Written by Will Parchman

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Six. Zero.

That is not, as you might currently be thinking, a Top Gun callsign. It is, rather, the U.S.’s scoreline in its most lopsided U20 World Cup win in 24 years. The U.S. atomized New Zealand 6-0 on Thursday despite lacking four starters; three were suspended (Derrick Jones, Aaron Herrera and Cameron Carter-Vickers) and a fourth was lost for the tournament earlier in Gedion Zelalem. No matter. New Zealand looked lost in the vast craggy expanses of Mordor (sorry).

The U.S. managed six goals from six (!) different players en route to the win, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Venezuela in the process. In the meantime, revel in each of these six while New Zealand endures the Long Walk Home.

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Written by Will Parchman

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The balance of power between Zambia and Germany entering their U20 World Cup Round of 16 clash was perhaps a bit more even than it would seem on paper. Germany had struggled through much of the group stage, losing handily to Venezuela 2-0 before drawing with Mexico and hanging on for a 3-2 win against Vanuatu (I’ll wait while you Google Maps it) after holding a 3-0 lead into the second half.

Germany had to scrape through a playoff just to get here, which it barely did in penalties over the Netherlands. Zambia, meanwhile, won its first ever AFCON U20 championship earlier this year to qualify as the continental champion. Germany might’ve been favored to win their knockout match, but the margins were slimmer than slim.

Zambia didn’t much care about all that. This is what you might call a good game.

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Written by Will Parchman

xadas

This was supposed to be South Korea’s tournament. Portugal, ever the disruptor of tournaments at every level, did not see it that way.

The U20 World Cup in South Korea handed the hosts some legitimate (and obvious) benefits. The home-field advantage was nice, of course, but it also coincided with the best U20 team the country’s produced in years. Led by two Barcelona-reared midfielders, namely Lee Seung-woo who broke Leo Messi’s La Masia scoring records, South Korea charged through the knockouts in an extremely difficult group. They beat Argentina, notably, and finished second in group just a point behind England.

A Round of 16 matchup against Portugal seemed to severely favor the hosts. Portugal had been eminently mediocre in the group phase, losing to Zambia, drawing Costa Rica and trailing for much of the match against Iran before pulling out a late win thanks to an 86th-minute own goal. That own goal, it should be noted, is the only reason Portugal was even in the knockouts at all.

All Portugal did was flip the narrative on its head and trump favored South Korea 3-1.

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In praise of Tab Ramos

Written by Will Parchman

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Pragmatism in relation to youth soccer is barbed thing, sinking its hooks into popular opinion and leaving little ground for compromise. In one sense it is eminently sensical, a path in itself to developing similarly sensical soccer players. In another, it’s incomplete and limiting in its ability to develop truly transformative players for the next level.

Tab Ramos has lived in this confused middle distance for much of the last six years. He has worn none of the badges illuminated by those who believe so fervently development is as much about aesthetics, and what those aesthetics ultimately mean about the job you do as a developer of future talent, as it is about anything else. And yet he has other badges all his own, and even for hardened idealists like me, it’s beyond time to come around to their merits.

Tab Ramos has earned your praise.

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Written by Will Parchman

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The hound bedeviling Senegal’s every waking step was named Tyler Adams.

In more than a few ways, the U.S.’s experience at the U20 World Cup has been Josh Sargent’s to tell. The youngest player on the team, Sargent was with the U17 World Cup qualifying group two weeks ago, and his immediate promotion to the U20 team – and not just any team, but the World Cup team – was met with its share of heraldry. And rightfully so, it seems. Sargent has three goals in the U.S.’s first two games, seemingly rectifying its last great hurdle from qualifying in chance conversion.

Sargent has earned his attention – he’s been by definition a revelation – but he’s also entrenched in a glamor position given over to those sorts of prodigiously supplied headlines. One player who most certainly has not been afforded the same fawning adulation is Adams. And he deserves his shine perhaps more than anyone.

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Written by Will Parchman

imrs

Can’t keep a good man down.

Josh Sargent, as you’ve no doubt heard trumpeted from American soccer’s signal towers by now, has been on some sort of tear recently. Less than two weeks after finishing up with the U17 MNT at World Cup qualifying, Sargent scored a brace in the U.S.’s U20 World Cup opener in a 3-3 draw with Ecuador in South Korea. If Sargent, the youngest player on the team by six months, did nothing else the entire tournament his inclusion would’ve been considered a success.

He did something else. He scored again, in fact.

Sargent bagged the lone goal on Thursday to drop Senegal in a white-knuckle 1-0 affair on the second day of the group. The U20 World Cup’s knockout scheme is extremely favorable to third-place teams, meaning the U.S. more or less has its ticket for the knockouts already. They currently lead the group with four points from six, and they have their weakest opponent still to go in Saudi Arabia. If there was any fear of the U.S. not reaching the next phase, it more or less evaporated on Thursday.

Thanks to Sargent, of course. This goal was… Lewandowskish? Let’s go with Lewandowskish.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Gedion Zelalem’s career needed South Korea. He needed its spotlight, its form-molding games, its engendered comradery. In truth, Zelalem’s career has been a series of wayward, minor disappointments occasionally studded by mild triumphs too small to celebrate for more than a moment or two. A series of shaded shadows only occasionally punctuated by sunlight.

The U20 World Cup was going to change that, however slightly, and re-track Zelalem’s career in Europe. He had the all-important confidence of U.S. coach Tab Ramos, who started Zelalem at every opportunity at this tournament two years ago. He had the run of the midfield, where he was being asked to be the ticking metronome for literally the entire build. And he had the technical ability, which has had far too few opportunities to truly beam through the cloud cover at any substantive level.

After spending two successive seasons on loans from Arsenal in subpar second divisions, first at Rangers in Scotland and again at VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands, Zelalem’s 2017-18 club season likely hinged on his form in South Korea. It was, by literally any measure you used, a mammoth occasion for Zelalem in a way it was not for any of his teammates.

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Written by Will Parchman

woo

If Son Heung-Min’s done anything since first softly landing in Hamburg’s first team in 2010, it’s wake up the wider world to South Korea’s potential as a soccer nation. If he did anything in 2017, it’s beat us over the head practically to death with that knowledge.

Son’s 2016-17 with Tottenham was almost without peer. Two years after becoming the highest Asian transfer in history, Son broke the 20-goal barrier with Spurs en route to their second-place Premier League finish and a spot in the Champions League. On the way there, Son was as classy an operator as you were liable to find in the world’s most moneyed league, and amidst his performances the question lingered; are there more South Koreans like this coming up behind him?

The question, it seems, may well be yes.

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Written by Will Parchman

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I want you to think about where Josh Sargent was exactly 15 days before the Ecuadorian U20 team etched a line in the sand and Sargent kicked it back in their faces.

And, more specifically, who he was with.

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Written by Ben Levin

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With the U20 World Cup coming up later this month, and the games being broadcast on FS1, this is a great chance to get to know the potential U.S. Soccer stars of the future. This may be the most impressive U20 side ever, so we took the liberty to compare each of them with a top European player.

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