The United States U20 team drew one step closer to qualifying for the U20 World Cup with a 4-1 win over St. Kitts & Nevis in Costa Rica on Friday night.
After Panama beat Haiti 3-1 in the earlier game to clinch the top spot in the group, the U.S. only needed a tie to advance.
That ended up being an unneeded scenario.
Four first half goals took away the suspense early in a tournament that started off poorly with a loss to 10-man Panama last week and a less than convincing performance in the early going against Haiti on Tuesday.
Now, the U.S. need only a second place finish in Group D of the classification stage to clinch a World Cup berth. They’ll take on Mexico Monday and El Salvador Friday. Panama, Honduras and the second place finisher in Group C will make up the other group for the classification stage.
Real Salt Lake continued to show its influence on the U.S. team Friday night as the hat trick hero from the Haiti win, Brooks Lennon, opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Jeremy Ebobisse deserves a share of the credit for starting the play with a run up the gut of the St. Kitts defense before delivering a cross that Lennon beat his defender to for his fourth goal of the tournament.
GOAL United States, Brooks LENNON No. 17 | @ussoccer #StKittsNevis #CU20CRC pic.twitter.com/e1BjgO9OvH— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) February 24, 2017
Minutes later, NYCFC rookie Jonathan Lewis doubled the lead when a ball sent in from University of Maryland midfielder Eryk Williamson off a Lennon corner found its way through Justen Glad and a defender to Lewis, who beat the keeper with a strong finish.
GOAL United States, Jonathan LEWIS No. 20 | @ussoccer #StKittsNevis #CU20CRC pic.twitter.com/1LPhaxG9RT— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) February 24, 2017
It was Lewis’ pressure that set up the third goal in the 35th minute when he stole the ball off Javier Sutton and set up Sebastian Saucedo for the quick shot that beat goalkeeper Nathan Lescott to his right.
Sebastian Saucedo strikes from long distance!— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) February 24, 2017
Jonathan Lewis with the assist, and the U-20 #USMNT now lead, 3-0. pic.twitter.com/5EzNXqO6JW
Saucedo then made it 4-0 four minutes short of halftime with a low lining free kick that found the goal to Lescott’s left.
Sebastian Saucedo does it again! This time on a free kick for his brace. U-20 #USMNT pouring it on now, 4-0.— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) February 24, 2017
Watch: https://t.co/plPow1levC pic.twitter.com/hu5Pj9sQxC
The Sugar Boyz grabbed a late consolation from substitute Romario Martin, who spoiled Georgetown goalkeeper JT Marcincowski’s clean sheet with his team’s lone shot on goal.
For the third straight game, Philadelphia Union defender Auston Trusty watched the game from the bench. Head coach Tab Ramos was forced to make an early defensive sub when University of New Mexico right back (and Real Salt Lake Academy grad) Aaron Herrera had to be subbed out in the 29th minute.
Coy Craft came on after halftime and Ramos used his third sub to bring Jonathan Gonzalez in for Lewis in the 68th minute.
With the four goals on Friday, players from Real Salt Lake have accounted for six of the U.S. team’s eight goals (four from Lennon, who is on loan with his hometown club from Liverpool FC and two from Saucedo).