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United States U20s outplayed by short-handed Panama in 1-0 loss

World Cup qualifying opened on a sour note for the U.S. U20s on Saturday afternoon

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Tyler Adams
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Playing a man up for the final 72 minutes of the game, the United States U20 team struggled to create chances or even leave an impression in a disappointing 1-0 loss to Panama on Saturday.

The U.S. went up a man in the 18th minute when Justin Simon was rightfully shown red for a late challenge on New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. Adams stayed in the game for another 13 minutes before being replaced by Emmanuel Sabbi but was seen after halftime on crutches.

Panama responded well to the early blow and took the lead in the 37th minute on a pretty right-footed chip by Leandro Ávila, who plays his soccer in the U.S. at Iowa Western Community College.

Panama hardly seemed fazed playing with 10-men and the U.S. attack did little to take advantage.

Portland Timbers rookie Jeremy Ebobisse did nearly tie things up off a perfectly placed long pass from Brooks Lennon, but his header clanged off the crossbar and out of harm’s way.

Ebobisse had another chance off a centering pass from Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo in the 87th minute, but his first-time shot went right into the arms of Panama keeper Charles Taylor.

Real Salt Lake was all well-represented on the day by defender Justen Glad, who created several near chances off balls won in the air late in the game. But the flurry of activity from the U.S. offense proved to be too little too late in the CONCACAF U20 Championship opener in Costa Rica.

Glad paired with Orlando City center back Tommy Redding in Tab Ramos’ starting XI while captain Erik Palmer-Brown was moved up to the midfield and Philadelphia Union center back Auston Trusty was an unused sub. Ramos’ second half substitutes, Coy Craft and Eryk Williamson, did little to change the momentum. But few in the U.S. lineup stood out on a day they’ll want to quickly put behind them.

Still, while a loss wasn’t an ideal way to start their World Cup qualifying campaign, a second place finish in Group B is still very much in the picture with games against Haiti and Saint Kitts and Nevis left to play.

Haiti, which the U.S. plays Tuesday, beat Saint Kitts and Nevis 5-1 in the other match on Saturday.