After scoring against Mexico in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on February 27, 2017, in San Jose, Costa Rica, the USA's Erik-Palmer Brown (left) celebrates with teammate Justen Glad. (Photo: Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Once Brooks Lennon served a perfectly lofted left-sided corner kick to the top of the six-yard box, everyone knew there was only one player who was going to get his head on the ball.
And, like the way Lennon delivers a corner, so does Erik Palmer-Brown deliver for his team when it most matters.
The defender rose high over Juan Aguayo to power an effort that deflected off another defender on the line and into the net for the goal that gave the United States a 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday in the classification stage at the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
“We’ve been practicing all week on our set pieces and just perfected it,” said Palmer-Brown. “In one of our biggest games of the tournament, it means a lot to us.”
It certainly was a big game, especially when you consider that the U.S. had not beaten Mexican in CU20 play for 31 years.
“We came out ready to play and we got that win,” Palmer-Brown continued. “We’re ready to take the tournament by storm.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the Americans have never won a CONCACAF U-20 title in 23 previous attempts. They have finished as runner-up on six occasions, including a 3-1 loss after extra time to Mexico in 2013.
Palmer-Brown wants to put an end to that trend.
“We know the talent we have and want to make it to final, and be the first group to win it all,” commented the Sporting Kansas City standout, who played in one game at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. “We’re here as a team and we know what we got.
“We’re a special group of guys and we believe in each other. That’s the biggest thing. We’re here together. We play for each other and all the accolades come after.”
On Friday, the U.S. will complete classification stage play against El Salvador, which fell 6-1 to Mexico on Wednesday. A win or a draw will see the Americans qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup and earn a place in Sunday’s CONCACAF final.
Coincidentally, the sides met in a playoff to determine which would progress to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The U.S. won that game 2-0, but Palmer-Brown is clearly taking nothing for granted.
“I don’t think we’re in a comfortable position,” he finished. “We’ve got to come out and play every game thirsty to win. If we do that, I think we have a really good chance of winning this tournament.”
Win or lose, those words were spoken like a true champion.