Under-20 World Cup

U.S. U-20s 6, New Zealand 0: The SBI Breakdown

Tab Ramos couldn’t have asked for much more. He entered Thursday’s match shorthanded as three vital members of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team served suspensions while another remained away with a tournament-ending injury. He needed to reshuffle, rethink, ahead of a vital knockout round match.

What happened was a demolition, a complete beatdown of an opponent that posed little threat for even an understaffed U.S. team. It was a 6-0 mauling, one which sets a ridiculous tone for the knockout stages.

Thursday’s mauling of New Zealand was as impressive a World Cup win in recent memory. It was one that featured a variety of contributors, some familiar and some tasking the limelight for the first time this tournament. It was a nearly flawless effort from a team that suddenly looks like a team that does have the talent and willpower to push on to a massive run.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from Thursday’s 6-0 win:


It wasn’t just the goals. Well, of course it was. There were six of them and it’s pretty hard to look past that. But the real takeaway from Thursday’s match? How those goals were scored.

It was a combined team effort. It wasn’t just Sargent, who is now tied with some major names atop the all-time American U-20 World Cup leaderboard. It wasn’t just Lennon or de la Torre creating. It was wave after wave of attack from a complete unit.

Somehow, it came out of nowhere. The first half was largely straight-forward, but not quite dominant as the U.S. had possession but little else. The second half was an explosion as each and every member stepped up at the exact same time to completely batter a New Zealand team that needed a white towel two or three goals in.

It’s a positive sign. The U.S. didn’t rely on one or two players to carry them, but rather a complete group effort featuring six different goalscorers. This type of effort likely won’t happen again, but it gave Ramos and co. plenty of confidence heading into the quarterfinals.


Justen Glad was played out of position on Thursday. It was a necessary measure given the rash of suspensions as Tab Ramos opted to play the Real Salt Lake defender at the fullback position.

It was a gamble that paid off in a big way, one that could give Ramos ideas for the rest of the tournament.

Glad scored a second half goal, much like seemingly everyone else on the U.S. team, to highlight his efforts on the day. It was a match that included what should have been a second goal if not for a minuscule Sargent deflection. In the attacking end, Glad looked plenty comfortable on those set piece situations, as to be expected from a centerback.

On the defensive end, he was as strong as ever, too. Yes, it was against a New Zealand team that was relatively toothless and, yes, he wasn’t challenged much. However, you can’t fault his efforts given the recent issues that have plagued the U.S. defense out wide.

Given Aaron Herrera’s performances to open the tournament, Ramos could be tempted to keep Glad in the starting lineup  at fullback going forward. It’s a move that looked like a gamble but suddenly seems to be a very, very real option following a standout effort from the RSL defender.


Given the personnel absences, Tab Ramos had some different choices to make. In the end, he opted for a formation switch, and it paid dividends.

Forgoing his usual 4-3-3- for a 4-4-2, Ramos opted for a different look on Thursday. He added Jeremy Ebobisse as a second striker up top alongside Josh Sargent. Rather than jamming someone into a shorthanded midfield, he trusted Tyler Adams and Eryk Williamson to balance each other out and hold down a two-man central midfield.

It worked. Adams and Williamson controlled midfield play, even without someone like Derrick Jones alongside them. Brooks Lennon and Luca de la Torre held their own on the outside with the former in particular looking dangerous throughout. Ebosisse had his moments, the best of which came during his goal.

The switch worked, at least for the time being. With the returns of Carter-Vickers and Jones in particular for the next match, a switch back to a 4-3-3 seems inevitable, but kudos to Ramos for adapting to the situation at hand.


Whether you love them or hate them, set pieces have always been a part of the American soccer DNA. It’s a fundamental part of the game that Americans have long exploited, using scenarios to take down teams much better and much more skilled.

On Thursday, the U.S. was much better and much more skills, but the use of the set piece helped further assert dominance.

The U.S. absolutely bullied New Zealand on set play after set play with Justen Glad in particular proving dominant. Each and every time the U.S. had a dead ball situation, they either scored or looked likely to score as they repeatedly battered New Zealand from set play scenarios.

Part of that is because the U.S. had three centerbacks on the field. That certainly helps. But it was also just how they attacked the ball and, when the did win it, how they handled it. Glad’s juggling act was spectacular. Auston Trusty’s left-footed finish was forward-like before he dabbed his way through his celebration.

Set pieces will be a big part of the team’s going forward, and it must have been nice to see them pay off in such a big way.


New Zealand earned their way to the Round of 16. There’s no debating that. They topped Honduras, a tough CONCACAF opponent, to book their spot in the knockout stage.

But New Zealand was overmatched. There were very few scenarios or moments where the U.S. even looked threatened on Thursday. That won’t be the case on Sunday when the U.S. faces a much, much better Venezuela team.

Venezuela will be rested and they will be confident. They’ve been among the best teams in South Korea thus far, and they’ll have two extra days rest on the U.S. team. The battle in the midfield between Tyler Adams and Yangel Herrera will be wonderful to watch while the return of the Americans’ suspended trio should provide a boost.

But make no mistake, Venezuela will be the Americans’ toughest opponent yet, and rest and recovery will be vital to their chances of pushing on to what could be a more memorable run through the U-20 World Cup.

  • Gary Page

    I have a disagreement with this article. It says that there were few moments when the US even looked threatened. However, from the start of the second half until the two goals in the 64th minute, I though NZ was putting a decent amount of pressure on the US and they really should have scored when a wide open player had the whole net in front of him, but pushed it wide. However, after the 2 quick goals, the Kiwis seemed to fold their tent and accepted that they were going home.

    It’s rather nice to see a US team have most of the possession and more skill individually and collectively. And that has been the case for most of this tournament so far. While it may be heresy to bring this up here, I dare say that our youth teams are starting to play the style that Klinsmann said he wanted to see the US play. And it is working. Venezuela will be tough. I saw some of their game vs. Germany and they thoroughly outclassed the German team. Whatever the result, I think we can be proud of this US team and be confident about the future of US soccer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Twomilerule

      Good accessemnt Gary. So nice to see team cohesion associated with ball movement. Then pressing double teams to win balls back.
      NZ was not much of a test and hoping the US can raise their level of play Sunday? Actually, the biggest test is how many of these players can continue to raise the level of play professionally? We had seen the past U-20’s get hyped and end up being average or below average MLS players


  • Mack in Philly

    I feel like Glad stepped up admirably for Herrera, but both his opportunities were on set pieces. He rarely pushed up field, most likely because he probably lacks the speed to get back. It reminded me of Besler filling in at the Copa. The effort was there but he doesn’t provide much going forward. Against a team that hasn’t allowed a goal all tourney, we need our outside backs to at least be able to whip in crosses and join the attack.


    • M

      He had a stretch of consecutive cringe worthy turnovers, a run where he turned over 6 out of 8 possessions at one point I believe, but he settled down a little bit after his goal that sargent stole. Still, it was blatantly obvious that, as you said, Glad was a center back playing right back – and that was against a pathetic, abhorrent new Zealand team. That’s why as skilled as Glad is, and as quickly as the American fan wants to reward him for scoring goals, I think the reality is that Ramos clearly places very high priority on possession. Glad will struggle in this sense mightily, most likely, against Venezuelan given their penchant to either split or maintain the majority of possession this tournament. I think therefore tab will revert to Herrera; after all, there’s a reason why tab started him at right back when the tournament began. He values possession, I believe he goes back to herrera


      • r.benjamin

        A couple of mentions of Sargent stealing the goal, but to me it hit him pretty square and definitely changed course for the better. Not sure the original was shot was going to go in otherwise. Give credit to a poachers goal.


  • Jesse D

    Venezuela had 7 players on a yellow card entering the game against Japan. Not one of them got a yellow in 120 minutes… too bad, their starters look so good I’d rather play against their subs. I also thought it was interesting to see they used 4 subs. Is that a rule specific to extra time, that you get a 4th sub?


  • Joe Dirt

    Was thinking the same thing Gary. High press out of the back possession. I was impressed to see this squad to keep pressing and attacking after the third and fourth goal, they smelled blood and wanted more. Really impressed with this cycle so far lots of depth and still without this cycles top talents.

    It’s early to say but birth years 1997s to 2001s may just become our golden generation. Pulisic, Sargent, De la Torre, Lennon, Mckennie, Wright, CCV, EPB, Olosunde, Lederman. Excited for 2022 and 2026.

    The restructuring of DA curriculum and best practices that Reyna put in place several years ago while he was TD of USSoccer seems to be paying off. We are finally starting to see more of the technically gifted players being promoted instead of the physically dominating speedy kids with no first touch.

    The future is brewing bright imo. Now we need a manager who can organize the talent we are going to have for 2022 and 26. Pulisic is just the first, others are coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lost in Space

      While I agree that the current crop of U-20s look to be impressive, the last cycle had some very good talent as well (Hyndman, Gooch, Acosta, Arriola, Rubin, Green, Miazga, Yedlin, Horvath, etc….). Hopefully Arena will get us fully back on tract in WCQ to where he can transition away from some of the under performing players….Zusi, Bedoya, Jones, etc… and give some of these guys some real opportunities. Was hoping to see many of them (last cycle’s U-20s) in this years Gold Cup but who knows what Bruce is actually going to do.

      2022 could be an Extremely talented and entertaining team to watch:
      Keeper: Horvath, Steffen
      Defense: Brooks, CCV, Miazga, EPB, Glad, Yedlin, Olosunde, Fossey, Payne,
      Midfield: Hyndman, Acosta, Gooch, Mckennie, De la Torre, Adams, Lederman, Zelalem
      Attack: Pulisic, Green, Sargent, Perez, Weah, Wright, Akale, Lennon, Taitague, Carleton

      We’re still a little thin at Outside Back….and some of these guys will stagnate/fall out, but everything is filling up nicely for the Player Pool. Whomever the next manager is will have some real talent to choose from after 2018.


      • johnny c

        I think this is a fair assessment for 2026, but definitely not for 2022. No Wood, Jozy, FabJo, Morris, Arriola, Lletget? Many of those guys you mentioned will only be in there early 20s. I don’t see them starting in a world cup in 2022.


  • Chicago Josh

    The announcer mentioned that New Zealand’s goalie played for the Sunderland U-18. This game gave him good practice for a career of picking up the. All out of the back of his net.


    • Twomilerule

      Kind of harsh but he gave up some savable goals. Two of the goals were shot right at him and just over his head?
      Although, Ebobisse whiffed on two maybe three first touch chances in the first half.


  • hipvictor

    This was pretty funny: “Auston Trusty’s left-footed finish was forward-like before he dabbed his way through his celebration.” Lots of folks can have a flash of quality in front of goal, but the celebration always gives away the neophytes…


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