The USA U20s have been one of, if not the best team at the current World Cup. Over three group games and one knockout match so far, the USA has won all four matches scoring 10 goals and conceding none. The extraordinary run sees the team make their fourth consecutive quarterfinals. Now they look to keep their perfect streak going against an Uruguay side with the chance to be only the second US side to the semifinals of the U20 World Cup.
US U20s vs Uruguay U20s
The USA has the look of a very strong team at this U20 tournament. This group of players has shown over the past few years that they mean business. After last year’s success at the Concacf Championship, they qualified for this U20 World Cup, and also the 2024 Olympics. That second feat is bigger than you might think as the last Olympics that US Men’s soccer qualified for was in 2008. This group is full of hungry ballers, some of which aren’t even with the team.
As many from Philly know, Paxten Aaronson was the leading scorer and best player from last year’s Concacaf championship. He is not with this side at the World Cup, as his club Eintracht Frankfurt wanted him to stay in Germany for the DFB Pokal Final. Others who were not with this squad, Kevin Paredes and Rokas Pukstas joined up with the U20s for the start of the knockout rounds. They add some quality depth to this already stacked USA side.
The US attack has been flying thanks to Cade Cowell who has a team-leading three goals, and Diego Luna with a team-leading three assists. The team itself has eight different goal scorers including Cowell (Caleb Wiley, Jonathan Gomez, Justin Che, Diego Luna, Owen Wolff, Niko Tsakiris, and Rokas Pukstas). The attack is flying high but so is the defense.
A Tournament winning defense
The United States is the only nation at this World Cup that has not conceded through four matches played. Their defense has been top-notch thanks to goalkeeper Gaga Slonnina, and defenders Caleb Wiley, Brandan Craig, Josh Wynder, and Jonathan Gomez. These five along with spot starts and substitute appearances from defenders Justin Che, Michael Halliday, and Marcus Ferkranus have led to the US having the best defensive team at the tournament.
The Cliche, defense wins championships is overused in sports, but it’s also undeniably true. A stout defense can help a team go a far way, especially in a tournament format. The US U20s have just that, a stout defense. Can it lead them to glory at this World Cup?
It has so far, and looking forward it could be the thing that makes the USA champions of the World at the U20 level. The USA take on Uruguay in the quarterfinals, a good team, but one the USA defense should be to stifle and overcome. Waiting in the semifinal round is an Isreal side that has overcome extraordinary odds to beat Brazil. Should the USA be able to make the final they’d take on one of three strong sides: Italy, South Korea, or Nigeria. First things first this great defense need to get the job done against Uruguay today!
The semifinals beckon
Uruguay is no pushover. They finished second in Group E, winning three matches and losing one. Their attack is potent scoring eight in four matches, but their defense has proven to be a bit leaky against a team that looks to pounce on any chance they get. Uruguay’s lone loss came against England in the group stage. The 3-2 loss was a heartbreaker for their hopes of topping their group. Now they meet a relentless US U20s.
The best quality of this USA side has been their relentless nature. They are quick to make their opponents uncomfortable, whether they have the ball or not. This quality has led to their +10 goal differential and perfect defense. Can they make history as just the second team to make the U20 semifinals?
The last USA team to make it to the U20 semifinals was a team led by US Soccer legend goalkeeper Kacey Keller. US soccer was in shambles back in 1989, and this team’s run to a semifinal spurred subsequent senior national teams to make it back to the World Cup, starting a run that spanned all the way to 2018. Can this current group make even more history; winning a U20 World Cup and then pushing the senior squad to follow suit in three years’ time when they host the World Cup?
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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire