5 Takeaways from U.S. U20 Win vs. Ecuador

5 Takeaways from U.S. U20 Win vs. Ecuador
by Victor Olorunfemi
May 22, 2023

The U.S. U20 Men’s National Team opened their World Cup campaign with a stoppage-time winner by Johnathan Gomez. The goal concluded what felt like a deserved 1-0 result as the team generated multiple quality chances in a game you could argue they dominated. Here are five takeaways from the Ecuador match.

1. 3-4-3 A welcome twist

Mikey Varas threw a bit of a surprising line-up out for the game, lining up in a 3-4-3, as opposed to the 4-3-3 many expected. In particular, the ball-playing qualities of the three centerbacks stood out pleasantly, with Justin Che, Joshua Wynder, and Brandan Craig all having multiple outstanding moments of line-breaking passes. The shape then converted to a 5-2-3 defensively, which gave Ecuador plenty of fits through the 90 minutes.

2. Youth National Team Pool at High Level

Despite missing several stars they would have liked to have brought, such as Paxten Aaronson, the U20 Concacaf Tournament top scorer and MVP, the team still has plenty of talented players who did well against a challenging Ecuador team. You could argue this is the deepest a youth national team playing pool has been, thanks to the variety of ways players are developing in the country. You have Caleb Wiley from Atlanta United’s MLS academy, Che, who moved to Europe at 17, and Wynder, an 18-year-old from Louisville City’s USL academy. Those are just a few examples of the variety in development.

3. Diego Luna and Jonathan Gomez, Best of a Good Bunch

Outside of scoring a clutch goal from a half volley outside the 18, Gomez had an impactful game. Particularly in a wing-back role where he was excellent in the attack but also contributed immensely to slowing Ecuador’s star player and gem, Nilson Angulo. Luna also showed extended moments of real quality, particularly in chance creation and 1-on-1 dribbling.

4. Obed Vargas is still a Quality Prospect

A few unfortunate injuries have kept Vargas out for the better part of the last year after making his MLS debut as a 15-year-old in 2021. And only just returning to the Seattle Sounders' first team before his call-up, there were some questions about how the injuries may have affected his development. Vargas was excellent against Ecuador, putting in a box-to-box performance before his 71st-minute substitution. In the first half alone, there was a stretch where he almost scored a goal after making a deep run in midfield, then minutes later, made a last-ditch goal-line clearance to keep the game at 0-0. Performances like this will have him firmly back on the radar as one of the best prospects in U.S. soccer, if not the world.

5. Knockout Stages all but Guaranteed

With this win and a game against an overmatched Fiji squad, the U.S. is practically guaranteed to advance to the next round and could have it wrapped up by the time they play Slovakia on Friday.

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