BRADENTON, Fla. – The United States booked a second consecutive trip to the Concacaf U-20 Championship title match with a 1-0 win over Honduras Monday night.
Ayo Akinola scored the lone goal in the 51st minute.
The Americans will face Mexico, who edged out Panama to reach the final on fair the play tie-breaker after a 2-2 draw in the day’s earlier match. The championship game kicks off Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET (concacafgo.com, UDN) at IMG Academy Stadium.
The Hondurans defeated the USA beat in the 2017 final to claim its first regional title at the U-20 level.
Despite its defeat, Honduras will join the U.S., Mexico and Panama at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup by virtue of a better goal difference than fellow Group G participant Costa Rica.
Having secured its place at the 2019 U-20 World Cup Friday night behind a 4-0 win over Costa Rica, the USA slowly imposed its will against Honduras, claiming more than 80 percent possession in the first half. That allowed the U.S. to take seven shots (four on target) compared to two (one on target) for Honduras.
Akinola got loose to produce the first clear cut chance for the U.S. but sent his header inches wide midway through the first half. Soon after, a well-rehearsed corner kick routine by the USA teed up Alex Mendez to shoot from close range, but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot to tuck it beneath onrushing goalkeeper Oscar Reyes.
Reyes again did well at the stroke of halftime to deny Sebastian Soto after the U.S. forward had got behind the defense.
In the second half, the game continued much the way the opening ended with the USA taking the attacking initiative and Honduras attempting to counter. But a long, diagonal ball over the Honduras defense from Brandon Servania finally unlocked the backline in the 51st minute and allowed Akinola to race in from the right wing to collect the ball that had rolled into the top right corner of the box. The USA forward chopped a well-placed one-timer past the outstretched hand of Reyes and just inside the left post for the 1-0 lead and his seventh goal of the tournament.
As the clock ticked along both teams began to be more cautious about going forward.
Honduras tried not to concede too many goals and lose its place in the U-20 World Cup while the U.S. attempted to kill the game and secure its place in the title game. Head coach Tab Ramos made all three available subs in the final 15 minutes to help steer the final result, which will put the USA in the Concacaf U-20 title match for the third time in the last four editions under his guidance.