BRADENTON, Fla. – The United States defeated Mexico by a familiar score to win the Concacaf Under-20 Championship Wednesday night:
2-0 as in dos a cero.
During its mastery of Mexico during World Cup qualifying from 2001 through 2013, the Americans posted home wins by that same exact score.
Alex Mendez scored both goals to guide the U.S. to victory and cap off a Golden Ball-winning performance. Goalkeeper Brady Scott was recognized with the tournament Golden Glove Award.
It was the U.S.’s second consecutive confederation championship under head coach Tab Ramos.
The game began with the U.S. in control with the wealth of possession and offensive forays. After a quarter hour, Mexico began to push forward with more confidence and players, having played on the counter in the early going.
With increased space to operate its offense, the U.S. struck the opening blow via a nice attack down the left sideline that culminated in Paxton Pomykal cutting infield and picking out Mendez at the top of the area for a one-time shot through traffic that nestled in the lower right corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage.
The U.S. nearly doubled its lead in the 26th minute through Pomykal, but the ball hit a defender then goalkeeper Carlos Higuera and bounced toward the open net before being cleared off the line.
Things began to get chippy as tackles from both teams came in hard and confrontations between players became more common. The disrupted nature of the game suited Mexico just fine as it won several free kicks in dangerous areas around the final third, one of which resulted in the best chance of the half for El Tri.
With half time closing in, a set piece was lofted into the USA’s six-yard box and required goalkeeper Brady Scott to make a kick save to deny a headed attempt in the 41st minute.
In the second half, the U.S. used the lead well, picking its spots to go forward and striking pay dirt six minutes in. Pomykal again played the catalyst, winning the ball in midfield and streaking down the left side before cutting through the box past several defenders before picking out the late run of Mendez. Mendez rounded a defender and played a wall pass with Pomykal that put him in a goal before tucking his shot between the legs of the on-rushing Higuera.
The spotlight shined brightest on the goalkeepers who were both superb, making numerous saves to keep the match tilted on a knife edge. Mexico nearly broke through in the 62nd minute, but Brandon Saravina cleared the ball of the line.