The CONCACAF U-20 Tournament in Trinidad and Tobago has come and gone with Costa Rica defeating the United States 3-0 in the final. Those two, along with semifinalists Honduras and T and T, won the big prize: a trip to this fall's U-20 World Cup in Egypt. The biggest surprise came as Mexico missed out on reaching the semifinal round, crashing out without putting up a fight.
For Thomas Rongen's American squad, the tournament was ultimately a success although it failed yet again to bring home the regional championship. (The U.S. has never won the trophy.) After holding its opponents scoreless for the first four games, Costa Rica proved too much for a mix-and-match U.S. side in the final. Still, a couple players stood out and we learned some important details about the up and coming Nats.
U.S. is good at achieving its goal... and that's all
"Taking care of business" is an overused sports phrase that coaches and commentators toss around in an effort to temper expectations. Yet this is exactly what the American team did. It traveled to T and T with one goal -- to qualify for Egypt -- an achievement accomplished with two wins (and three straight clean sheets) in the opening round. Getting players experience factored in, but really, Rongen only had to return with his ticket to the Middle East punched. Still, wouldn't it have been nice to win? Can't the U.S. strive to do both? At some point, the American teams have to start overachieving -- or perhaps setting their sights higher, even if it means failing occasionally. Playing safe will only get them so far, both on the youth level and on the senior National Team.
Birth Certificate Please
Although he was two years younger than most of the competition, Gale Agbossoumonde didn't show his youth. The 18-year-old center back benefited from lining up next to Kyle Davies, but it's not as though the U.S. captain could actually play for the Togo transplant. Throughout the tournament, Agbossoumonde battled attackers with maturity, poise, and patience. He showed an offensive mind as well, getting an assist in the first match. His future is as bright as he is young.
Diamonds in the Rough
Entering the tournament, Dilly Duka had never played for the U.S. at any level. Before kick-off of the first game, the rising Rutgers junior looked to be a bit player, in T and T for the experience more than anything. Rongen had different plans, however, starting the New Jersey product who rewarded his coach's faith with a goal in his first cap. He played well throughout the tournament and converted a spot kick in the semifinal round. Who knows if Duka's international career will lead anywhere, but his presence speaks to the increasing quality of the United States Soccer Federation's scouting program. Just a couple years ago, a player such as Duka might have remained unknown.
Welcome to the brotherhood, Brian Perk
It's no secret the U.S. produces world-class goalkeepers on a regular basis. Perk, who backstopped the first four matches of the tournament, anointed himself as the post-Tim Howard, post-Brad Guzan future in the American net with his otherworldly performance in Bacolet and Macoya. Most impressively, with his team down 3-2 in penalty kicks against T and T, he saved consecutive shots from the spot, setting the stage for an epic comeback. It was a Brad-Friedel-against-South-Korea type of performance, one we'll remember in 10 years when he's between the pipes for the Nats.
Two ships passing in the night
While the American squad ran through its opening round -- with a 0-0 tie against group runner-up Honduras serving as the only blemish -- Mexico imploded. Juan Carlos Chavez -- only in charge since February -- piloted his team to losses against Costa Rica and Canada before he watched T and T score two goals in the second half to tie the match and send El Tri home without a win. This, combined with the recent struggles of the senior team, leaves the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación in chaos, while the USSF has arguably never been in a better position. The August showdown in Azteca looms larger and larger.
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.