The Red Bulls’ Caden Clark scored in the match. (USA TODAY Sports)
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team opened the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship with a 10-0 win against St. Kitts and Nevis on Saturday.
In a dominant performance, the USA tallied its second-most goals ever at the tournament as seven different players scored, led by braces from midfielders Paxten Aaronson and Niko Tsakiris.
Five players made their U-20 international debuts against the Sugar Boyz: goalkeeper Antonio Carrera, defenders Noah Allen and Michael Halliday plus midfielders Alejandro Alvarado Jr. and Tsakiris. The 16-year-old Tsakiris, defender Mauricio Cuevas, midfielder Rokas Pukstas, as well as forwards Cade Cowell and Tyler Wolff all netted their first international goals.
The USA controlled the ball for almost the entirety of the match, out-possessing St. Kitts 82 percent to 18 percent. The U-20s earned three corners in the first 10 minutes of the match, and after a few shots on goal, the breakthrough finally came in the 18th, when a Video Assistant Referee review awarded the U.S. a penalty kick. Cowell slotted it home for the opener and his first U-20 international goal.
This year marks the first Concacaf U-20 Championship to feature VAR, and the U.S. would benefit again from video review in the 33rd minute. This time, a St. Kitts handball forced the referee to point to the spot once again and forward Caden Clark sent it into the left side of the net.
The floodgates opened shortly thereafter, as the U.S. scored four more first-half goals after the 42nd minute. In the aftermath of a St. Kitts yellow card, Clark played up to Cuevas, and while the defender’s cross towards goal was deflected, it fell right to Wolff for the tap-in finish. Three minutes later, Pukstas headed home another USA goal after a corner kick.
Two more tallies came during a lengthy stoppage time period caused by a number of long VAR reviews over the course of the half. Clark played provider in the second minute of stoppage time, teeing up Cuevas to rip a shot from the far corner of the penalty box. Eight minutes after the end of regulation, Cowell was tripped up in the box to earn another penalty for the U.S., and Tsakiris coolly finished another penalty to cap off the end-of-half onslaught at 6-0.
The goals continued to roll in after the break. A St. Kitts own goal opened the second-half scoring when substitute Quinn Sullivan went up against Kittitian goalkeeper Xander Parke for a ball in the air, but Parke knocked it into his own net.
A wave of three substitutes- midfielders Aaronson, Diego Luna and Jack McGlynn- at the hour mark kept the momentum rolling for the USA with a burst of three goals in five minutes. Just after coming on, Aaronson bagged a brace in the span of three minutes. Sullivan teed him up for his first in the 64th before Luna played him downfield in the 67th to set up his second. Another ball in from Sullivan gave the U.S. its 10th and final goal when he found an onrushing Tsakiris in the 69th.
The win serves as the U-20 MYNT’s first step towards qualification for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia. Following the interruption of programming due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the U-20s returned to the field in November 2021 and today’s game marked the first official international competition for the team since June 2019.
The U-20 MYNT continues Group E play on Monday, June 20 vs. Regional rival Canada (8:30 p.m. ET) and finishes the group stage on Wednesday, June 22 against Cuba (8:30 p.m. ET). All of the USA’s Group E matches will be played at Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa.