USA forward Jonathan Lewis (left) bears down on the Mexico goal during a CONCACAF Under-20 Championship match on February 27, 2017, in Tibas, San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – As time was elapsing on his team’s historic win over Mexico in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on Monday, United States forward Jonathan Lewis was racing down the spine of the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa field on a breakaway.
Before he was able to get off a shot that could’ve provided a potentially valuable insurance goal, Jose Hernandez – the impressive Tricolor goalkeeper -- got a foot on the ball to disrupt the play.
“To be honest, I was trying to kill time, but I should have chipped the keeper,” Lewis told CONCACAF.com about what he was thinking as he neared the net. “He was coming hard, so I should have tried to chip him.”
Chip or no chip, goal or no goal, the Americans managed the final seconds and completed a historic performance. In nine previous CU20 meetings with Mexico, the U.S. lost eight and won only one, a 3-0 triumph in 1986.
Ending a 31-year winless streak certainly takes plenty of effort as evidenced by the fact that Mexicans attempted no shots on goal.
“We played well as a team. We worked really hard as a team. We outworked them,” said Lewis, who entered the game as an 80th-minute substitute. “I think now we’re the team that’s going to show that the U.S. can be like one of the next top countries. Beating Mexico is the first step and winning this whole thing is the next step.”
The result also snapped Mexico’s 20-game unbeaten streak in CU20 play, a statistic that was brought up by the U.S. coaching prior to the opening whistle.
“Of course, they told us that Mexico is the top team in CONCACAF,” Lewis, in his first year with New York City FC, remarked. “They told us before the game, ‘Why can’t it be us?’ We believed today that it can be us to beat Mexico. We believe that we’re the team that’s going to win this.”
The U.S. can clinch a 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup berth if Mexico loses to or draws with El Salvador on Wednesday.
Regardless of that future result, Lewis wants the U.S. to maintain its high intensity level when it faces the Salvadorans on Friday.
“Just to win,” he responded about the objective against El Salvador. “We have to set the tone. I feel that we can be the team to beat, so we just have to make sure we put out a dominating performance on Friday and go out on Sunday and win this tournament.”
That task will certainly be no chip shot, but Lewis primed for the challenge.