March 16, 2009

Costa Rica defeated the U.S. 3-0 in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship final on Sunday, ending the Americans' shot at winning their first regional title for a third time .

The scoreless streak the Americans were maintaining against their rivals all tournament long was breached in the 41st minute by Diego Alonso Estrada.

As the U.S. pushed forward in search of the equalizer, Costa Rica capitalized on the counterattack, scoring two more goals in the second half.

However, the amount of changes U.S. coach Thomas Rongen made for the final match could have unsettled the squad somewhat. Most importantly, goalkeeper Brian Perk, who kept four clean sheets in the tournament, gave way to Josh Lambo and Sean Johnson, who each played a half in the final. Rongen made six other changes from the starting lineup that won Friday night's semifinal game in a penalty shootout against Trinidad and Tobago.

On the other hand, the U.S. could afford to experiment, as qualifying for the U-20 World Cup in Egypt later this year was assured by finishing in first in its qualifying group. Besides Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras also qualified for the tournament.

"We made a lot of changes tonight to try to put ourselves in a situation to be successful, but also to look at some players under pressure," said Rongen. "I'm disappointed in the loss, but overall satisfied with the way we've played throughout the finals. Getting to Egypt was our primary goal here, we reached that and to reach a final is a very good accomplishment for a team that came together in a very short amount of time. We did some very good things, and I think this team will represent us well in Egypt."

Other teams who will be competing in the U-20 World Cup include Australia, Korea Republic, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Tahiti, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

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