The US U-20’s punched their ticket to the Knockout rounds of the Under-20 World Cup by beating Qatar 1-0 in their last match in the group stages. It was a tale of two very different halves; here’s a look back at all the action.
The US rolled out a different looking lineup than the past few games. Their future at the U-20 World Cup was up in the air, and their lineup and subsequent play showed that.
Starters and used subs: David Ochoa; Mark McKenzie (capt.), Chris Richards, Aboubacar Keita, Chris Gloster (Matthew Real, 90+2); Brandon Servania (Richard Ledezma, 84), Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez; Konrad de la Fuente (Ulysses Llanez, 63), Sebastian Soto, Tim Weah
Substitutes not used: Brady Scott, CJ Dos Santos, Sergiño Dest, Julian Araujo, Paxton Pomykal, Edwin Cerrillo, Justin Rennicks
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
Head Coach Tab Ramos elected to go ultra defensive against a Qatar side that was not showing well in their first few World Cup matches. This was likely to stifle Qatar’s tendency to rely on the counter attack. Three center backs played in a back four, with Captain Mark McKenzie playing right back. The US Midfield was missing a playmaker as Durkin and Servania sat deeper, pushing Mendez to move further up the pitch to provide offense. The defensive lineup, did not help the US start the 1st half well.
As Brian Sciaretta said, the US were not great in the first half. They seemed like they were playing scared. The team was disjointed, and couldn’t pass the ball like they were able to do in their first two matches. Touches seemed heavy, putting players off, and the inability to string more than two passes together gave Qatar chances to counter.
The Qatari’s were close to going in front in the first half, but lacked the finishing touch. However as the minutes ticked on the US grew more and more worried that their World Cup could be close to over should they not get a win. As the game transitioned to the second half, the US were not playing scared anymore.
The US U-20’s seemed to be playing angry in the second half. They were more committed to winning the ball back quickly when they gave up possession. This was a boost for the US, as they mitigated Qatar’s chances at a counter attack. However, it looked to be detrimental as well. Midfielders Durkin and Mendez picked up yellow cards, which means they will miss the next match the US played in. In their defense they did not know that there would be a next match for this US side, that is until the 76th minute.
The US started an attack, but like many before it in this match it fizzled out when the attack reached Qatar’s box. A failed Qatari clearance meant Alex Mendez could pounce on the ball. He won a challange and poked the ball toward Tim Weah. With a cheeky bit of skill Weah used his first touch to meg a Qatari Defender to put the ball on his dominant foot inside Qatar’s box. He then cleanly slotted a shot past the onrushing keeper to give the US the lead.
In the last 14 the US continued to control the game, and held on to the lead to win the game 1-0!
The US U-20’s finished their group play at Poland 2019 as the runners up in Group D. They move on to the knockout rounds where they knew they would likely play a strong France side. France and Mali battled it out for the top spot in Group E, France won the match 3-2 ensuring they would play USA in the round of 16.
The US U-20’s will have their hands full with France on June 4th. The US have made it a habit to at least make the quarter finals of this tournament over the last few years. In 2019 they will have to get through a tournament favorite to do so.
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Mandatory Credit: Sergei Grits – AP
Philadelphia Union writer.
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.