The USA (pictured) celebrates after defeating Mexico in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on February 27, 2017, in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – The United States had not beaten Mexico in 31 years of CONCACAF Under-20 Championship play.
And then Monday happened.
Erik-Palmer Brown connected on Brooks Lennon’s corner kick in the 29th minute, heading home off a Mexican defender for the only goal in a historic, classification-stage win.
U.S. head coach Tab Ramos was impressed with the way his defense limited the offensive capacity of a Tricolor side that had previously outscored its foes 9-0 in the competition.
"The team gave everything it had and did not give an option to Mexico to win the game," said the 50-year-old, who played for the U.S. in the 1983 FIFA U-20 World Cup. "We know Mexico is always a high scoring team. We know they always create a lot of chances and we gave them very little if anything at all today. The team made an incredible effort.
"Tactically we wanted to push them from the start of the play. We didn't want them to feel comfortable at all."
The Americans snapped an eight-game losing streak to Mexico in the CU20, dating back to a 3-0 triumph in 1986. That squad included a pair of Ramos' future U.S. international teammates, goalkeeper Tony Meola and defender Marcelo Balboa.
"It means a lot because it goes to show how difficult it is to beat Mexico in this tournament," Ramos remarked. "They always come with the best team. [It was] was a great effort, but a well-deserved victory for us."
The Americans’ task is to qualify for the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. A win or a draw against El Salvador on Friday would clinch a berth in the Korea Republic and a place in Sunday’s CONCACAF final against Honduras.
While Ramos wanted the entire delegation to celebrate the achievement of beating Mexico, bigger goals were to be kept in mind.
“I think all the players and the staff have the right to celebrate tonight because it’s a big win,” he finished. “We should celebrate it, [then] we start to focus on El Salvador for Friday because our job is not done."