Barahona lifts El Salvador into CU20 playoff

Juan Barahona (#17) celebrates after scoring in El Salvador's 2-0 win over Cuba in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on January 22, 2015, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica --  Juan Barahona scored two goals and El Salvador clinched a place in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship’s playoff round with a 2-0 win over Cuba on Thursday at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

The victory lifted the Salvadorans (2-2-1, 8 points) provisionally into second place in Group B, one point ahead of Honduras (2-1-1, 7 points), which meets eliminated Canada (1-0-3, 3 points) later in the second game of a triple-header.

El Salvador will face either the United States (3-1-1, 10 points, +10 GD), Guatemala (3-1-1, 10 points, +4 GD) or Honduras in one of two single-game showdowns for the Confederation’s last pair of berths in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.  Already-qualified Panama (5-0-0, 15 points) and Mexico (4-0-0, 12 points), the Group A and Group B winners, respectively, will square in the final.  All three matches will be contested on Saturday.

The offensive talents of Barahona spurred the Cuscatlecos past Cuba (1-1-3, 4 points), which needed a victory to progress.  He gave notice what was to come in the 13th minute, firing a shot inches wide of the near post from the left side of the box.

A scoreless first half sent El Salvador to the dressing room in a search for ways to unlock a Cuban defense that sat back and absorbed the pressure.

It was Barahona, however, who used the right key in the 57th minute.  After being fouled by Osmany Capote, the Santa Tecla standout drilled brilliantly a 35-yard free kick off the left post and over the line to give El Salvador a 1-0 lead.

With three minutes left in normal time, Barahona added an insurance goal.  Eduardo Merino’s effort from the top of the 18-yard box was blocked by goalkeeper Elier Pozo into the path of the 19-year-old, who slid it home from three-yards out at the left post.

El Salvador is looking to participate in its second U-20 World Cup, qualifying for the first time two years ago.