Running up the scoreline will be the name of the game on Tuesday night when the United States U-20 MYNT takes on Group B minnows Fiji in their bid to secure their spot in the knockout round of the World Cup.
Mikey Varas and his squad were able to pull off a narrow, last-gasp victory over Ecuador in their opening game on Saturday, thanks to a late screamer from Jonathan Gomez, with the result against the team expected to be their toughest opponent in the group relieving a significant amount of pressure.
They will still need to win, preferably with a lopsided scoreine, against Fiji in order to potentially already secure their spot in the final 16, however anything short of a convincing victory against the tournament minnows would be unthinkable.
Current Group B first-place team Slovakia set the target of goal differential in their opener against the Pacific island team, netting four times on their way to a shut-out win. If the Americans want to go into the final game secure that they hold the edge on claiming first place, they will need to do at least one better.
Depending on what happens in the other group game between Slovakia and Ecuador, the Stars and Stripes could already find themselves mathematically assured of a final 16 spot, or in pole position for winning the group.
Should both the United States and Slovakia win, Varas and his team are guaranteed of, at worst, a second place finish. A draw coupled with an American win will mean a draw in the finale will be enough to secure the group. An Ecuador win, however, will keep the top-three somewhat fluid heading into Thursday’s final round.
Still, the task at hand will be to dispatch of Fiji in a way that will pad their goal differential without inflicting too much trauma on their opponents. The team is led by globetrotting assistant coach Bobby Mimms, who has spent the 20 years prior to being appointed to the role as a goalkeeping coach at various clubs around the world.
The Fiji team itself is mostly stocked with domestic youth players, with a small handfull who ply their trade in neighboring New Zealand and Australia, or across the world in England.
Scottish-born defender Peter Ravai has spent portions of his young career in England and Germany, but is now in the setup of Fijian club Rewa FC. Midfielder Nabil Begg, who was only used as a sub in the first game, does already have a pair of caps with Fiji’s senior national team.
Considering the golden position of the Americans and the quality of their opposition, Varas will likely make some major changes to his starting eleven, with an eye on a deeper run through the knockout round.
With Joshua Wynder being the only American player with a yellow card, a protective move to the bench could be in order to ensure his availability against Slovakia. This could potentially lead to Justin Che’s move to the center, although to be fair, no lineup will come as too much of a surprise.
After being used as a sub in the opener, team captain Daniel Edelman is due for a start on Tuesday night, if anything to get the important midfielder into game-rhythm ahead of the expected run of more critical games.
Cade Cowell will also be available after missing the opener with a suspension, and it would be surprising if he is not on the field fro the opening whistle, leading the team’s attack.
The game kicks off at 3pm local time, 2pm Eastern US time on Tuesday in the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario.