Paxten Aaronson scored both goals for the USA. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team qualified to the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a 2-0 victory against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals of the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship on Tuesday night.

Forward Paxten Aaronson got the USA off to a fast start with a goal in the fifth minute and netted again five minutes into the second half to cement the U.S. lead.

With the victory, the USA becomes the sixth team to qualify for the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and will be joined by Honduras, who topped Panama 2-1 in the second quarterfinal match tonight, and two other quarterfinal winners from Concacaf. The U.S. advances to the semifinals of the Concacaf U-20 Championship against Honduras (9 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN), with the winner qualifying to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

From the opening whistle, Costa Rica came out the most aggressively of any U.S. opponent thus far in the tournament. While Los Ticos showed bite from the beginning, the USA’s first real attacking run created an early opening goal. Midfielder Alejandro Alvarado Jr. played to forward Quinn Sullivan on the right side of the box, who combined nicely with Aaronson to put the U.S. up early.

Costa Rica renewed its attacking efforts after the early goal, as goalkeeper Chris Brady and the U.S. back line saw its most action of the tournament. Brady was called on to make a few stops in the first half, while center backs Brandan Craig and Jalen Neal did well to defuse a number of dangerous looks as Los Ticos drew a number of fouls and threatened on several free kick opportunities in USA territory.

The U.S. midfield duo of Alvarado Jr. and Luna did well to push the ball forward, while the U.S. attack held strong through some physical defense and hard fouls by the Costa Ricans. The U-20s nearly doubled their advantage in the 30th minute as a great run by Aaronson set up Sullivan, but Costa Rica goalkeeper Bayron Mora got a hand on the attempt to push it out of bounds. Another solid save from Mora stopped a good header from midfielder Rokas Pukstas on the ensuing corner kick.

A number of yellow cards were shown in the 37th minute after a hard foul on Aaronson, but after the initial free kick was blocked by the Costa Rica wall in the box, Sullivan again fired high on his follow-up shot.

After his quick tally to open the game, Aaronson repeated the feat at the start of the second half, scoring again in the 49th. This time, forward Caden Clark teed up Aaronson, centering a nice cross from defender Michael Halliday for Aaronson to hit one-time on the bounce from the top of the six-yard box.

Costa Rica responded to the doubled deficit with fervor, sending a wave of pressure towards the U.S. back line. While Brady was called upon to make a leaping save in the 52nd minute, a handball was called on the USA in the 54th. While the referee pointed to the spot, Costa Rica midfielder Brandon Aguilera skied it over the crossbar as Los Ticos remained scoreless.

Costa Rica’s next best chance came in the 69th minute. On another free kick attempt in U.S. territory, Los Ticos sent a ball in from outside the top right corner of the box and got a head on it, but the attempt bounced off the post. Head coach Mikey Varas made all five substitutes down the stretch to see the game out and the USA did well to handle a few last-gasp efforts from the Central Americans and secure its spot in the next round.

 

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