U.S. U20 Dominate World Cup Round-of-16

U.S. U20 Dominate World Cup Round-of-16
by Victor Olorunfemi
May 30, 2023

The U.S. put together their most dominant performance of the U20 World Cup with a 4-0 Round-of-16 win over New Zealand. From winning possession 60-40 to a superior shot count of 22-3 and taking their chances, the team hardly poot a foot wrong. 

After a shaky start to the game, with New Zealand having a few chances through counters, Owen Wolff opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a long-range shot that the goalkeeper could have done better with. Wolff is earning a bit of a reputation as a long-range specialist, as his first career MLS goal came on another 25-yard effort for Austin FC in March.

The rest of the first half saw the U.S. inch towards a second goal, but a few disappointing balls in the final third kept that from happening. By this point, the New Zealand threat had all but dissipated, with two of their three shots all game coming in the opening eleven minutes. 

With no changes at the half, Mikey Varas signaled he was content with what he saw, and it paid off with a Cade Cowell goal in the 61st-minute opening the floodgates. After regaining possession through a well-timed press, the team recycled the ball through the front line as Diego Luna found Cowell just inside the 18, who did well to pick the lower opposite corner with his weaker left foot. 

Those same two had a hand in the third goal as they burst out to a lightning-quick counter with Luna shrugging off a defender, finding Cowell, who rounded the goalkeeper, finding Luna once again whose shot was blocked but Center-back Justin Che, who had out-sprinted everyone the length of the field, was there to finish the rebound in the six-yard box. It was all smiles as the defender’s gamble to join the counterattack paid off with his first U20 national team goal. 

The fourth and final goal would have been what coach Varas hoped for with one of two new additions to the camp, Rokas Pukstas, finding the back of the net on a header from a well-struck Brandan Craig free kick. That was within two minutes of Pukstas entering the fray, and he was joined by Kevin Paredes in the 84th minute, who had his moments of skill. 

More importantly, the win marks the fourth tournament in a row the U.S. advances to the quarterfinals of the U20 World Cup. You can catch that game at 5 p.m. EST on June 4th as the team will play Gambia or Uruguay. 

Gaga Slonina; Justin Che, Brandan Craig, Joshua Wynder; Jonathan Gomez, Jack McGlynn (Obed Vargas), Daniel Edelman, Caleb Wiley (Michael Halliday); Owen Wolff (Rokas Pukstas), Diego Luna (Niko Tsakiris), Cade Cowell (Kevin Paredes)

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