USA’s run at the 2019 U20 World Cup came to an end on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to Ecuador in the quarterfinal round. Tim Weah scored the goal for USA. Jose Cifuentes and Jhon Espinoza tallied for Ecuador.
It was the end of a successful event in Poland for USA, which included a win over France in the Round of 16 and a victory over Nigeria in group play. Both remarkable considering the quality of soccer that USA played throughout the event and the absence of Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent from the roster (both were called into the full Men’s National Team).
Saturday’s battle against the South American champions exposed some of the weaknesses of this US group. The midfield struggled against the speed of play from Ecuador. None of the midfielders saw much of the ball in the first half, and they struggled to string together many passing sequences.
Ecuador scored the opener in the 30th minute through Jose Cifuentes. The Ecuador midfielder was gifted plenty of space 25 yards out from goal after both Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin took a step back from Cifentes. He buried his shot from distance past David Ochoa.
USA nearly answered immediately on a free kick from Mendez from 30 yards out, but his strike went inches wide of the post.
USA found the equalizer in the 36th minute. Mendez hit the corner kick that landed right in front of Tim Weah. The PSG forward volleyed it home to put the teams back on level footing.
Ecuador regained the lead through Jhon Espinoza. The scoring sequence started with a long range effort that clanged off the crossbar. The rebound fell kindly in the box for an Ecuador attacker who played it across the box for Espinoza for the sliding finish, which held up as the game-winner.
USA went into the break down 1-2. Tab Ramos tried to electrify the side in the second half with the introduction of Ulysses Llanez to the wing to replace Konrad de la Fuente.
Llanez had an immediate impact. He drew a corner kick and a free kick within five minutes of the second half. USA could not convert either chance into much of a scoring threat.
Llanez created the best chance of the second half for the equalizer. He received the ball at the top of the 18-yard box, he turned his defender and then played a perfect pass for Soto who perhaps took one extra touch and then missed the frame of the goal with his shot.
Ecuador peppered Ochoa’s goal in the second half. He came up with two key saves to keep it close, and he was happy to see the other shot hit off the crossbar.
USA exits the event in the quarterfinal round of the U20 World Cup for the third consecutive time. USA is the only team to appear in the quarterfinal round in each of the past three U20 World Cups. Ecuador moves onto the semifinal on Tuesday against the winner of Korea Republic-Senegal.
U.S. U20 MNT XI vs Ecuador: David Ochoa; Sergino Dest, Chris Richards, Aboubacar Keita, Chris Gloster; Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez, Paxton Pomykal; Konrad de la Fuente, Sebastian Soto, Tim Weah