Despite the absence of three starters, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team didn’t miss a beat on Thursday morning en route to a knockout round win.
Following a first half goal credited to Josh Sargent, the U.S. blitzed New Zealand for two rapid-fire second half finishes in an eventual 6-0 win. The victory books a quarterfinal berth against Venezuela, marking the second straight World Cup the Americans have reached the final eight.
The U.S. broke through in the 32nd minute, scoring off a set piece to snag the lead. On a ball in, Justen Glad took a touch up to himself before volleying a shot on goal. The effort appeared to deflect off Sargent on its way in, giving the young forward his fourth goal of the tournament, tying Taylor Twellman, Eddie Johnson and Jozy Altidore for most goals scored by an American at a U-20 World Cup.
After a sustained bit of pressure from New Zealand to start the second half, Jeremy Ebobisse fired the U.S. to a two-goal lead with a magnificent finish. The Portland Timbers rookie took a perfect first touch down of a lofted ball, giving himself the chance to drive onto his left foot. Ebobisse unleashed a rocket of a shot into the back of the net to provide a little breathing room.
If Ebobisse’s finish provided that breathing room, Brooks Lennon allowed the U.S. to completely exhale just seconds later. Less than a minute after Ebobisse’s finish, Lennon got on the end of a through ball from Eryk Williamson before firing to the far post, making it 3-0.
Glad eventually did get his goal, though, but it certainly wasn’t as pretty as his earlier effort. On another corner kick, the Real Salt Lake defender headed a shot straight at New Zealand goalkeeper Michael Woud. The shot bounced off Woud’s hands and in, giving the U.S. a fourth and Glad a much-deserved goal.
Substitute Auston Trusty fired the Americans’ fifth, and it came just seconds after he was denied an earlier chance. On yet another corner kick, Trusty unleashed a left-footed finish.
The sixth and final tally came late in the second half from substitute Lagos Kunga, who easily fired past Woud to seal a dominant victory by Tab Ramos’ side.
Largely dominant in the first half, the U.S. was rarely challenged with Jonathan Klinsmann called in to make just one real save. On the other end, the U.S. was fairly active with Sargent leading the charge with several shots. In total, the U.S. maintained over 60 percent of the possession in the first half as they continued to harass the New Zealand backline throughout.
The second half saw New Zealand up the pressure, with one shot going just wide of Klinsmann’s far post. However, the eventual U.S. blitz sucked the life out of New Zealand as they exited in the Round of 16.
With the win, the U.S. now faces a much tougher challenge on very short rest. With two additional days off, Venezuela looms as the two sides collide on Sunday morning at 2 a.m. ET.