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USMNT U-20’s praise relentlessness in victory over Fiji


For most of Tuesday’s FIFA U-20 World Cup Group B showdown between the U.S. men’s national team and Fiji, it didn’t look like the result would come for the Americans, but a relentless second-half performance helped get the job done.

Diego Luna, Cade Cowell, and Caleb Wiley all scored their first tournament goals in a 3-0 group stage victory over Fiji, clinching a knockout stage berth for Mikey Varas’ squad heading into their final Group B match on Friday. Despite leaving plenty of scoring opportunities on the table, the USMNT U-20’s got a breakthrough goal from halftime substitute Luna before Cowell and Wiley padded the shutout victory.

The relentless and aggressive attacking style from the Americans helped keep Fiji under countless pressure in the final 30+ minutes of the match, a theme that captain Daniel Edelman credited for how the USMNT U-20’s moved to 2-0-0 in Argentina.

“Fiji definitely gave us some challenging moments, not being able to score in the first half, they were on us,” Edelman said postmatch. “We felt we controlled the possession and chances, but in the second half we definitely showed our aggressiveness, relentlessness, and determination. Diego got the first goal, Cade got the second and Caleb for the third, so now it’s about Slovakia up next.”

“The subs that came on Niko [Tsakiris] and Diego [Luna] came on and gave us a new energy on the field,” Edelman added. “The message at halftime we to keep being relentless in the final third because Fiji was looking to hit us on the transition so you never know what could happen. It showed our winning mentality to get that result.”

The USMNT U-20’s registered seven shots on goal out of its 31 efforts in total, leaving the door open for an even-larger scoreline. However, after needing a stoppage-time winner from Jonathan Gomez to defeat Ecuador 1-0, the Americans will feel confident heading into Friday’s showdown with Slovakia knowing they added three more goals to their haul on Tuesday.

Luna, Tsakiris, and Wiley all made impacts off the bench while Cowell’s continued fight to get on the scoresheet was a key positive after his first-half misses. In addition, the USMNT U-20’s delivered their second-consecutive clean sheet with Gabriel Slonina only being troubled once in the 100-minute performance.

Although the USMNT U-20’s have already clinched its spot into the Round of 16, the group’s mindset isn’t changing heading into a showdown with Slovakia.

“Win the next game,” Varas said. “Our mindset never changes, we want to stay relentless and play our football. The next step is to win the next one.”


  1. Wiley, & Gomez were wingbacks v Ecuador; Gomez & Wolff were wingbacks v Fiji (1st half only). Craig, Ferkranus, Halliday were in quarters, with Halliday getting wide at times. Edelman & McGlynn were the central pairing in midfield (1st half only). Varas started Luna as a false 9 for Yapi, and Tsakaris for Wolff. Tsakaris operated in RM, with McGlynn in LM. Edelman went central of both of the two, which Edelman was shaded the RM mostly in the 1st half. Halliday was rotating out wide, which allowed Wolff and/or Sullivan to stay inside. 2nd half- Halliday was always out wide. I like the fact that Varas switched back to a base formation, not because of the subs but play style w/ the subs. I pay attention to shape of the formation on the field v lineups just in case of a lineup error. We played in the same shape against Ecuador the whole match. If you have to watch the match again, everything I’ve posted today/yesterday will be clarified.

    • backs in a 352 or 343 tend to be endline to endline players — at least in theory. the backs are usually more central and the wings are responsible for tracking back if the opposing wing pushes up. we often also pinch in our forwards, which clears the chalk channel for the wings. with that much ground to cover you might emphasize one or the other end on a given day. maybe you’re just trying to keep the other team from scoring. pinned back as 4-5 defenders, or maybe they are struggling and you’re parked high as another wing attacker.

      what i got out of it was we were better able to pin them back in the second half at which point it looks more like a 3 back system as they could mop things up and the wings aren’t having to come back.

      to me the US’ issues are offensively not enough bodies in the box to get served — the 9s rarely see the ball and the goals are all around the edge of the box — and then the senior team has an unacknowledged issue getting countered wide when we get caught up.

      i do not buy at all we went to 4 backs because there was no need to play that many to corral fiji. if anything we were pushing bodies up.

      • Technically we had four backs but they were always pushed way up because there wasn’t a threat except on goal kicks.
        The men in the box for me is the issue. We get the near post run and usually the far post but then nothing else. We never hit the cut back and rarely have anyone there. That’s the whole point of the near post run to clear that space.
        IV and It’s, I appreciate your opinions on what you saw even if I interpreted it differently. Really don’t want Group D 3rd place yikes Brazil, Nigeria, or Italy.

    • Ok here’s what I think was happening after rewatch (just watching a couple possessions then skipping ahead). It’s a 4-4-2 in defense Yapi seemed to drop to cover the DM in a Diamond but Fiji so rarely had it it’s hard to tell. We appeared to start in a 2-3-2-3 to start.
      We were doing a lot of switching sides and if a FB cut inside the CM replaced. Later on we took more of 2-2-1-5 shape as Fiji had nothing of the ball. When the ball was on a FBs side he’d drop back closer to the CBs and the weak side would push higher but neither ever came back in line with CBs.
      With McGlynn sometimes making it even a 2-2-6. I don’t know that the formation mattered all that much as I don’t think we’ll face an opponent quite like Fiji going forward. We aren’t going to be 2-2-6 in possession against Uruguay or South Korea. We looked a little like AFC Richmond in the first half trying to drag defenders out a fill that space with unexpected runners, at one point McGlynn was on the sideline and JoGo had tucked inside. Didn’t rewatch any of the 2nd but I think what happened was Fiji just sat so deep 6-3-1 inside their own 25 there was just so little danger that the FBs pushed high and the CMs didn’t worry about cover because they didn’t have to Fiji didn’t have anyone in those wide areas.
      Luna and Tsakiris came on for Wolff and Sullivan. Yapi stayed on until the 75th. Then Wiley took the winger position and Luna took the 9. It looked like Diego and Tsakiris had been given free range to go wherever instead of staying in their tucked in wing roles, whereas Wolff and Sullivan stayed pretty much in their channels.

  2. “We felt we controlled the possession and chances, but in the second half we definitely showed our aggressiveness, relentlessness, and determination.” making my point for me. there was roughly the first 60′. which was pointless perimeter passing give or take the odd chance. and then there was the final 30′ plus injury time.

    • That’s why it’s a good thing that the game is 90 minutes long.

      The next time you see a team that “controlled the possession and chances,………we definitely showed our aggressiveness, relentlessness, and determination.”
      for 90 minutes every game, let us all know.

    • IV: I’m not trying to pick an argument with but I think you need to do a rewatch it was not at all like you described. The final ball into the box was lacking but it was not pointless perimeter passing. Often we’d get the final ball wrong or Yapi or Cowell would misplay it and Fiji would hoof it out and we’d restart but it was not at all what you were saying.

    • It was pretty entertaining listening to Craig during the breaks complaining about time wasting. At one point he said something like “what are we at 30 minutes of added time now?”


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