Caleb Wiley
photo: IMAGO / Xinhua

U-20 FIFA World Cup As It Happened: USA 0 – 2 Uruguay

8 minutes, 9 seconds Read

The United States lost to Uruguay 2-0, sustaining little coherent attacking possession and giving up two ugly goals. We take a closer look at how it all went down, the context of some of the key plays within the flow of the game, and what it means for the team going forward.

In the 21st minute, Anderson Duarte gave the game its first goal, and Josh Wynder’s own-goal early in the second half sealed the CONCACAF champs’ fate.

Let’s take a look at how the game went for Mikey Varas and his team, as it happened:

Team USA (3-4-3): 1. Gabriel Slonina (GK) — 17. Justin Che, 5. Brandan Craig, 4. Joshua Wynder (Jonathan Gomez, 69′) — 2. Michael Halliday (Rokas Pukštas, 55′), 18. Obed Vargas (Daniel Edelman, 55′), 10. Diego Luna, 8. Jack McGlynn, 3. Caleb Wiley (Quinn Sullivan, 69′) — 16. Owen Wolff (Kevin Paredes, 46′), 9. Cade Cowell.

For tonight’s game, Gaga Slonina wears the armband as regular captain, Daniel Edelman, is named on the bench for the second time in five games.

The match kicks off in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, and the United States already sees an early opportunity vanish; a cross from the left wing somehow manages to go past the Uruguayan defender, who completely flubs a clearance, and it almost finds Michael Halliday at the far post.

Still, the Orlando City player stretches for it, and it just eludes him.

It’s all Team USA in the opening five minutes; Halliday had a chance to score on the break for the United States, but the Uruguayan defense managed to recover and dislodge the American full-back. A follow-up is subsequently pushed over the bar by Justin Che.

The game’s first truly frightening situation for Uruguay arises in the 14th minute, but Slonina is on hand to stop the South Americans. He makes a routine save on a volley from the same side at a tight angle after stretching out fully to deflect a cross from the left.

Despite the early threat from Varas’ men, Anderson Duarte scores for Uruguay in the 21st minute. The United States defense has one of its rare nightmare moments as the South Americans take the lead.

With no one in the back of him, Che utterly botches a last-ditch tackle, allowing Chagas to cut for Duarte in front of the goal.

The US just let in their first goal of the tournament, so they will now have to try to win the game! Che’s missed tackle is a flagrant error that forced Josh Wynder to leave Duarte uncontested in the center, and no American midfielder arrived to help cover.

Since scoring, Uruguay has been the superior team, and the Americans are under considerable pressure. The US defense must prevent another counterattack to stop the buildup and give up a corner.

Another Uruguay buildup along the left wing in minute 33 is avoided by the United States, who then get a goal kick, but of course lose it right away in midfield. The US cannot control possession, and Uruguay keeps the ball in midfield until they locate a vertical runner or a wide player making a move.

Edelman’s absence is currently noticeable, as he was a stabilizing force in the games in which he started. As it is right now, the US midfield cannot produce anything. Thus Varas may, and should consider inserting his captain at halftime. Only on balls over the top have they led to any good movements.

Ever since going down, the United States has been acting uncharacteristically, compared to the first 360 minutes of this tournament. They have been inferior since their promising start through the first ten minutes. It is also their first time conceding a goal, so this is new territory they heading into.

Uruguay has looked so comfortable in possession; it’s like a hot knife against butter.

However, the United States do get the last, big chance of the half; but Randall Rodriguez, the goalkeeper for Uruguay, somehow saw that coming and jumped on it right away. Jack McGlynn suddenly appears in the penalty area and meets a corner, producing an utterly audacious back-heel that surprises everyone. However, Rodriguez seemed to have peered a few moments into the future, and had other plans for that impressive effort aimed at the inside of the far post. The ref blows for halftime shortly after and Varas has got some work to do.

Halftime thoughts:

After being thoroughly outplayed by Uruguay in the first half, the United States will be relieved to be down by just one goal. On both ends of the field, the Americans made several unusual errors, including the one goal scored by Duarte. The Uruguayan press made it difficult for the Americans to play out from the back, something they weren’t tested on very heavily so far in this tournament.

Overall, the US will still consider this match very much in their favor due to the small deficit, but Varas will need to make adjustments at halftime, given how little of an impact his team had. Kevin Paredes and Edelman both might be candidates to come off the bench.

Second half kicks off:

As anticipated, the Americans will substitute at halftime, with Paredes taking Owen Wolff’s place in the attack. This is an improvement over the first 45 minutes when Wolff struggled mightily in advanced roles and took too long with the ball. Whatever happens in the second half, expect Edelman also to show up soon.

After the Americans immediately demonstrate their intent to attack, Cade Cowell is awarded a free kick from about 27 yards shaded to the left. In an intriguing drill on the practice field, the Americans have Cowell catch the ball with an audacious flick while leaping and catching it with his left foot behind his back. However, the ball harmlessly soars over the bar. That was a lot of show for no real outcome.

Diego Luna receives the ball with a clear shot at goal for the United States in minute 54, but he cannot control it properly, and Uruguay recovers. Edelman and Rokas Pukštas are two more adjustments Varas is ready to make to the midfield. They take the place of Obed Vargas and Halliday.

Moments later, and the team’s worse fear comes alight as they concede a second; this time, it’s Wynder who puts it in his own net, and the States suddenly have a huge task at hand to score two, or else they’re going to be sent packing.

With no attackers from Uruguay arriving in the middle, a cross from the left was not intended to meet any of them, but Wynder didn’t appear to know this as he slid to clear the cross. He mishits the clearance horribly, and the ball flies past Slonina and into the goal. The keeper managed to barely touch the slow roller, but it was insufficient to deflect it to safety.

The United States understandably shifts gears and finally begins to ask Uruguay’s backline some questions, with Cowell starting to show his dangerous side again. But Rodriguez blocks his shot! The Uruguayan keeper was able to use his body to fill the shooting space because of the extremely tight angle, but Cowell lifted the ball well and forced the Uruguay goalkeeper to make a deft stop.

Uruguay almost finds a gap in the 73rd minute, but Che stops Nicolas Siri in his tracks with a superb one-on-one tackle. Che was initially defeated by Siri, but rallied and made a vital tackle without fouling. Although it was correctly waived away by the referee, Uruguay wanted a penalty.

Moments later, Uruguay breaks free on the counter, but Che marks Juan Cruz de los Santos and prevents him from firing while the rest of the defense catches up. This is another outstanding defensive play from the 19 year old, which bodes well for his future with the national team and where he ends up next on the professional level (his loan with Hoffenheim ends in a few days).

The United States should cut the deficit outside of the match’s final ten minutes to avoid a last-minute scramble for two goals on tired legs. Cowell receives a US free-kick delivery that is not cleared and lands inside the penalty area. Cowell cuts to his right and shoots while aiming for the top corner, but his shot instead strikes Pukstas, his own teammate.

Then the South Americans nearly seal the American fate; the final nail in the coffin was so close. Mathias de Ritis, a substitute, uses a cut inside onto his right to dislodge Che. He then unleashes a vicious low effort that flashes just wide left, evading Slonina even if it had been on target.

The fourth official signals the start of eight minutes of stoppage time, giving the United States’ need for two goals a boost. That, however, wasn’t the case and they never even looked close to cutting the deficit in added time.

FINAL: USA 0-2 Uruguay

The United States’ strengths from the first four games of this U-20 World Cup collapsed at once, allowing Uruguay to earn a spot in the semifinals; they will face high-flying Israel as they took down Brazil.

As a result of the attack being stifled, the midfield being engulfed, and the defense making careless errors, Uruguay was able to win with relative ease. The US created very few truly dangerous chances up front, and despite showing urgency as the game came to a close, they collectively failed to produce a true flash of brilliance or influence that would have allowed them to get back into the game.

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Abdul Abdullahi

University Student from Ohio. Massive soccer/football fan and love talking about the beautiful game. Covering anything Chelsea FC and Americans at home and abroad. At the start of his long journey taking one step at a time.

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