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U.S. U-20s World Cup: SBI Player Grades

U-20 USMNT celebration World Cup 99



The World Cup may not have ended how the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team had hoped for, but the Americans still managed to make an impression in the tournament.

The U.S. reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in New Zealand before succumbing to Serbia in a dramatic penalty kick shootout this past weekend. The elimination came with plenty of pain and sorrow for the Americans, but it still could not completely overshadow all of the good that they showed in the competition.

Tab Ramos’ side played aesthetically pleasing and effective soccer at times en route to going 3-1-1, and that was as much of a result of players turning in strong individual performances as it was about them playing well as a collective unit.

Still, there was some bad mixed in with the good throughout the tournament. While some promising prospects delivered and shone on the big stage, others were inconsistent or struggled to make an impact.

For a closer look at how all the the young Americans fared at the U-20 World Cup, here are the SBI Player Grades for the competition:


ZACK STEFFEN (8): Started the tournament with a major blunder against Myanmar, but rebounded well with solid performances in the final two group-stage games. Steffen then turned it up a notch in the knockout rounds, coming up with several timely saves and showcasing his penchant for stopping penalty kicks.

DESEVIO PAYNE (6): Played in three games, and was solid defensively in each of them. Payne also showed flashes of what he’s capable of going forward, but wasn’t able to join in on the attack as much as the Americans would have liked in the final two games because of their lack of possession.

MATT MIAZGA (8.5): Far from the flashiest U.S. player in this tournament, but certainly its most consistent. Miazga never seemed to step a foot wrong in the back line, winning the bulk of his challenges and constantly coming up with timely clearances. He also served as the vocal leader for the rest of the defenders, and his passing was very good.

CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS (8): The youngest player on the U.S. looked far from it. Carter-Vickers was a terror at the back, using his strength and skill to shut down opposing attackers while playing all 480 minutes of the Americans’ campaign. He had a bit of a letdown without Miazga next to him in the 3-0 loss to Ukraine, but was overall impressive in this competition.

KELLYN ACOSTA (5.5): Had a rough opener against Myanmar, but improved his positioning and didn’t look as nervous in the last two group matches. Acosta had his hands full against Colombia, and struggled before getting sent off with a second yellow card in the penalty area that almost proved costly for the U.S.

MARKY DELGADO (4.5): While he occasionally came up with timely plays, the moments when he was solid in the No. 6 role were still too few and far between. Delgado lacked the range and bite that is expected of a defensive midfielder, and his passing was also subpar.

PAUL ARRIOLA (7): Earned his first start of the tournament in the second game, and never looked back. Arriola put in a ton of work on both sides of the ball in the U.S.’s last four games, and gave the attack an added dimension of speed and willingness to go at defenders. He also scored a well-taken goal in the 3-0 triumph over New Zealand.

GEDION ZELALEM (5.5): Began the competition in impressive fashion, but slowly began to fade as the matches became tighter and more physical. Zelalem showed he has good vision, technical skills, and a comfort level on the ball that few others in the U.S. pool have. Still, he relies far too much on his right foot and was knocked off the ball easily too often.

EMERSON HYNDMAN (6): Like Zelalem, the U.S. captain started the World Cup with some impressive performances before struggling a bit more to leave his imprint on the later games. Hyndman looked composed and intelligent when he had space, but was unable to do much against more organized and physical teams like Colombia and Serbia.

BRADFORD JAMIESON (6): Was involved one way or another in three of the U.S.’s first four goals of the tournament, and did a good job of filling in for the injured Maki Tall. Jamieson’s speed and confidence proved to be real threats and perfect complements for forward partner Rubio Rubin, and those traits were sorely missed in the Americans’ final two games.

RUBIO RUBIN (6.5): Scored goals, set up teammates, and kept opposing defenses busy. Rubin had an impressive tournament spearheading the U.S. attack and was constantly trying to get involved, but his poor penalty kick to start the shootout against Serbia was a major strike against him.

SHAQUELL MOORE (4): Got the nod in two games, but never looked quite right. Moore had trouble with his defensive positioning and 1-on-1 battles, and he constantly looked like a player that was out of form after not playing at the club level in months. He did get forward well on occasion, but it still was not enough to overcome his defensive frailties.

JOHN REQUEJO (6): Filled in valiantly for the suspended Acosta against Serbia, helping the Americans post a shutout before the penalty kick shootout. Requejo almost scored a goal in one of his two other appearances, firing a low shot that was saved vs. New Zealand, and looked plenty serviceable during his 132 minutes of action.

ERIK PALMER-BROWN (4.5): Replaced Miazga at centerback in the loss to Ukraine, and started out well before losing the plot. Palmer-Brown began the group-stage finale by making several interventions, but he and fellow youngster Carter-Vickers found themselves on different pages as the Ukrainians piled on the pressure and scored three second-half goals.

JORDAN ALLEN (4.5): Saw plenty of action, but failed to make much of an impact. Allen seemed to not have a good understanding with his teammates and more often than not tried to beat defenders on the dribble to no avail. His one major contribution in this tournament was earning the U.S. a dubious penalty kick against Ukraine when the score was 1-0.

TOMMY THOMPSON (6): Given brief substitute cameos before earning his lone start of the competition up top against Serbia. He was active in the attacking third and among the few Americans to look capable of punishing the Serbs, but he tired as the game wore on and was replaced in the 103rd minute.

JOEL SONORA (5): A very quiet opener against Myanmar forced him to settle for minutes off the bench the remainder of the World Cup, but he looked aggressive in extra time against Serbia. Sonora provided a much-needed spark in that match, and the U.S. might have been better served to insert him earlier than in the 103rd minute.

MAKI TALL (6): Showed plenty of promise in his one start, scoring a well-taken goal and proving a serious attacking threat against Myanmar. An injury to his toe limited his outing in that game, and forced him to miss the rest of the tournament.

CONOR DONOVAN (N/R): Did not have enough time on the field to prove his worth, playing just the final six minutes of the lopsided loss to Ukraine.

JEFF CALDWELL (N/R): The back-up goalkeeper didn’t see a second of action.

THOMAS OLSEN (N/R): Same as Caldwell.


What do you think of these player grades for the U.S. U-20s’ World Cup performance? Who do you believe is rated too high or low? Agree that Steffen, Miazga and Carter-Vickers were the best overall Americans in the tournament?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I hate to say this, but GZ reminded me of Freddy Adu. Great vision and smooth on the ball, but one-footed, dispossessed too easily and never got stuck in.

    • sure, the same characteristics can be used to qualify them but in each category Zelalem has better talent. His vision is better, he’s more smooth on the ball, yes he’s one footed as well but again, his positives are far better than Adu’s were. He can learn to use his left foot and can gain strength.

  2. Aesthetically pleasing? For limited stretches against the weakest teams that they faced. Solid in D and with flourishes from a few players up top, but not aesthetically pleasing.

  3. I have little quibbles with these ratings. For me, the outstanding US player was Carter Vickers. I think he has the most promise of all these youngsters. His maturity and innate sense of the game were especially impressive. About his only failing was his penalty kick, but that is not exactly what you look for in a CB.

  4. I like Zelalem’s skill, but he really lacks in the grit department. Not sure how he’ll even break through to be a first team player in England (notice I didn’t even say Premier League) if something doesn’t click in the near future.

    Arriola and Rubin definitely have that understanding of what it takes to compete as a man in a top league. The fact that they already get it puts them ahead of many other more skillful players in my book.

    • Regarding the lack of grit comment, Zelalem is much younger than other players in the tournament so don’t expect him to overpower older players. Plus, his game is not based on grit or physical play, he is more akin to Ozil, a technical, creative player, who does not excel in grit department.

      • When players can’t win 50-50 balls, they limit their upside potential. Zelalem must get better at that and must get stronger.

        It is not necessary to knock people down, but he needs to find a way to win 1v1s better. Ozil does and so does Messi neither of whom are physically over-powering players.

  5. I would really like for Steffen to get consideration to be the U23 goalie for the Olympic qualifiers. As in the starter, not just make the team. Several others should be on the team as well. Arriola, Rubin, Miazga and CCV.

  6. Shaquell Moore was awful in the games he played in. The 4 rating is very generous. kind of agree with others. The injuries to the forwards really hurt this team.

    • Couldn’t agree with this comment more. Having 2 of our 3 forwards go down hurt this team. I think Zelalem and Hyndmans grades would have been higher had we had two strikers playing. That’s when this team was at its best. You could tell that Rubin was running out of gas late in the 2 knockout games. Just look at that shot he took against Serbia towards the end.

  7. Much higher on Requeyo than I was. He was small, weak in challenges, especially in the air, and slow…the Serbians got in a boatload of crosses beating him around the edge. He also turned the ball over pointlessly more than once…and that PK…my word. I’d give him a “4” at best. He tried hard and fought but he was outclassed, IMHO.

    The rest…won’t quibble. Miazga was really, really good, as you pointed out, and got whistled for a bunch of fouls that were basically guys leaning on him and bouncing off, he was sort of a man among boys out there.He’s going to have to get tidier in distribution to make the senior team, though, whereas CCV should be on the Olympic U-23 team and could make the senior squad not long after that…was REALLY impressed with CCV.

    Arriola really grew on me too. Guy isn’t all that impressive physically but he’s just relentless and will fight you tooth and nail…has more than a little Michael Bradley in him. Ended up reminding me more than a little of Alejandro Bedoya.

    • Pretty much agree with all of this, and Arriola’s right leg is an absolute cannon. I had never seen him play prior to this, and that shot power really caught me off guard.

      I refuse to believe CCV is only 17. He and Miazga both looked to be in a different class than any central pairing in that tournament.

      • I’d say a 6 is too high as well. Ramos in game adjustments were terrible. His roster picks are a part of the issue, too.

      • Hey CO, I noticed you also post in AmericanSoccerNow.

        “So when do we expect the next Leander hit piece?”

        Even on non-Klinsmann articles you go into the comment section and ask for an anti-Klinsmann article so that you can get outraged and jump to Klinsmann’s defense.

        I gotta say I am impressed. I admire your determination.

        By the way, to everyone else, that article on the potential roster for Olympic qualifying over there is pretty good.

      • I assume you don’t read the site very often if you don’t understand what it’s referencing. Where did I say Klinsmann? You mentioned him not me.

        I didn’t know you went out of your way to call people out. You’re too easy so I won’t even.

      • I do read that site. It is very informative. Was it the “does Klinsmann know what he’s doing?” Leander article that annoyed you?

      • Glad you can use a search function but a) if you’re calling me out on it you really don’t read the comments and b) he has more than one article. I imagine you got a half chub from that article you quoted.

      • I went full chub on that one. Article was right on. Luckily Klinsmann is changing some of his stripes and improving.

        oh and don’t make a thing of it. Only reason I called you out on it here is because I don’t post comments on that site. I don’t like having to log-in with a third-party site to comment.

      • If you consider that a good article and spot on, you really have some re-evaluating to do.

        And yes I am sure he came on here read your drivel and Leander’s click bait and said “Let’s change everything because of these geniuses.”

      • UCLA – You can post as a guest without signing into a 3rd party. It takes a couple click though. Click in the “name” box and it opens up an option to post as a guest

      • Here’s my logic, FWIW. Going into the tournament, most experts said the 1/4 finals would be a good result. They put up a good fight against Serbia and were very close to advancing. On top of all this, they did missing some forwards. So for these reasons I give him a slightly above average grade.

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