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

5 Takeaways from U.S. U20 Win vs. Fiji
by Victor Olorunfemi
May 24, 2023

With the win against Fiji, the U.S. secured their spot in the knockout stages for the fourth straight U20 World Cup. But while the final score may have read 3-0, there were some nervous feelings until the 66th-minute opener. Here are five takeaways from the game. 

Scoring May be an Issue 

The three-to-zero score line may have been more flattering than the actual performance. The U.S. was wasteful for large parts of the game until Luna’s breakthrough. That is a concerning trend considering what could happen in a game where the team isn’t able to take 31 shots. You have to feel for Darren Yapi, who received the start at striker, a golden opportunity to score and maybe earn more minutes, but left in the 75th minute having missed a handful of decent chances. Cade Cowell was not much better in front of goal as on another day he could have had a hattrick as opposed to the one he scored.  

Brandan Craig is a Key Asset 

Craig was outstanding again, shining as a center-back with impressive passing range and accuracy. It was also his strike from a free-kick that cannoned off the post for Caleb Wiley’s goal, rounding out a performance where he was near faultless. There will be clubs salivating at the opportunity of purchasing the 19-year-old who has only played one MLS game for the Philadelphia Union. If he continues to impress, the U.S. will have a good chance of advancing into the final eight. 

No Joking about Tactical Versatility 

Coach Mikey Varas mentioned in pre-tournament press conferences that his team’s tactical versatility would be one of their assets, and through two games, it is hard to disagree. Across 180 minutes, the team has seamlessly floated between a 3-4-3, 4-3-3, and 5-2-3. That kind of flexibility will be a handful for opposing coaching staff to gameplan for as we enter the knockout stages. 

Diego Luna is the Best Performer so Far 

There have been a few standout performers, such as Craig, Jonathan Gomez, Wiley, and Jack McGlynn. But, so far, Luna is the best. He was lively against Ecuador and then changed the game against Fiji when the team seemed out of ideas. His performances here, combined with increased influence at Real Salt Lake, make him one of the favorites to make a senior national team appearance soon. 

Potential Land Mines in Round-of-16

The good news is the U.S. is guaranteed a spot in the knockout round, but the bad news is there are some potential landmines. If they win Group B, they will face a third-place team from either Group A, C, or D, and after Brazil’s loss to Italy, there’s a chance the U.S. would be playing the South American U20 champions in the Round-of-16. That’s a bit of foreshadowing, but it is on the table. 

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