Last night new Seattle Sounders 2 signee Javorn Stevens’ Antigua and Barbuda matched up against Mexico in their opening match of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. It was the first competitive match Stevens has played in since signing with 2 and quite possibly the first he has played in that was easily viewable in the United States. It was not an ideal match to evaluate Stevens’ in as his national side were out of their depth a bit against Mexico, but there were still things to be learned.
First, Stevens has a big body and he uses it well. His hold up play was basically the only path Antigua had into the attack. He spent most of the 90 minutes isolated up top and showed the ability to bring long balls down with his head, chest and feet in traffic. Once he had the ball settled Stevens was able to keep his body squeezed between ball and defender for impressive amounts of time, though he did sometimes hang on to the ball too long. He mostly waited for teammates to pass the ball off to but on a couple of occasions he showed the ability to spin out of traffic and move the ball up the field on his own.
Stevens isn’t blazingly fast but he is quick enough to offer a threat in behind. Unfortunately he often chose to run the wrong channel against Mexico which Antigua and Barbuda could not afford in a match of so few chances.
Javorn used his first touch well to open up space for himself on several occasions, the most impressive of which was a little half turn at the top of the box in the 71’ that opened him up for a shot that was blocked by a last ditch tackle from Mexico. That was his only real look at goal though and there wasn’t a chance to evaluate his finishing or runs in the box in earnest.
Luckily Antigua’s two remaining group games feature the much more manageable Canadian and Honduran sides against whom the Antigua and Barbudan offense will have a better shot at establishing itself. This should allow a more thorough valuation of Stevens’ skills in more advanced positions.
Mexico leads Group A with three points and a +3 goal differential. Honduras also has a single win and +1 GD.
Group B action starts Feb. 18. The United States faces Panama at 3 PM Pacific. You can watch on CONCACAF’s Facebook page.
Group C play starts Feb. 19.