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Smith, Howell lead USA U20s to victory

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: January 22, 2018
USA 2-1 Jamaica

It was Real Colorado’s time in the spotlight on Sunday at the 2018 U20 CONCACAF Championship. Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell, current players on the club’s U19 Development Academy team, scored the goals to lead USA to a 2-1 win over Jamaica, coached by Lorne Donaldson, the club’s Executive Director of Coaching. 

Smith scored a goal and delivered the assist on the game-winning goal to lead USA to a 2-1 win over Jamaica on Sunday in the second game from the 2018 CONCACAF U20 Championship in Trinidad. Smith, who did not play in the opening win over Nicaragua, scored her ninth goal of the past two years with the U.S. U20s. Smith scored on a free kick from the top of the 18-yard box at the end of the first half. 

Club teammate Jaelin Howell scored the game-winning goal in the 89th minute. Howell, who came off the bench in the second half, poked home the cross from Smith. Ashley Sanchez’s dummy on the cross helped take a defender away from the key area for the easy finish for Howell. It was Howell’s first goal with the U20s in her 14th appearance. 

The late goal came one minute after Jamaica equalized on a tap-in after a free kick to the far post was headed back across the face of the goal for an easy finish. It was the first goal USA conceded at the event after recording a shutout in the win over Nicaragua and keeping Jamaica off the scoresheet for 87 minutes. 

Despite the lack of goals for the majority of the game, there were chances on both nets in the second half. Sanchez and Smith both missed clear chances. Jamaica also had a chance for an equalizer earlier in the second half, but whiffed on a volley from six yards away from the goal. 

USA was dominant team for 70 minutes of the game and dictated where the game was played. The CONCACAF favorites looked to be hitting their stride during points of the game. However, Jamaica took control of the game when Savannah DeMelo was replaced late in the second half. Jamaica was close on a couple of chances to equalize and found some success off set pieces. Jamaica’s game plan was to absorb the USA pressure early and then try to steal the game late. It nearly worked to perfection, but Howell’s late heroics (and a momentary lapse for the Jamaica defense after scoring) helped USA claim all three points on the night. 

Through the first two games, DeMelo looks like the most important player for this team’s style of play. Her runs through the midfield and high line of pressure made a big difference in both of the wins. She’s offered some creativity from that role as well. Pinto was one of the players on Sunday who combined with quick passing rather than dribbling through defenders. 

The performances from the first two games will give the USA coaching staff plenty to think about as they approach the difficult part of the event. 

The victory secures a spot in the semifinals for USA with six points through two games. The game against Mexico, who also has six points in Group B, on Tuesday will determine who advances as the top seed. The two victorious teams from the semifinal round and the winner of the third place game advance to the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in France. 

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