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U.S. U-20s finish group play in second after suffering lopsided loss to Ukraine

Shaquell Moore U.S. U-20s Ukraine 27



If the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team plays in the next round of the World Cup like it did on Friday, the Americans will soon be packing their bags and heading home.

The U.S. turned in a dud of a performance to close out Group A, suffering a 3-0 loss to Ukraine at North Harbor Stadium. Viktor Kovalenko netted a second-half hat-trick for the Ukrainians, who used the win to leapfrog the Americans and to finish atop the group.

Kovalenko’s game-winner came in the 56th minute, as the midfielder hit a dipping free kick that went over a wall that was rooted to the ground and past U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

The Americans, who entered the match in Auckland unbeaten and in first place of Group A, had a glorious chance chance to pull level two minutes later. Jordan Allen was questionably deemed to have been fouled in the penalty area, but U.S. captain Emerson Hyndman had the ensuing spot kick saved.

From there, it was the Kovalenko show. The Shakhtar Donetsk youngster slotted his second goal of the game with ease in the 74th minute, taking advantage of lax marking from U.S. centerbacks Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Kovalenko then made sure there to kill any thoughts of an American comeback, capping the scoring five minutes later after the U.S. back line was exposed on the counter.

While all three goals came in the second half, Tab Ramos’ side looked inferior from the opening whistle. Ukraine started the match by playing physical and staying organized, and the overmatched U.S. midfield found it tough to hold onto possession and combine.

The American’s defense – which Ramos fielded without Matt Miazga and Desevio Payne due to the yellow cards they were sitting on – bent but did not break in the first half. But things changed after halftime, as Ukraine continued to take advantage of the U.S.’s inability to keep the ball.

After drawing a foul on Carter-Vickers in the center of the park, Kovalenko opened the scoring via a free kick from nearly 30 yards out. The U.S. wall did not jump to challenge the shot, and that allowed the ball to sting by Steffen.

Two minutes later, Allen was deemed to have been brought down by Pavlo Polehenko in the penalty area. Hyndman stepped up for the shot from 12 yards out that marked the Americans’ best scoring chance of the game, but Ukraine goalkeeper Bohdan Sarnavskyi made the clutch stop to keep it 1-0.

Needing at least a draw to finish in first place in Group A, Ramos began to alter his tactics to throw more numbers forward. That allowed Ukraine to find more space in the attack, and Kovalenko netted twice in a five-minute span to put the game out of reach for good.

The Ukrainians, who have yet to concede a goal at the World Cup, had the majority of the other quality scoring chances.

In the fifth minute, Kellyn Acosta whiffed on a ball near the left flank that led to a chance that Ukraine forward Vladislav Kabaiev smacked just over the crossbar.

A 66th-minute cross from the left also found a wide open Kovalenko, who couldn’t keep his headed effort down.

The one chance the Americans nearly had came in the 48th minute. Paul Arriola made a penetrating run down the right before hitting a low ball across the penalty area, but Bradford Jamieson completely missed on his shooting attempt.

The lopsided defeat sees the Americans finish in second place in Group A, and they will now have to meet the second-placed team from Group C in the Round of 16 on June 10 in Wellington. The U.S.’s possible opponents are Portugal, Colombia, and Senegal.


What did you think of the U.S.’s 3-0 loss to Ukraine? Who impressed/disappointed you? How are you feeling about the Americans’ chances in the Round of 16 and beyond?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Defend, Pressure and Counter is a proven tactic to win youth soccer matches. It is almost the only thing you see for teams younger than late teens and it is the tactic even the best players at U-20 are most familiar with. It works even at the level of LaLilga, Mourhino used it with Real and got good results against Barcelona, to the dismay of Barca fans who bemoaned Real’s results oriented style

    Immediate hard pressure is something that is very difficult to overcome with technical ability alone, I think that was highlighted by Zelalem and Hyndman’s largely ineffective play against Ukraine. (Or by Real(w Mourhino) vs Barca). That Barca was sometimes, but not always successful serves to highlight the difficulty of overcoming a well-organized, pressuring, counter-attacking style with skill alone.

    Basically what I think is that this U-20 team needs more bite in its game if it is to do well against a team like Ukraine.

  2. Everyone was impressed with Hyndman and Zaleem because of their technical ability, well the good teams in the tournament have rosters full of players with good technical ability. We have gotten by on athletic players who are technically deficient for so long when we for hyndman and zaleem we didn’t realize they may not be athletic enough.

  3. Bench Shaq Moore, Delgado, and Jamiedon please. They suck…

    Payne, Vickers Miazaga, Requejo
    Zelalem, Acosta, Hyndman
    Thompson, Rubin

  4. Honestly playing Portugal or Colombia may be a blessing… I think the American youth game has evolved and we are not the same physical side that always got us through… We looked like children today against a strong organized Ukraine… Whereas playing teams that like the short passing game and skill…. might actually level the playing field for us… as weird as that would have been to say like 10-12 years ago…

  5. Obviously, you don’t want to take too much from one game, but my hope that the younger US teams would be able to play a possession oriented game doesn’t seem to be coming true. Just like the USMNT, all it takes for an opponent to do is constantly press the ball, and the US can’t maintain possession.

    • Real used that tactic against Barca under Mourhino and proved its effectiveness even against a team as talented as Barca. Few teams look good if they are pressed hard enough.

  6. It’s fun watching people go from one extreme to other based solely on the result of the game. Positive to negative in the blink of an eye.

    • Well, I keep trying to urge moderation, but this doesn’t seem to be the American way these days. I guess I should give it up as it is wasted effort.

      • What you seem to want is a one way discussion. I say, as long as no profanity or bigotry is used, let us all discuss and argue as it was intended by the first amendment.

      • My preference is for discussion/debate that is reasoned, logical, analytical, and fact based. When you can predict what a person’s response will be and it goes way to one extreme, that is a sign that the opinion is ideological and not objective. Your negativity is so predictable and sooo boring. The US U-20 team is not going to win the WC or maybe get much past the first round, but they aren’t nearly as bad as you make it out to be. When you look at where these players are playing, it is clear that they have ability, talent, and potential. To say the opposite is to say that a number of coaches, many in top- European leagues, are wrong in recognizing what a good soccer player is. Gee, who should one believe, some anonymous poster here, or a coach like Arsene Wenger?

  7. The first 3 minutes of the game the US looked great, then they let Ukraine have the ball the rest of the half. I agree with some of the above comments about poor tactics. It seemed the US was playing for a tie. That always spells disaster. Miazga’s edge was missed, as was Rubin’s tenacity at forward, and Payne on defense. Zelalem is great on the ball, I just wish he saw more of it.

    All in all, IF the US had to win this game it would be a much different game/result. Also, the free kick for the first goal was from a Ukranian flop. I think the penalty was a makeup call. Both were horrendous as the ref was for the entirety of the game.

    Is anyone worried that the fact the US is playing a big role in outing FIFA that the rest of the world will have it out for us? (or the refs at least)

    • “Is anyone worried that the fact the US is playing a big role in outing FIFA that the rest of the world will have it out for us? (or the refs at least)”

      No, we just not that good.

    • I didn’t see the game but if the PK call was as questionable as people are saying it’s hard to say there was bias. Every week at RBNY games, every call that goes against RBNY is a travesty and I’ve seen fans ask each other why the refs are always out to get us. It evens out over time. Referees make mistakes. Not everything is a conspiracy.

    • I watched the whole game.
      US looked a little nervous and flat most of the game.
      Ukraine wanted the game more than we did.
      Ref was horrendous and CLEARLY called an anti US game. So many questionable calls from the ref demoralized the US players. It was like the ref was an extra Central D, or D-mid playing for Ukraine. Seriously!
      May Ramos didn’t care if we we tied won or lost and only wanted to keep his team injury free and cards at a minimum.
      Props to the Ukrainians, they looked like men, we looked like frightened boys. But I still thought they engaged in a lot of diving and cheap shots v. the US players, anything to keep the US from developing any rhythm.
      You will see a different game plan and a different mind set when we play in the knockout round.
      It was a frustrating game to watch, Hyndman and Zelalem saw way too little of the ball and the US attacked was ragged and disorganized for long stretches, unable to string more than 2 passes together before being cut out by the Ukraine mids and defense.
      The US is capable of much more.

      • If the US was going to have a bad game this was the one to do it in.

        They looked tired and the Ukrainians were more than capable of making them pay for that.

        I would expect a much better performance next game.

  8. Ukraine held most of the possession but didn’t look overly threatening to score until that grew free kick ehich was really soft. But then the PK more than made up for it.

    I think they really missed the defenders out. Pay be is a huge upgrade. Moore gets beat easily and it was clear they were targeting him over and over. Plus he loses the ball getting forward way too much.
    Also Rubin hurt as well since Jameison isn’t close to same with all the heat on him.

    It was also clear their tactics won the day. They flooded Emerson and Gedeon and made someone else beat them and nobody else could. Instead the boys just kept booting it for 50/50 balls.

    The score line is generous but reasonable

      • True, I just got carried away. I guess I am starting to drink the “we are good” kool aid.

      • Seeing as how I have not seen either team and I doubt you have either, there is no way of telling. Even if you have seen both teams, there is no way of telling. As someone has pointed out before (I think UCLA Bruin), just because a national team is good, it doesn’t mean their youth team is.
        Case in point, Holland in the Toulon Tournament.

      • I can live with your response. Very intelligent and articulate. Btw, Holland has U-20 at Toulon, just an observation.

  9. I just watched the highlights as I did not watch the match. Dominating performance by Ukraine and humiliating defeat for U-20 USMNT. There was no pk, awful call by the ref. It could’ve been 4-0 or 5-0.

    • You serious?! You first make a bunch of “dump on US” comments, then have the audacity to say that you hadn’t even watched the game and just now got around to watching the highlights?!?!

      While Ukraine was the dominant side, this game most certainly shouldn’t have been “5-0” and in fact there was a possibility US could’ve been up going into half time. In no way did we deserve to win/tie this game, bit take your piece of trash trolling comments someplace else OR watch the effing game and figure out a real argument.

      • All the comments I made today before this one implied I had not watched the game. Apparently, by your level of comprehension, you di not graduate from elementary school. Time to get that GED?

      • You were clearly just trolling. All your comments are negative. Take it somewhere else. Especially since you didn’t even watch the game.

      • The truth must be observed in the sea of hubris and optimism. To that sir you call trolling. Then, you lost your argument.

      • People who bloviate when they are ignorant about the subject have no credibility in my book and should be ignored. I also see this a whole lot in politics. I happen to be a political scientist with a lot of knowledge about government, politics, and history and I see this all the time with political commentary. The most dangerous people are those who know a little and think they know everything. I have nothing but disdain for people like that, whether in politics or sport.

      • Nice fancy unneeded words, I admit. Now, pull your head from your rectum. So, what you are saying is , I’d rather join the rats as they are led to oblivion, or else you will have “disdain” for me? What part of “All the comments I made today before this one implied I had not watched the game” you don’t understand?

  10. Losing Russell Can play dmid was a big loss for this team. A huge loss really, but it did allow our best center half to be on the team, and now it looks like Conor Donovan will have to fill in at the dmid role. In our county, we have not really formulated a uniform way to identify and recognize talent.

  11. Happy the dud came in a meaningless game.

    The problem is their depth. Shaq is inferior to Moore. Sorely missed Rubin.

    Wtf did Ramos tell them pre game? They looked completely different from previous game which I draw up to subs and soft game plan

    • I did much the same, pointing out that NZ had one only 1 win out of 8 friendlies before the WC. However, I would also say that one should not leap out of a tall building because of this result. I don’t know if this was the reason, but the US played like a tired team and Ukraine played like a fresh team. Ukraine got most of the 50/50 balls, were quicker to react to loose balls, their passes were crisper, and so on. About the 70-th minute one US back pass from the midfield died half way to the left back, resulting in a turnover and a serious threat from the Ukrainians.. I thought that was symptomatic of the game. The US had a lot of errant passes, the Ukrainians had very few. That is killing in the long run. There is a reason Klinsmann keeps talking about fitness. There is fitness, match fitness, and tournament fitness. Even match fitness doesn’t prepare you for 3 games in 7 days.

    • Yeah, but you also said Mexico would recover and qualify for knockouts, Mexico u23’s would never lose to u20’s, and Mexico would play France for the Toulon championship. Aaaaaahhh.

      Surely you can understand why people do not take you seriously.

  12. 2 things: 1) Shaq Moore was horrendous in this game. I never like calling out 1 player, but he was a human turnstyle over on the right.
    2) Where did the “The” Ukraine come from? It’s just ‘Ukraine’, there is no ‘the’ in front of it. We don’t call it “The China” or “The Uganda”.

    • In fairness it is The Gambia and The Congo. And The Hague.

      Apparently it used to be called The Ukraine by some but after it was the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine (no the) it went into disuse. Ukraine means borderland (with Russia isn’t that ironic) so The Borderland makes sense. As much as The Ohio State University or The U.

    • It’s a relic of when it was a part of the Soviet Union…pre-independence, everyone called it “the Ukraine.” While your point is well-taken, there are examples of countries that standardly have “The” in front of it:
      – The Gambia
      – The Netherlands
      – The Philippines
      – The Bahamas

    • “The” in “the Ukraine” is denigrating to Ukraine. It is short for “the Ukrainian province of Russia”, which of course implies Ukrainian subjugation to Russia. Which of course means that “the” should never be used unless you’re a Russian chauvinist and believe that Ukraine should be part of Russia.

      • I have taken a fair amount of Russian language and I had a course in college where one of the girl students spoke it quite well. Someone asked her if she was Russian. She was Ukrainian and proud of it and made sure everyone knew the difference and never made that mistake again. And this was about 1965, long before their independence. I have always respected Ukrainian nationalism since then.

    • Haven’t seen the Ukraine game yet, have it DVR’d anbd might not watch it now. Moore was horrendous in the Myanmar game too. He and Acosta were both getting torched on the outside in that game.

  13. “Jordan Allen was questionably deemed to have been fouled in the penalty area…”

    Come on, call a spade a spade — Allen went down without being touched. The highlight of the night for the US team.

  14. Portugal or Colombia could take this team apart with ease if the midfield puts in a similar showing. Just god awful play from Hyndman – with experience at Fulham you’d expect more. And Allen’s dive for that penalty was on par with what I’ve seen the biggest flops pull off. Really pitiful. Made up for all the questionable calls going for Ukraine. And before anyone blames the ref for the scoreline, that 30+yard freekick over a wall from a foul called against the US is not an easy goal or much less the expected result from the ref’s call. That goal was due to the player’s inability to jump while standing at the wall. First real test, first real disappointment. Colombia or Portugal are certainly no Myanmar or Kiwis.

    • Agree with everything you said especially the ref, he was awful and Ukraine did a better job exploiting it than we did. I’ll also add that Ramos got his tactics all wrong, especially the first half. He had the team sitting back and let Ukraine have the ball, which gave them confidence and helped them get into a rhythm, while simultaneously killing any offensive flow we may have had.

    • The wall should never jump. If they jump and he shoots it underneath its almost always a goal as the goalie has no chance. Thats soccer 101. He shot it in the one spot, over the wall, under the bar, off the post, that no one could guard

  15. We’ll beat columbia the way we beat Myanmar and it will be called a fluke then we will run into another press and counter European team and lose in the QF. We just don’t play well against those guys in general. Hopefully Rapinoe and Morgan can go in the WWC or we will be seeing an early exit there as well.

  16. Not surprised at all. Our lack of technical quality showed the first time we actually played a half decent team. I don’t see getting by any of the aforementioned teams.


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