U20 World Cup Quarterfinal Match Report
The United States U20s lost to Uruguay two to zero and fail to advance past the quarterfinal for the fourth consecutive time at the U20 World Cup. Uruguay scored off of a goal by Anderson Duarte and an unfortunate own goal off of Joshua Wynder.
GK, Gaga Slonina, Chelsea
LCB, Joshua Wynder, Louisville City
CB, Brandan Craig, Philadelphia Union
RCB, Justin Che, FC Dallas
LWB, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United
CM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders
CM, Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union
RWB, Michael Halliday, Orlando City
LW, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes
CF, Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake
RW, Owen Wolff, Austin FC
Kevin Paredes for Owen Wolff (46')
Rokas Pukstas for Michael Halliday (55')
Daniel Edelman for Obed Vargas (55')
Quinn Sullivan for Caleb Wiley (69')
Jonathan Gomez for Joshua Wynder (69')
Run of play
The United States came out of the gates with confidence and precision and it looked like they had the ability to dictate the pace of the game. Early in the game, Caleb Wiley played a good early cross that was inches out in front of Michael Halliday who made an effort to run onto it at the far post. The first 15 minutes were all U.S.A. The ball was moving with intent and the touches were clean. The United States were breaking Uruguay's press with ease and United States press were forcing errant passes by the Uruguay backline.
The game was flipped on it's head in the 21st minute when Uruguay got their first goal. The sequence was initiated when Diego Luna tried to one touch a pass to Obed Vargas who was cutting up the channel in Uruguay's half. The ball was broken up and sprayed out to an Uruguayan midfielder. He took a heavy touch that Owen Wolff got a touch too, but it was deflected by that same Uruguayan player back to his own teammate. The left-back played a nice progressive ball to Uruguay's striker, who then played a beautiful one touch through ball to left-winger Juan Cruz de los Santos. Justin Che has been sucked up thinking he could gather a loose ball and he tried to recover and go in for slide tackle, but he was late and de los Santos had the space to draw defenders and cut the ball across to the front of goal and it was tapped in by Anderson Duarte. The position of the turnover and the inability to break up Uruguay's transition meant that the midfield was caught up field and not able to make it back to protect the cutback zones. One to zero and the United States completely lost their mojo.
Uruguay made a shift in how they were pressing the United States and how they broke the United States press. They started finding tons of space behind our midfielders and started to control the game. The United States never really grabbed the game back before half.
The United States looked better in the second half and started to take back control of the ball, but the game was once again deflated when what seemed like a harmless cross was played into the box. Josh Wynder went to ground to clear it out, but got it all wrong and the ball trickled beyond Gaga Slonina's outstretched arms into the back of the net. Two to zero Uruguay and it never felt like the United States could get two goals.
The United States threw numbers forward, made very offensive minded subs, but they just couldn't break down the Uruguay's secure low block. The U.S. had some decent chances off of set plays, but they just could not get that first goal to put pressure on Uruguay. In the end, the more mature team won. The team that made a couple critical mistakes in crucial moments, lost.
In knockout tournaments, wins and losses often come down to mistakes and game breaking performances. The United States made mistakes and did not get a game breaking performance.
In reflection, this group gave us a lot of fun moments and exciting soccer. They didn't take the next step that fans and the federation were hoping for, but there are players that are likely going to impact the senior national team at some point in their career and that is what is most important.
LB, Caleb Wiley
Wiley's service wasn't always great, but he got into as many dangerous positions as anyone for the United States and his defense was also solid.
DM, Obed Vargas
Vargas showed maturity on the ball and good discipline in one on one defensive situations.
WING, Cade Cowell
Cowell started off slow but became more involved in the game in the second half. He had a couple good shots on goal, one looked like it was heading for the back of the net but Rokas Pukstas could not get out of the way of the ball.
WING, Kevin Paredes
Paredes came in and showed some creativity and bravery on the ball, displaying the ability to beat defenders one on one.
For most of the kids, the next opportunity to put on a United States shirt will be at the U23 level as the United States begins preparing for the 2024 Olympics. That level has not yet been established and does not have a manager. It's safe to assume that U.S. Soccer was waiting to spin that group up now that the U20 World Cup is over for the United States.
Obed Vargas, Joshua Wynder and Niko Tsakiris will be eligible for the next U20 World Cup in 2025. Whether they graduate from this level before then remains to be seen. The 2005 age group will likely begin preparation for the next cycle this fall. There first big milestone will be the U20 Concacaf Championships in 2024.
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This was the first time I have seen a U.S. Youth National Team deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation in a long time. It looked something like:
GK, Zack Campagnolo, Orlando City
LB, Jeremiah White, Philadelphia Union
LCB, Nicholas de Almeida, Inter Miami
RCB, Neil Pierre, Philadelphia Union (captain)
RB, Joshua Santiago, LAFC
CM, Ervin Torres Jr, Austin FC
CM, Adyn Torres, Atlanta United
AM, Axel Perez, Lyon
LW, Maximo Carrizo, NYCFC
RW, Bryce Outman, FC Dallas
CF, Sam Petrie, Barca AZ
The manager, Michael Nsien, made five(!) subs at half and two more later in the half, including:
LB, Christian McFarlane, NYCFC
RB, Drew Baiera, NYCFC
CM, Stiven Jimenez, FC Cincinnati
LW, Nimfasha Berchimas, Charlotte FC
CF, Noah Santos, Portland Timbers
RW, Jonny Shore, NYCFC
Run of play
Other than a five to ten minute stretch in the first half, it was dominated by Netherlands. The United States struggled mightily to break the Netherlands press and showed very little understanding and cohesion for how they should break the press. Passes were forced, inaccurate and mistakes were countless. It felt like the team was in scramble mode for 70% of the first half. Thanks to some outstanding goal keeping by Campagnolo, the U.S. only went into the half down 2-0. There were not much in the way of bright spots aside from a few nice moments from Axel Perez.
Nsien made five subs at half and it definitely sparked a change in tone. The team looked a little more cohesive in connecting passes and a little more physical. Berchimas was immediately dangerous off of the left wing and the front four of Berchimas, Perez, Santos and Shore looked more threatening. Berchimas missed two very good chances in the second half, setup Shore for a decent chance and Perez and Pierre both went off of the post. If one of the earlier chances had been converted, the game could have gotten more interesting. Instead, the U.S. ran out of gas around the 70th minute and the game got ugly with little help from the referees. Netherlands sealed it late with a third and the game was over at that point.