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Under-20 World Cup

U.S. U-20s 1, Senegal 0: The SBI Breakdown

Following an up-and-down draw with Ecuador in their opener, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team took care of business on Thursday. It was a game that featured nervy moments, albeit much fewer than in Monday’s draw, but it was also a game that demonstrated just how good the Americans can be when healthy.

The U.S isn’t quite through to the knockout stage yet, but Thursday’s win over Senegal put them on the precipice of a spot in the Round of 16. There’s still work to be done but, all things considered, the U.S. is in a pretty good spot.

It was a game headlined by several standouts, including the team’s youngest player, Josh Sargent. The forward scored the game’s lone goal, firing the U.S. to a win with his third in two games. He wasn’t the only standout, though, as several scattered throughout the team turned in impressive performances.

With that in mind, here’s a look at several takeaways from Thursday’s match:

SARGENT STARS

It’s not exactly breaking news anymore. Josh Sargent is, in fact, very good. We knew it in April and we know it now. But, even with that in mind, it’s impossible to understate just how good he’s been.

Sargent scored yet another goal on Thursday, and it was a game-winner. It was a well taken finish, headlined by a spectacular turn and left-footed finish. Sargent has proven he can score in a variety of ways, and Thursday’s finish was just another moment for the highlight reel.

Even so, it wasn’t just the goal. It was the hold up play, which opened the door for his teammates. It was the work rate as he pressed throughout the 90 minutes he was on the field. It was the intelligence on when and where to push. Perhaps most importantly, it was the composure as the young forward wasn’t drawn into Senegal’s late-game agitation attempts.

His maturity is something special, just like his talent. Thursday was yet another of example of his scoring ability while also illustrating the 17-year-old forward offers much, much more than just finishes in front of net.

RETURN OF CARTER-VICKERS SPURS IMPROVED BACKLINE

In Monday’s World Cup opener, the U.S. defense was disjointed, especially early on the U.S. backline lacked composure, allowing two early goals.

The return of one of the team’s biggest stars certainly helped as Cameron Carter-Vickers served as one of several anchors in a dominant performance.

Carter-Vickers proved exactly the right fit for a team that needed him. He was strong and resolute throughout in leading the American backline. Paired with a familiar face in Erik Palmer-Brown, Carter-Vickers showed just how important he can be now that his health is in check.

It wasn’t just the Tottenham product, though. Palmer-Brown didn’t put a foot wrong all game and the two fullbacks, Aaron Herrera and Danny Acosta looked much improved. You can also add in Justen Glad, who stepped back onto the field for a late cameo.

It’s the defense many envisioned when the roster was released and, now healthy, the unit looks to be in a very good place.

ADAMS THE DESTROYER

Gedion Zelalem’s injury left a major hole in the midfield and, while Tyler Adams may not be the player filling that hole, he certainly stepped up as a leader on Thursday.

Adams was all over the place on Thursday. He was everywhere all at once. It’s a common bit of praiseĀ for a box-to-box midfielder, but Adams earned every bit of it. Defensively, he was always in the right spot. On the attack, he was frequently involved. Somehow, Adams always seemed to be in the right place.

While his defensive efforts served as his primary contribution, his hockey assist on the game’s lone goal was deserving of praise. His flick to Luca de la Torre was masterful, kicking the door open for Sargent to score the winner.

Late in the game, it was his leadership that shined through. With Senegal players hovering over a downed Sargent, Adams was the first to rush in, standing up for his younger teammate and setting a tone that the U.S. would not be bullied late.

He wasn’t the only midfielder to star. De la Torre provided the assist on an otherwise quiet night while Derrick Jones was an absolute rock. Adams, though, was the best of the bunch, and the best U.S. player on the field on Thursday.

TALE OF TWO HALVES

For as good as the U.S. was on Thursday, there were still concerns, especially in a second half where Senegal was the aggressor. It’s understandable. Senegal was pushing and the U.S. was clearly content to protect a lead.

Even so, there were negatives. Jonathan Klinsmann, fresh off a rocky performance, was once again a bit off. His distribution was never quite on point although he remained relatively untested outside of a few late chances. It wasn’t fully confidence-inspiring, but not quite awful given the lack of Senegal shots on goal.

Overall, the U.S. was just slightly reactive through the second half which is, once again, understandable, but still not ideal nonetheless. There was very little created late and the U.S. struggled to maintain much of the ball through the game’s final 25 minutes. It set up a nervy end, one that could have been made a hell of a lot nervier if Senegal kept their composure.

The U.S. needed a second goal, but never really looked like they’d get one. As the tournament wears on, they won’t be able to simply sit on one-goal leads and they’ll need to be a bit crisper if they hope to turn Thursday’s win into momentum for a long run.

6 comments
  • Bill Minarik

    If the U. S. continues to play at that level, they will be able to play with anyone in the tournament.
    I agree with the announcer that there is a BIG difference between this years version of the USA U-20 Team and the last version. Not sure why. I would think it either had to be the quality of available players or the coaches simply picked the wrong people. The Head Coach is the same. Tab Ramos has been around long enough with this age group to be able to put together a winner with the right people. The next piece of business is to not to underestimate Saudi Arabia as Ecuador did and lose despite out-playing your opponent 4-1. The difference in your opponent, in the first knock-out round, going in as a first place team, is HUGE. The U. S. will need that under their belt going forward to be able get their game on track for the tournament’s top guns. The only downside of today’s play was some USA giveaways in their own end. They were able to cover their tracks,
    but if you do that enough, sooner or later those mistakes will hit the scoreboard.

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    • johnnyrazor

      The US will know exactly what they need as they are the last group to play in the first round. Finishing 1st or 2nd will also give them an extra day of rest and be playing in Incheon where they have played their first two matches.

      Loss and advance as third place squad (really just avoid blowout) Uruguay or Zambia (if they advanced past Zambia, they would likely face the favorites France in the quarters)

      Draw and Ecuador or Senegal win (2nd place finish) Mexico, Germany, or Venezuela (likely quarter match up with England or hosts South Korea)

      WIn or draw and Ecuador/Senegal draw (1st Place) New Zealand or Vietnam (quarters likely against Venezuela or Mexico)

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  • Gary Page

    What I think is most impressive is how many of our best players are missing and yet we are still leading our group. One of the commentators counted 5 and I think he left one or two out.

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  • I scored three goals in one game

    A big thing I noticed in the last 15 to 20 mins is that the US had trouble keeping possession and gave up the ball to much, I know they were bunkering in but against a better team that would have been big trouble. Not having Zelalem or someone like him to hold possession is going to hurt. Could have been tired legs, who knows but that could get exposed. With only needing a point to guarantee advancing and most likely advancing with a loss, I wonder how much Tab will tinker and rest some players or if he will ride them out.

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    • NC Jeff

      I suspect he’ll give some guys starts that haven’t had any yet … they’re fresh and the previous starters could use a rest. One big advantage the USA will have is they will know exactly what they need to do to finish 1st or 2nd in the group, and by gameday, if they already clinched at least a 3rd place advancement. But, I’ve never coached a team, so what do I know?

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