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USMNT U-20’s edge Slovakia to cap off unbeaten group stage


The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team finished off group stage play at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Friday, using a first-half goal from Cade Cowell to claim its third victory in Argentina.

Cowell’s opening goal in the 38th minute proved to be the difference as Mikey Varas’ squad edged Slovakia 2-0 in their group stage finale. Niko Tsakiris added a late stoppage-time insurance goal for the Americans while Gabriel Slonina registered four saves to earn his third clean sheet.

Caleb Wiley and Cowell both had early opportunities denied by Slovakia goalkeeper Adam Hrdina before Justin Che and Obed Vargas were also repelled in the opening 25 minutes.

However, after Slovakia registered its first warning shot of the watch, the Americans hit back with the opening goal. Cowell’s low left-footed drive nestled past Hrdina into the bottom-left corner for a 1-0 USMNT U-20 advantage.

It marked Cowell’s second goal of the U-20 World Cup.

Cowell and Slovakia’s Dominik Snajder traded shots in the second half as both teams tried to find the net.

Diego Luna rattled the right post in the 67th minute, coming close to finding the back of the net for the second-consecutive match.

Slovakia pushed for a tying goal, but couldn’t find one as the USMNT U-20’s hung on to end the group stage unbeaten. Timotej Jambor’s long-range effort in stoppage time was denied by Slonina in the final stages of the match.

Niko Tsakiris finished off Quinn Sullivan’s assist in the 96th minute to celebrate his first goal of the competition.

The Americans will now face a third place finisher in either Group A, C, or D on May 30.


  1. Not a u20 topic but I am hearing Cavan Sullivan (13 years old) has been playing up levels at the u17 and u19 levels for the Union and balling out. Makes me wonder if Segares adds him to the u17 team for the WC in the fall? Kid has a bright future ahead of him.

      • He is been playing against u19’s as well. I’m sure the Union u17 and u19’s are pretty physical. Being tiny doesn’t hamper one’s skill level.

  2. New Zealand is our round of 16 opponent. QF’s will be tough with potentially a game against Uruguay or Gambia or South Korea depending on who wins group F. Then if the US u20’s get past the QF a probable date with Brazil in the Semifinal.

    • Honduras beating France 1-0 right now. Would be nice to see another CONCACAF nation in the round of 16. France down to 10 men.

    • USA
      Brazil has a pretty easy draw to get to the semis

  3. Also Argentinian fans were getting up in their seat every time Cowell got on the ball. And was applauded off of the field when he was subbed by those Argentine fans. They recognized what they were seeing.

  4. Maestroini better figure out how to get Luna more into that RSL team when he comes back. He could be a game changer for them.

    • I get him not starting over Kreilach but oh my goodness how can you put 34 yr old Justin Meram on before him almost every night. I thought it was a weird landing spot when he signed because RSL is so defensive.

      • Agreed. Luna has a ton to offer for that attack.

        I can say the same for Curtin who needs to find a way to get Craig in the Union team. Be it even as a Defensive mifldfielder(where I think ultimately may be his best position at club and senior level). The way he can defend and ping balls around and his set piece ability seems ideal. He does lack a bit of pace but he knows how to read attacking plays quicker than most which gives him an advantage.

      • I actually wonder if he’d be a good candidate for the rare MLS loan. It will be interesting to see if they find him time. Not sure on the DM front, really haven’t seen enough him against pros. Martinez and Flach already cover that and then you have Perea.

    • PM was extremely overratted and not the brightest bulb in the box. That bone head tackle he did against Italy in the 2006 WC, which got him a red card is unforgiving.🤦‍♂️

      • I remember that game as if it were yesterday. I also remember Arena telling him to please be careful (because he was reckless at times); P.M. then told Arena if he starts him this the way he’s going to play (aggressively).

  5. watched the first half and it was basically the cowell and gaga show. cowell was wasteful in finishing but hustled and dribbled circles around the opposition. i think as a senior player he might be a wingback or a wing mid being miscast as a forward.

    • He plays little to no defense, his crossing is more inconsistent than his finishing, and he usually turns it over in tight spaces. His path to the Senior team is to get better. Better ideas and better finishing. To be honest that’s true of everyone on this team. No one seems all that close to Senior team players if everyone is available. That’s the why typically goes here and around the world. If your good enough you aren’t at the U20 WC your still playing for your club. If you’re not you need a few more years to get stronger and get smarter. It’s the 21-23 age group that should be challenging for spots. Busio, Scally, Booth, Johnny and Tessman, guys who have more seasoning from years of pro experience.

    • He isn’t a wingback. His position for me is a second forward in a two striker system. And plenty of teams are starting to play with two striker systems now. Many players miss chances all of the time. He is 19 and not yet developing his game. What I like is he doesn’t get down on himself. He continues to push forward and make a difference. Which is a great attribute for an attacking player. A mindset that some of our senior players need to develop.

  6. Top the group w/ all clean sheets. I’m not gonna go overboard but that’s pretty impressive. I’m liking the workman productivity we’re seeing. The individuals are trending towards the sum of the parts type of team. Everyone hustles, whether it’s for each other or they just hungry. It’s good to see. I find the talent that’s not there (Caden Clark, PA, Kobi Henry, Alvarado Jr, Dante Sealy, Pepi, Chris Brady, Gutierrez, Buck) just as impressive that they went through the group stage like they did. Cowell was suspended 1st match v Ecuador (toughest opponent). KP & Putskas weren’t there for the whole group stage. (They are both capable of making an impact, right?!) That’s some adversity, do we agree. On the coaching side of things,
    Varas has a 3-4-3 majority of the time. Varas also uses a false 9, to go with a subs for a formation change to a 4-3-3. Luna is the best dribbler. Setting him against CBs v having a mid works for this squad. Varas isn’t rigid and goes with what’s working and has multiple plans. Nice to see. I give the US group stage an A+ for this tournament. I still think the quarterfinals is the minimum, so not going to crazy. I can complain all day about this & that; there’s definitely a lot of positives. The round of 16 up next!!

    • Agree, steady under control for almost all 270 minutes. Maybe not super exciting at times but also not real scary at any point. If we win the first knockout it will be the most wins by the US at the U20 WC. Also only team to not allow a goal in the group stage.
      Last few group stages
      2019: lost to eventual champ Ukraine and needed 76 minute goal from Weah to beat Qatar
      2017: won group with 5pts tied Ecuador and Saudi Arabia beat Senegal 1-0
      2015: had to comeback to beat Myanmar 2-1, dominated NZ, and lost big to Ukraine finished 2nd
      2013: 1 pt -6 gd blown out by Spain and Ghana and drew France (yikes that was a group)
      2011: Didn’t Qualify
      2009: Did not get out of group
      Not surprisingly that ‘09-‘13 run compromised most of the lost generation that was largely absent from 2018 cycle.

    • I haven’t seen any other teams outside of our group, so it’s hard to predict how far they will go. But, they sure play well together as a real team. The move well without the ball, there is always someone available for an outlet pass and they flow well on defense to meet offensive threats. The few times the GK has been needed he looks really good. I think the team’s only real vulnerability seems to be if they send too many players forward and leave themselves open for a counterattack.

  7. We’ll know more after tomorrow but it’s looking like Group D 3rd place has the highest chance. Brazil, Italy, or Nigeria

    • Group C this afternoon will decide between Nigeria and Uzbekistan. Japan/Colombia wins and/or draws in both games and it will be Uzbekistan. Otherwise it will wait until tomorrow.

      • Looks like Uzbekistan now right, unless Tunisia gets blown out and Japan sneaks back in. If that happens then Nigeria.

  8. While Cowell missed 2 very good chances, I think his goal was a true golazzo. With a little better finishing the US could have had 4 or 5 goals and there were very few times when you didn’t feel the US was in total control.

    • I liked that he finished with his left, looked like the keeper was definitely fooled by that. Typically his left could end up anywhere. My worry is that he either stays in MLS and never has to get much better. Or he goes to a top 5 league and can’t just out athlete people and then gets thrown into loan after loan but they don’t care about developing him because they don’t own him. Even though the opponent was better today you could see Cade’s much more comfortable when he can run at people and get in behind. Against Fiji he was never able to get up a head of steam and just kept losing the ball dribbling into defenders.

  9. Cowell was so much faster and stronger than anyone on Slovakia that he looked like a man against boys, although perhaps a man that might not be particularly good at finishing.

    • Crazy to think Cowell could be in the golden boot race with a bit better finishing. Could have had another hat trick today.

      But the guy has “it”. Just needs a bit more refining. If he keeps progressing he will be scary for any defender to deal with in the coming years

    • I really don’t think we’ll see Cowell as the 9. More likely Paredes will be on the right or playing as the WB. This group didn’t use a 9 in qualifying and with Pepi being busy and “too advanced” they’ll just keep using Luna and Yapi.

      • I think Paredes will be at RW. Probably likely Luna at the withdrawn 9. Cowell probably at LW. What will be interesting is if Gomez plays that RB spot in the knockout rounds.

        Luna has been good at that false 9 position.

      • I would guess if we stay with 3 CBs Wiley LWB, Gomez RWB, Cowell LW, Paredes RW. If we advance to the quarters it’s longer break 4 days off so you could go same lineups.
        Not 100 sure Pukstas and Paredes will start the first one because travel might be an issue. Long way to fly and recover to go 60+ minutes.

      • JR,

        You’ve seen lot more of Cowell than I have but when I’ve seen him he’s basically an energizer bunny let loose .

        Cowell’s energy and speed is quite a heart attack and a pain in the ass for defenders. He’s a circus act; very entertaining. It is an impressive commitment to physicality and athleticism but ultimately it’s not very productive.

        Cade isn’t a very good finisher but you’d think all that chaos he causes should at the very least result in chances for someone else. But, in this group there doesn’t seem to be a “someone else”. So Cade winds up not being very productive.

        Cade’s got lot of potential but anyone who thinks he’s senior team material needs to temper their expectations until he figures out the best use of all that “stuff” he has.

      • V: heard a great description of Cowell on The Scuffed podcast, “he answers the question what if our best athletes played soccer.” He’s been a pro for awhile but perhaps this year with Luchi as his coach will help him grow instead of the crazed system of Almeda.

      • JR

        As Johann Cruyff might have said:

        “Just imagine what it would be like if he knew how to play football.”

        One more reason why Crocker needs to find a great manager. If he and Tessman ever figure it out, midfield will be sheer hell for our opponents.

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