CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship: Group A Preview

Assuming the U-20 USWNT make it out of Group B in the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship (which is a very safe assumption), Group A will contain at least one knock-out stage opponent, and probably two. The two most likely knock-out stage opponents from Group A are Canada and Mexico. The other two teams in the group are Haiti and Jamaica.

Canada’s final 20-player roster is stacked with sixteen current NCAA Division 1 players, and all but one player (Diamond Simpson, who had officially committed to U. of Wisconsin in 2011, but has delayed her enrollment) are on either an American or Canadian university team. Twelve players have previous youth international tournament experience. The offensive player to watch on this squad is rising star Amelia Pietrangelo of Quebec, who plays for Rutgers in the States. She missed being on the U-17 squad in 2010 due to an injury, but has already been capped by Canada’s senior team. Last year, she started two matches and scored a goal during Canada’s gold medal run at the Pan-American Games, and nearly made Canada’s roster for Olympic qualification this year. Not to be left out is Conference-USA Offensive Player of the Year, Christabel Oduro, of Memphis, who had 16 goals and 7 assists in 24 matches last season. Two other U-20 players were also on Canada’s gold medal winning Pan-American Games squad: Vanessa Legault-Cordisco of Marquette, and Diamond Simpson.

Mexico’s U-20 side is also not lacking in either NCAA D1 players (at least ten) or players with senior international caps, including Mexico’s #1 goalkeeper, Cecilia Santiago, who started all three matches for El Tri at last year’s Women’s World Cup, as well as all four matches during the recent Olympic qualifying in Vancouver. Four other U-20 players saw action in Vancouver: Chrystal Martinez, Christina Murillo, Arianna Romero, and Bianca Sierra. Another senior veteran is seventeen year-old forward Tanya Samarzich, a 2013 verbal commitment for USC.

And, it appears that there have been U-20 camps since the last U-20 Women’s World Cup, including one last summer and one in January, based on Tanya Samarzich’s personal website.

Haiti is back in this tournament for the first time since the inaugural tournament back in 2002, when this was a U-19 competition. Haiti went undefeated in Caribbean qualifying including an “upset” 1-0 win over the final team in this group, Jamaica. Haiti did qualify for the U-17 championship in 2010 (memorable for the hug moment between the USA’s team and Haiti’s goalkeeper).

Jamaica (final roster) has several players with American connections, including Harvard-bound Alika Keene (Eustis, Florida; Florida Rush), as well as current NCAA D1 players Kimberly Spence (Lilburn, Georgia; Auburn), Chinyelu Asher (Silver Spring, Maryland; Purdue), and Shanynce Shaw (Southeastern Louisiana University; hometown is Ajax, Ontario, Canada). Also, Toriana Patterson (Yorktown, New York), who will play for the University of Georgia in 2012; and high schooler Marlo Sweatman (Northern Virginia, McLean Soccer Club). Three players are at American junior colleges: Carla Daniels (Butler Community College, Kansas; from Jamaica), Nugene Nugent (Navarro College, Texas; from Kingston), and  Sashagay Spence (Harcum College. Pennsylvania; from Jamaica).

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Today’s (March 1st) matches are Canada-Haiti and Mexico-Jamaica. Canada and Mexico should win their matches, but Haiti and Jamaica each will desperately need to get at least a draw to have any reasonable chance of making it to the knock-out stage.

All matches for the tournament will be streamed live via CONCACAF TVCONCACAF’s micro-site for the Championship has the tournament’s schedule along with very basic box scores and news articles.