U20 Match Report v. Slovakia
2023 World Cup
The United States completed their perfect group stage effort with a 2-0 win over Slovakia. The boys remained undefeated and record their third straight clean sheet — the only team in the tournament who has not allowed a single goal. Varas has this group playing incredibly disciplined and dynamic soccer, with many players going in to the knockout stage in very good form.
Tactics and run of play
The United States once again were the stronger team in the run of play with more possession, more dangerous chances created, fewer mistakes and an incredible ability to win the ball back when losing possession.
I thought this was the most balanced that the U20s have looked offensively and while they gave up more chances than they had in the last two games, none of them were great chances. Once again, the majority of the United States best chances came off of turnovers or in quick transition play.
Varas deployed the same 3-4-3 as the first game with Wynder, Craig and Che along the back. Wiley played wing-back on the left and Halliday played on the right. The double pivot was formed by Edelman and Vargas. The front line featured Cowell on the left-wing, Luna as a false nine and Wolff as a tucked in winger on the right.
Both teams looked to press high for a lot of the match, but Slovakia didn't get to set their press up too often. The United States press was effective and even when Slovakia broke pressure, the backline was solid. Slovakia's chances typically came from a winger cutting in or a pass to the top of the box that led to a well challenged shot.
I thought the United States were quite potent in transition offense and Cowell did an incredible job providing verticality. I also think Luna is starting to get a little better understanding of how he can be effective as a false nine. The United States were a little sloppy when building out of the back against Slovakia's press, at times, and I think it showed how much they rely on Jack McGlynn's ball security and passing precision.
This was a really complete, team performance. I didn't grade anyone with a poor performance. Che had a couple of poor turnovers working out of the press, but other than that, everyone was good to very good.
Cade Cowell (Man of the match)
Cowell was absolutely cruising in this one and opened up the game with the first goal. He was consistently stretching the backline and driving at defenders with consistent success. He was still a little rough in the final third and with his touches, but when he is creating that much danger, you can live with it.
Wolff was once again playing out of position as a right-wing, but I thought he has some really bright moments in build up. He showed great technique with his first touch and same touch passes that came off pretty well.
Wiley was not super involved in the attack, but he did have some nice transition initiating moments and he was very good defensively.
Wynder had a nice bounce back game after a tough first game. He was much more controlled defensively with no major mistakes and he was great in his duels. On the ball he was a little more progressive.
Craig continues to be an elite distributor for this team. He was continuously threatening Slovakia's backline with precise long balls.
This was the first game where Slonina was tested. He made a very nice outstretched save on a good strike from Slovakia and he showed better tempo with the ball at his feet.
Tsakiris continued to be a weapon off the bench and continued his positive tournament with his first goal where he showed great ball control and composure in front of goal.
The United States move through to the knockout rounds as the top seed from Group B. The United States will either play New Zealand from Group A or one of Nigeria, Italy or Brazil from Group D. New Zealand would be ideal from a level of competition standpoint, but it would also be very fun to see this team take on one of the teams from Group D.
The United States go into the knockouts in good health and good standing from a yellow card accumulation perspective and they also get two of their top players joining the team in wing/left-back Kevin Paredes from Wolfsburg and center-midfielder Rokas Pukstas from Hajduk Split.
The round of 16 game will be played on Tuesday, May 30th.