BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, April 7, 2011
Disaster struck the US Under-20 team Wednesday night as they fell to hosts Guatemala and failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup.
The US created most of the chances early in the game, but Kelyn Rowe failed to capitalize on two golden opportunities. The first came in the eight minute when he beat keeper Jose Garcia, but defender Jose Manuel Lemus managed to clear the shot just a few feet away from the goal. The second opportunity came three minutes later, but Rowe headed a Zarek Valentin cross wide.
Guatemala struck first in the 33rd minute when Gerson Lima was able to capitalize off a defensive breakdown and score from close range off a Kendel Herrarte assist.
In the second half, the US continued to push hard for the equalizer and Derby County's Conor Doyle came close, but only managed to hit the post in the 50th minute. Four minutes later defender Amobi Okugo forced a great save when he fired a shot from 25 yards that Garcia barely managed to save.
The US finally knotted the contest in the 63rd minute when Okugo picked out Doyle who made an excellently timed run, took one touch and chipped Garcia to silence the crowd.
The lead did not last long, though, as Guatemala capitalized on their only opportunity of the second half when Gale Agbossounonde failed control a long ball. Midfielder Jose Castillo outmuscled the Sweden-bound American and calmy fed Henry Lopez who beat Zak MacMath with a shot from 15 yards.
The US continued to press for a second equalizer but it came to no avail. Rowe came closest in the 81st minute when he hit the side netting from close range.
The loss marks the end of a once promising cycle for the US team - the most professional youth squad ever assembled - and its beleaguered head coach Thomas Rongen.