MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The United States booked its place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a 2-0 win over El Salvador in a CONCACAF Under-20 Championship playoff at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Saturday.
In a game that saw El Salvador be reduced to 10 players following Andres Flores’ 80th minute ejection, goals from Ben Spencer and Paul Arriola in either half lifted the U.S. to its fourth straight victory.
Spencer put the Americans up 1-0 in the 37th minute. Emerson Hyndman whipped in a free kick that the forward first looped off the crossbar with his head. He then reacted quickly to the rebound, nodding into a gaping net from nine-yards out.
Arriola, who replaced Spencer at half time, doubled the advantage in the 68th minute. Junior Flores, another substitute, sent in a low cross from the right that Bradford Jamieson shot towards goal with a sliding effort. The initial attempt was blocked, but Arriola gathered the loose ball and took a touch towards the middle of the box. His subsequent left-footed effort deflected off a Salvadoran defender, before wrong-footing goalkeeper Carlos Cañas.
Six minutes earlier, Cañas did well to tip Matt Miazga’s header off the crossbar.
El Salvador was given an opportunity to equalize from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute, after Cameron Carter-Vickers was whistled for a handball in the box. Jose Villavicencio, who scored three goals earlier in the competition, aimed for the left post only for U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen to parry the ball to safety.
The Americans nearly had the lead in the game’s second minute. Following a Spencer flick off a long ball, Tommy Thompson dragged his attempt from close-range wide of the far post.
The U.S. joins Panama and Mexico -- which will meet in the final later in the evening – plus Honduras, as CONCACAF’s representatives in the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be played in New Zealand starting on May 30.