52817_isi_lennonbrooks_usmntu20jd011817115_(1) John Dorton/isiphotos.com
U-20 World Cup

10-Man U-20 Side Wins Its Group, to Face New Zealand

Tab Ramos' U-20 men's national team tied Saudia Arabia early Sunday, locking up first place in Group F and setting up a knockout stage clash with New Zealand. Here is Brian Sciaretta's analysis.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 28, 2017
8:00 AM

THE UNITED STATES UNDER-20 MEN'S TEAM won Group F and advanced to the round of 16 at the 2017 U-20 World Cup following a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia early Sunday. But the favorable result came at a cost as controversial officiating will have three key American players suspended for the knockout opener.

Tab Ramos went with a very similar lineup from the win over Senegal. The only change was Sebastian Saucedo replaced Eryk Williamson in the midfield.

U.S. right back Aaron Herrera was the first player to earn a suspension for the next match when he went into the books for a challenge. Derrick Jones followed soon after with a questionable decision from referee Diego Haro.

In the 41st minute, the Yanks moved in front when Tyler Adams gained possession on the right side and crossed to Josh Sargent in the box. The 17-year-old strikerquickly found Luca de la Torre, who placed a low shot on goal. The shot was saved but Brooks Lennon was there for a tap-in to give the United States the lead.

The celebration was short-lived, however, because in the 45th minute U.S. central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was given his second yellow card—ostensibly for elbowing a Saudi Arabian player even though replays showed that this was not the case. The Americans had to play the entire second half with 10 men.  

In the second half, Ramos inserted Justen Glad into the backline and the U.S. played a compact style, limiting Saudi Arabian’s chances. U.S. goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann enjoyed his best game of the tournament and in the 68th minute he had to make a tough save from a close shot on the left wing.

Four minutes later the United States earned a corner and Lennon’s ball found a wide open Glad for a free header. If the Real Salt Lake central defender would have picked either corner the U.S. would have doubled its lead but Glad nodded the ball straight at Ameen Bokari.

That missed opportunity would come back to haunt the U.S. because just two minutes later a Saudi Arabian corner kick found Abdulelah Al-Amri for an open header and he headed the ball past a sprawling Klinsmann to tie things up.

The game finished in a 1-1 deadlock and the draw proved to benefit both teams.  For Saudi Arabia, the point moved it past Argentina in the third-place standings and saw it book a spot in the round of 16.

Because Ecuador and Senegal finished scoreless in the other Group F game, the United States won the group and will face New Zealand on Thursday (7am ET; FS1, Telemundo) for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Bad officiating marred the game

Peruvian referee Diego Haro seemed determined to make himself the star of the match and was way too quick to card players. It completely ruined the game and it will cost the U.S. against New Zealand on Thursday.

Both cards against Cameron Carter-Vickers were poor—especially the second, which sent him off right before halftime. Similarly, the call against Jones was highly questionable.

In total, seven yellow cards were handed out in the first half, and what could have been a great game was reduced to a mess.

Palmer-Brown was Man of the Match

Erik Palmer-Brown was the best player on the field, and it wasn’t even close. The Sporting Kansas City product read the game incredibly well, anticipated Saudi attacks, won just about every challenge, and distributed vewell out of the back. When Justen Glad entered the game in the second half, it was Palmer-Brown’s third central defense partner in three games.

Despite the backline changes, Palmer-Brown has been a consistent rock so far this tournament. In fact, there is a good argument that he has been the tournament’s best defender in the group stages. What happens to him after this tournament is even more interesting as he is in the last year of his contract with Sporting Kansas City.

Adams, de la Torre very involved

Pundits are focusing on Josh Sargent, Derrick Jones, and the central defenders but the U.S. won the group on the strength of many good performances. Tyler Adams and Luca de la Torre continue to get involved at key moments. De la Torre has a goal and two assists so far but it was his shot that fled directly to Lennon’s goal.

Similarly, it was Adams who broke the play open with a key pass into the box. The New York Red Bulls midfielder has a first-rate engine and covers a ton of ground. His overall game is growing as the tournament is progressing. He has enjoyed a strong 2017 so far and it is worth remembering that he is eligible for the 2019 U-20 team as well.

The starting XI vs. New Zealand

The United States received a favorable matchup against New Zealand in the round of 16. The Kiwis flexed their muscles in a 3-1 win over Honduras and will not roll over but few expected New Zealand to advance to the group stage.

Suspensions and injuries will provide Ramos and Co. with a huge test. Without Jones, Carter-Vickers, Herrera, and Zelalem, the coach will have to cobble together a makeshift side.

Four central defenders remain available: Palmer-Brown, Glad, Tommy Redding, and Austin Trusty. Glad can also play at right back, Trusty can play left back, and Palmer-Brown can play defensive midfielder—where he won the CONCACAF player of the tournament in qualifying. There is also the option of moving left wing Danny Acosta over to left back.

Moving Palmer-Brown into the defensive-midfield position seems to make the most sense. After Jones, there are few options in that spot and the U.S. needs someone in that role. Meanwhile the Glad-Redding centerback pairing worked very well in World Cup qualifying. 

Projected Starting XI 

Goalkeeper: Jonathan Klinsmann
Right back: Danny Acosta
Central defender: Justen Glad
Central defender: Tommy Redding
Left back: Auston Trusty
Defensive/holding midfielder: Erik Palmer-Brown
Defensive/holding midfielder: Tyler Adams
Right midfielder: Brooks Lennon
Central midfielder: Eryk Williamson
Left midfielder: Luca de la Torre
Forward: Josh Sargent

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