GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Kelyn Rowe was all the United States Under-20 side needed to defeat Panama 2-0 on Saturday night in the CONCACAF Championship. The UCLA forward tallied twice in the first 20 minutes as the Americans finished the opening round of the tournament undefeated and unscored upon.
With the win, the US easily finish on top of Group B. They will meet Guatemala in the quarterfinals on April 6, with the winner qualifying for the U-20 World Cup in Colombia this summer.
The US opened the scoring in the 13th minute on a beautiful passing sequence. Sebastian Lletget backheeled a pass down the line to an overlapping Greg Garza. The left back took a touch, then delivered a curling cross that flew over two attackers and two defenders before finding Rowe alone near the back post. The UCLA star volleyed the ball across the face of goal and into the back of the net.
Rowe made it 2-0 in short order, finishing another impressive team effort. Eder Arreola delivered a pass into the center of the field that Conor Doyle dummied to a waiting Lletget. The West Ham midfielder put a perfectly weighted pass to his streaking forward who deftly chipped Panama netminder Kevin Melgar with the outside of his right foot.
Gale Agbossoumonde was perhaps lucky not to concede a penalty kick in the 26th minute. After conceding a bad giveaway, the US center back found himself stride for stride with Jairo Jiménez. The Panamanian made a move in the box that looked to beat his defender. There was contact, with Jiménez ending up on the ground, but Cuban referee Marco Brea ruled the attacker dove and showed him a caution.
US head coach Thomas Rongen made two changes to the lineup that beat Suriname 4-0 on Tuesday. Sebastian Ibeagha started as Agbossoumonde's partner in central defense, with D.C. United's Perry Kitchen pushing up and replacing Philadelphia's Amobi Okugo in the midfield. Arreola saw his first time on the left wing. MLSers Omar Salgado and Moises Hernandez were both second-hald substitutes.
USA – Kelyn Rowe (Greg Garza), 13'
USA – Kelyn Rowe (Sebastian Lletget), 18
PAN – Jairo Jiminez (caution), 26'
PAN – Harold Cummings (caution), 67'
USA: Zac MacMath; Greg Garza, Gale Agbossoumonde, Sebastien Ibeagha, Zarek Valentin; Perry Kitchen (capt.), Sebastian Lletget (Moises Orozco, 66), Kelyn Rowe (Moises Hernandez, 77); Eder Arreola, Conor Doyle, Bobby Wood (Omar Salgado, 36)
Subs not used: 18-Cody Cropper , 12-Sacir Hot, 14-Amobi Okugo, 15-Korey Veeder
Panama: Kevin Melgar; Josué Flores, Jairo Jiménez, Josimar Gómez, Javier Caicedo (Gabriel Avila 34‘), Óscar Linton (Paul Cordero 33‘), José Pimentel (capt.) (Harold Cummings 60), Roberto Chen, Rolando Botello, Algish Dixon, José Diego Álvarez
Subs not used: 2-Edward Benítez, 5-Manuel Vargas, 9-Cecilio Waterman, 12-Adnihell Ariano
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.