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U-20 World Cup Recap: United States 3 - 0 Fiji
Despite a sloppy effort in the first sixty minutes, the US punch their ticket to the knockout stage of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup!
The United States Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team returned to action on Tuesday as they faced Fiji in their second Group Stage match of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Head coach Mikey Varas and his squad entered Tuesday’s contest on a high after Jonathan Gómez’s 92nd-minute goal propelled the United States to a 1-0 shutout over Ecuador in their Group Stage opener on May 20th.
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There were five changes from the lineup that defeated Ecuador as Chelsea’s Gaga Slonina returned in between the sticks. There were two changes on the backline as LA Galaxy’s Marcus Ferkranus and Orlando City’s Michael Halliday joined Philadelphia Union’s, Brandan Craig. There were also two changes in the midfield as Colorado Rapids’ Darren Yapi and New York Red Bulls’ Daniel Edelman joined Philadelphia Union’s Jack McGlynn and Real Sociedad’s Jonathan Gómez. There was one change in the attack as San Jose’s Cade Cowell joined Austin’s Owen Wolff and Philadelphia’s Quinn Sullivan.
The United States had a golden opportunity to net their first goal in the 20th minute as Quinn Sullivan earned the U.S. a free kick on the left flank after Thomas Dunn committed a foul. McGlynn attempted to put the free kick into the net, but Mustahib was all over McGlynn’s shot.
There were two changes by Mikey Varas at halftime as Real Salt Lake’s Diego Luna and San Jose’s Nico Tsakiris replaced Quinn Sullivan and Owen Wolff.
After numerous missed chances throughout the match, Luna capitalized in the 66th minute. It all started when Luna passed the ball into the box to Cowell. A Fiji defender stepped up to Cowell and stepped on the back of Cowell’s foot, which caused Cowell to fall to the pitch and lose possession of the ball. Despite the no-call by the referee, Luna quickly reacted to the situation as he ran onto the loose ball inside the box and curled a right-footed shot to the bottom-right corner of the goal to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead,
Cowell came close to notching a second goal for the U.S. in the 77th minute as he received Jonathan Gómez’s shot and attempted to find the bottom-left corner. Unfortunately, Cowell’s shot trailed too far to the left as it rolled out for a goal kick.
Tensions between both sides reached the tipping point in the 83rd minute after Mohammed Raheem’s foul on Caleb Wiley. Both sides began to jaw at one another as a contingent of players formed as light shoves exchanged. Luckily, things wouldn’t last long as the game continued.
Cowell made up for his earlier mistakes in the 88th minute as he drove into the box and cut to his right to evade the Fijian pressure. Cowell ripped a right-footed shot into the bottom-right corner to give the US a commanding 2-0 lead in the closing minutes.
Due to the numerous stoppages throughout the second half, officials added eleven minutes to the second half.
Cowell looked to add a second goal to his name in the first minute of stoppage time, but his right-footed shot was just a tad too high as it ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and down to the pitch. Unfortunately, the ball deflected in the opposite direction of the goal line as Mustahib scooped it up. Cowell again was denied a second goal in the third minute of stoppage time as his curling shot deflected off the right goal post and away from danger.
Brandan Craig looked to find the back of the net in the ninth minute of stoppage time as he sent a right-footed shot on goal. Mustahib made the save for Fiji but failed to hold onto the ball as it bounced freely inside the box. Wiley dashed through the cover and slotted a right-footed shot from close range to extend the United States’ lead to three.
Fiji looked to find a consolation goal in the tenth minute of stoppage time as Gualm Razool looked to send a right-footed shot to the bottom-right corner. Slonina was all over Razool’s shot as he stretched to make the save and keep the shutout alive.
Despite a lackluster performance through the first two-thirds of the contest, the United States cleaned it up in the final thirty minutes as a trio of goals from Luna, Cowell, and Wiley secured them a 3-0 shutout win to book their ticket to the knockout stage of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
The United States and Slovakia will battle for the number one spot in Group B as the duo faceoff in the Group Stage finale on Friday, May 26th, at 2:00 PM ET on FS2.