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Anatomy of a Loss
A Post-Mortem of the U.S. U-20's Quarterfinal Exit
The hopes of the U.S. Under-20 men's national team making their first FIFA World Cup semifinals appearance since 1989 were dashed on Sunday, as Mikey Varas' team was knocked out in the quarterfinal stage for the fourth consecutive time.
A goal from Anderson Duarte and a self-inflicted wound from Josh Wynder led Uruguay to a 2-0 victory, propelling the South American outfit to the last four and sending the USMNT U-20’s packing. The U.S. clean sheet run ended at 21 minutes, followed by Wynder's own goal that sealed the match for Uruguay after the halftime break.
Duarte put Uruguay ahead in the 21st minute, a left-footed drive straight down the middle of Gaga Slonina's goal, giving his side a 1-0 lead. Juan de los Santos provided the assist to galloping past a diving Justin Che. Duarte did the rest from close quarters.
The U.S. couldn't create much in terms of clear-cut opportunities. Wynder's right-footed effort just before the interval stood out as their only significant chance, following several squandered opportunities earlier in the half.
Fortune favored Uruguay for their second goal when de los Santos' cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Wynder. The botched clearance handed Uruguay a comfortable 2-0 lead which they easily held onto.
Cade Cowell looked promising, creating two noteworthy chances in the 63rd and 66th minutes, but couldn't beat Uruguay's goalkeeper, Randall Rodriguez.
Uruguay held firm to advance to the semifinals, where they will join Italy, South Korea, and Israel.
The game boiled down to the U.S. shooting themselves in the foot, and Uruguay capitalizing on their counterattacking strategy, which admittedly, only produced one meaningful attack.
Varas' starting lineup selection raises questions as well. Choosing to save two slots for Paredes and Pukstas for the knockout stages, only to bench them for the quarterfinal, seems suspect.
A handful of players may have USMNT potential. Pukstas, Paredes, Slonina and Cowell stand out as players who could make a significant impact within the next few years.
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Luna and Wiley still need more time to mature as professionals. Wiley needs to improve defensively and hone his ability to beat players 1v1. He shows promise but mainly in transition. Luna just needs more exposure in professional games.
The three Union players, despite their effort, are unlikely to become full USMNT material. McGlynn, Craig, and Sullivan will likely turn into quality MLS pros, but need to reach another level to see senior team minutes.
Wynder, while still young, could use more experience, and Che needs more professional games. Both players are currently trailing behind LA Galaxy’s Jalen Neal in terms of defensive ability and speed.
And so, it's back to the planning phase for the next cycle.