U.S. U-20s Get Off to Shaky Start at CONCACAF Championships, Narrowly Edging Haiti, 2-1

USu20s

They took an early lead, and they got significant contributions from their two biggest guns, Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and Santos Laguna striker Daniel Cuevas, but the U.S. U-20s raised more questions than they answered in their CONCACAF Championship opener yesterday in Puebla, Mexico.

After Gil and Cuevas gave the team a 2-0 lead within the first half hour, the Americans started to come unglued. They gave up a goal five minutes after the break and spent the remainder of the game on their heels trying to keep Haiti at bay.

They ultimately succeeded in doing that, but it was quite a ways away from convincing.

Click here for the highlights

The U.S. backline, which had several players playing out of position due to the absences of Walker Zimmerman, Will Packwood (both injured), and John Anthony Brooks (club commitment), was at sea for most of the second half. Not helping matters in that department was the midfield’s inability to keep the ball in the second session.

Tab Ramos’s boys have plenty of room for improvement, and if they do advance to this summer’s U-20 World Cup (June-July, in Turkey), they can only hope that players like Zimmerman and Packwood are back and ready to go, along with midfielder Mark Pelosi, a very talented player who had his leg broken in a Liverpool U-21 match this past Sunday.

As for Brooks, an athletic, six-foot-six defender who plays for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga2, he has appeared for the U.S. U-20s four times, but he holds citizenship in both the U.S. and Germany, and could commit to either side. He has participated in U-20 camps for Germany and appeared in one game for them in 2012.

The U.S. returns to action on Friday against Costa Rica (6:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

Haiti faces the Ticos tomorrow in a tough turn of the schedule for the island nation. If Haiti loses to Costa Rica in that match, they’ll be out and the U.S. will advance to the CONCACAF quarterfinals.

Jozy Altidore on the Haiti Disaster

Before we head into the weekend, we leave you with this clip of Hull City and U.S. national team striker Jozy Altidore talking to CNN about the earthquake in his parents’ homeland:

As we’ve said, Haiti, unfortunately, is one of the least-equipped nations on earth to absorb a disaster like this. There are countless ways to help, most of them accessible online.

This one right here is appropriate for all soccer fans out there. And you’ll get a cool shirt to boot. We just bought one. Take some time this weekend to do the same, or pitch in otherwise.

Haiti Earthquake Relief

The New York Red Bulls made a philanthropic visit to Haiti—homeland of former Red Bull star Jozy Altidore’s parents—in late 2006 and NYRB midfielder Seth Stammler came away so struck by the adverse conditions in the country and the spirit of its people that he started a charitable foundation focused on providing clean, drinkable water and improving the standard of living in the nation. It’s called the Sporting Chance Foundation, and you can read more about it here

You’ve certainly heard about the disastrous earthquake that struck Haiti last night, wreaking devastation on a country that was not well off to begin with. Here are just a few places where you can contribute to the relief effort:

American Red Cross —They have full-time staff on the ground in Haiti.

UNICEF—Their offices in Port au Prince were nearly destroyed, but they’re still involved in the relief effort.

Yele Haiti—The site—started by Wyclef Jean—appeared to be having problems when we checked, but you can text YELE to 501501 to donate.

Direct Relief International—They’ve already sent half a million dollars worth of food, medicine and supplies.