U20 Match Preview v. Slovakia
2023 World Cup
The United States U20s conclude the group stage against Slovakia and there is surprisingly a lot on the line. Slovakia likely need a result to ensure that they make it through to the knockout rounds. The United States are officially through to the knockout round, but could still finish third in the group on goal differential.
A U.S. win gives them a perfect group stage with 9 points. A tie ensures a first place finish in the group. A loss and an Ecuador win over Fiji could put the United States in third on goal differential. A result is very important because it likely secures an easier round of 16 opponent.
The game is on Friday, May 26th at 2pm EST and will be broadcasted on Fox Soccer Plus.
Slovakia qualified for the U20 World Cup through the U19 European Championships in June of 2022. Slovakia were the last European team to qualify for the World Cup by beating Austria 1-0 in the fifth place game of the U19 European Championships. They made it to the fifth place game by finishing third in their group. In that group they lost 5-0 to France and 1-0 to Italy and beating Romania 1-0. That win against Romania got them into the fifth place game against Austria.
On the whole, Slovakia have not beat anyone of real note, aside from their win against Austria. 19 of their 21 players play in their domestic leagues. Leo Sauer, their youngest and likely most talented player, is one of the two players that play outside of Slovakia. Sauer is a winger that plays for Feyenoord's U21s who scored six goals and added four assists across competitions for Feyenoord U21s.
Slovakia have deployed a 4-3-3 attacking shape in their two games thus far. They deployed more of a 4-2-3-1 in European Qualifiers. Their starting eleven has seen very little rotation in the first two games, with only one change from their first game to their second. Their leading goal scorer in the tournament is a midfielder Mate Szolgai.
U.S. lineup and tactics
I'd expect Slovakia to be a little more aggressive with their line of confrontation than Ecuador was, but I still expect the U.S. to dominate possession and look to press Slovakia when Slovakia has possession in their own third.
I expect Varas to stick with his traditional 4-3-3 and not go back to the 3-4-3 / 5-3-2 we saw against Ecuador. I think that formation was a product of not having a lot of attackers at his disposal.
It is not in this team's nature to play not to lose. I think they will be responsible in how they throw numbers forward knowing they only need a tie to win the group, but I still expect Varas to deploy an attack minded lineup and mindset.
From a personnel standpoint, Varas does have some interesting decisions to make. Quinn Sullivan, Owen Wolff, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig and Jonathan Gomez have started both games thus far and I do think freshness is an advantage the U.S. will have over Slovakia. The question is, how far does Varas lean into that advantage and does he rotate again?
The big decisions for me are: Yapi or Luna at center-forward? If Yapi, do you deploy Luna out wide or in the midfield? Do you give either Wolff or McGlynn a start off? Edelman or Vargas? Who do you pair with Craig? Who do you start at right-back? It's actually quite a bit to think about. Here is what I'd do:
I think Slovakia is going to go for it and leave themselves exposed at times. I think the United States defense will be responsible enough and Slonina may need to come up with a couple of key saves. The U.S. finish a perfect group stage with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia.
U20 v. Fiji Recap
Tactics and top performances from the United States' 3-0 victory over Fiji.READ HERE