., they didn't need a win to advance. A draw would do the job so as the match crept on still scoreless, the Americans were doing okay, but they had been burned by a late goal earlier in the tournament and could have really used some breathing room.
In the 79th minute, they got that breathing room. Junior Flores and Paul Arriola did a great job to hit Trinidad and Tobago quickly on the counter and got the ball to Bradford Jamieson IV in front of goal. The LA Galaxy man then slotted the ball home and the Americans had a 1-0 lead.
Trinidad and Tobago pushed for the two goals they needed, but they didn't come especially close. The U.S. held on for a 1-0 win and the spot in the playoff that they needed.
The U.S. finishes group play second place in Group A with 10 points. They will almost undoubtedly be the top seeded team in the playoff and play either Honduras or El Salvador on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. The match is scheduled to be televised on Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Soccer 2Go.