The U.S. U15 Boys National Team lost 0-3 to Portugal in the semifinal of the 2019 Concacaf U15 Championship on Saturday. Portugal scored all three goals in the second half to seal a spot in the final. Portugal will take on the winner of Canada/Slovenia in the championship game on Sunday.
Saturday’s defeat was the first negative result of the tournament for USA, which was riding a four-game winning streak into the clash. It was also the first time that USA had conceded a goal during the 2019 Concacaf U15 Championship.
The first half was relatively even with neither side generating much in terms of clean looks on goal. The best chances from USA came from corner kicks or set pieces where the home team targeted center back Antonio Leone with the service. The LAFC Academy defender had one shot on goal with a header in the first half off a cross from Evan Rotundo.
Midfielders Allan Rodriguez and Aethan Yohannes did a lot of work in the center of the pitch to slow down the Portugal attack, which scored seven goals in the quarterfinal win over Haiti on Thursday. The back four of Armando Avila, Angel Martinez, Justin Reynolds, and Leone did well to keep their shape and balance in the scoreless first half.
Goalkeeper Damian Alguera continued to have a strong tournament with a few saves in the first half.
USA showed some signs of life in the second half as substitute Rokus Pukstas picked up the level with his introduction midway through the half, and provided a chance for fellow substitute Federico Olivo, but the cross was just a hair too high.
Midfielder Evan Rotundo came alive in the first 20 minutes of the second half. USA was never the dominant team in the game, and never had an extended stretch when they peppered the Portugal goal. There were spots in the game though when USA started to string passes together and break through the lines of Portugal. Rotundo was involved in many of those movements.
It was not enough to crack the Portugal defense. And eventually the guests from Europe smashed open the game midway through the second. And then struck for a second time a few minutes later on a quick counter attack, which was perfectly executed.
Portugal caught USA’s defense up the field again late for another goal to push the lead to 3-0 on another quick attack.
For this USA group, the game on Saturday was a good barometer of where this age group stacks up against one of the best in the world. There is a gap between the two sides at this point, which should be a valuable lesson for the players as a few of them have been searching out new club situations this offseason.
The Concacaf U15 Championship roster is usually the building block for the squad at the U17 level, but the pieces added to the puzzle are just as valuable. This team showed some promise from a number of players on the roster, which should be a good starting spot for the Youth National Team coaching staff and the Scouting Department to add to the player pool prior to the next big international event at the U17 level.
USA U15 BNT Starting XI vs Portugal: Damian Alguera; Armando Avila, Antonio Leone, Angel Martinez, Justin Reynolds; Allan Rodriguez (C), Aethan Yohannes, Evan Rotundo; Rafael Jauregui, Christian Torres, Osvaldo Cisneros