USA-Nigeria: U-20 Men's World Cup Player Ratings

May 27 Bielsko-Biala, Poland
USA 2 Nigeria 0. Goals: Soto 18, 46.
Att.: 3,427.

Desperately needing a win after opening the U-20 World Cup with a 2-1 loss to Ukraine, the USA on Monday faced Nigeria, which opened with a 4-0 victory over Qatar. As it did against the Ukrainians, the USA took command from the opening whistle, and against Nigeria enjoyed a 60% edge in possession in the first half. But this time Coach Tab Ramos' team took a 1-0 lead into halftime, extended its lead before the Nigerians touched the ball in the second half, and defended tenaciously against a fast and powerful opponent to claim a 2-0 victory. On Thursday, the USA faces Qatar, which fell, 1-0, to Ukraine.

(1=low; 5=middle; 10=high.)


Brady Scott made good saves on shots from Zulkifilu Rabiu and Aniekeme Okon, and was well positioned for Nigeria's long-range blasts. He fisted away a few dangerous crosses and istributed well, including a few times with his feet under pressure after back passes. He survived misjudging a stoppage-time corner kick.

Player (Club) U-20 caps/goals (age)
7 Brady Scott
(FC Köln/GER) 11/0 (19)


U.S. outside backs Sergino Dest and Chris Gloster played like midfielders when the USA had the ball, helping keep the Nigerians on their heels for much of the match, while also fulfilling their defensive duties. Gloster, after dribbling from the halfway line, assisted on Sebastian Soto's second goal. Chris Richards won several headers and tackles before being subbed because of injury in the 60th minute. Richards and central back partner Aboubacar Keita won their battles with strikers Akor Adams and Okechukwu.

Player (Club) U-20 caps/goals (age)
6 Sergino Dest
(Ajax/NED) 10/1 (18)
8 Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER) 10/0 (19)
6 Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew) 4/0 (19)
8 Chris Gloster (Hannover 96/GER) 13/0 (18)


The ball-winning of Chris Durkin, the central midfielder who covered acres of the field, was key to preventing the Flying Eagles from finding midfield rhythm. Durkin also passed smartly, such as when he found Alex Mendez in the 21st minute and Mendez delivered a precise through-ball for Tim Weah's shot that keeper Olawale Oremade saved well. On the opening goal by Soto, Mendez drove in the kind of corner kick, with hardly any arch, that is particularly had to defend against. Mendez, whose deflected shot in the 16th minute hit the crossbar, slowed down after taking a blow to the head and was subbed in the 77th minute. Paxton Pomykal passed precisely under pressure and also helped break up Nigerian counterattacks.

Player (Club) U-20 caps/goals (age)
7 Alex Mendez (Freiburg/GER) 17/8 (18)
8 Chris Durkin (D.C. United) 3/0 (19)
6 Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) 11/3 (19)


Center forward Sebastian Soto, the one newcomer to the U.S. starting lineup after the Ukraine game (replacing Brandon Servania), scored both goals with sharp finishing. The skillful, swift dribblers Tim Weah and Konrad De La Fuente kept the pressure on Nigeria from both wings. Weah, who passed the ball to Gloster on the second-goal sequence, was offside by a foot when his header set up a called-back shot into the net by Soto in the 30th minute, and nearly scored in the 21st minute. De La Fuente's cross to Soto in the ninth minute created the first big U.S. chance and one of the eight U.S. corner kicks.

Player (Club) U-20 caps/goals (age)
7 Konrad De La Fuente (Barcelona/ESP) 3/1 (17)
8 Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96/GER) 7/4 (18)
7 Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA) 1/0 (19)


Minutes after replacing the injured Richards, Mark McKenzie clumsily knocked down Michael for a penalty kick call -- and got lucky that VAR spotted an offside before the foul. Brandon Servania and Justin Rennicks helped the USA keep the Nigerians at bay when it was playing with a man-advantage for a five-minute stretch late in the game while Soto was treated on the sideline.

Player (Club) U-20 caps/goals (age)
4  Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union) 11/3 (20)
5  Brandon Servania (FC Dallas) 10/3 (20)
nr  Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution) 15/6 (20)

TRIVIACurt Onalfo, an assistant coach to Tab Ramos at this tournament, started for the USA the last time it faced Nigeria at a U-20 World Cup. It was a 2-1 Nigeria win in overtime in the semifinals of the 1989 U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia, where the USA placed fourth, still its best finish at the tournament.

May 27 Bielsko-Biala
USA 2 Nigeria 0. Goals: Soto 18, 46.
USA -- Scott; Dest, Richards (McKenzie, 60), Keita, Gloster; Pomykal, Durkin, Mendez (Servania, 77); De La Fuente, Soto, Weah (Rennicks, 87).
Nigeria -- Oremade; Rabiu, Salawudeen, Ozornwafor, Utin; Michael (Makanjuola, 70), Dele-Bashiru (Okon, 31), Muhammad; Effiom, Adams (Tijani, 54), Offia.
Yellow cards: USA -- De La Fuente 10, Gloster 90+6; Nigeria -- Okon 90+1, Salawudeen 90+10. Red cards: none.
Referee:  Bastien Benoit (France).
Att.: 3,427

Shots: 12/19
Shots on target: 3/9
Saves: 5/1
Corner Kicks: 8/6
Fouls: 7/19
Offside: 1/1
Possession: 59%/41%

23 comments about "USA-Nigeria: U-20 Men's World Cup Player Ratings".
  1. Sam Bellin, May 27, 2019 at 8:34 p.m.

    Overall good summary and I agree with most of the player rankings.  My only quarrel is that I thought Paxyon Pomykal played very well in the middle and deserved more credit (7 or even 8).  His ability to find the soft spots in the middle to receive the ball and then maintian possession just about flawlessly, using a variety of dribbling and passing moves, is what enabled the front 3 to have ample time and space on the ball, and they did exremely well with it.  Durkin, Mendez, Richards, and the outside backs stellar as well.

    I love watching the U-20s!  Even the frustrating game against Ukraine I saw more quality build-up play than I've ever seen from the Senior Team in a whole year.  Any chance we can move our full national team towards this type of soccer? 

  2. R2 Dad replied, May 27, 2019 at 9:30 p.m.

    Bwahahaha! When the USMNT is built around a dmid that can't turn and run at the defense, they are in no shape to operate like the U20s. The men's team plays a similar but less effective version of the USWNT's game.

  3. Goal Goal, May 27, 2019 at 9:45 p.m.

    The 20’s are a good team with unlimited potential.  They will only improve with Tab.  They would run the national team ragged right now.  My big question is why isn’t Tab the coach on the NT.

  4. wait what? replied, May 28, 2019 at 12:50 p.m.


  5. beautiful game, May 27, 2019 at 11:23 p.m.

    R2Dad; I've watched 4-U20 games and haven't seen one attacking MF of note. What's your beef? 

  6. R2 Dad replied, May 28, 2019 at 1:25 a.m.

    When the USMNT is captained by our back-passer in chief/boat anchor Bradley, the team is not dynamic--it's slow and predictable. The opposite of the U20s. International soccer is a young man's game. Will MB make it to 2022, when he's turning 34? And if not, why keep him on the squad, if he's all he's bringing is "leadership"?

  7. John Soares, May 28, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    U20s played well in both games, obviously with better results against Nigeria.
    I see a lot of potential. Good news for the MLS and senior team.

  8. beautiful game, May 28, 2019 at 11 a.m.

    R2Dad; your assessment of M. Bradley is spot on. Why he is still in the NT mix is probably a question of experience which adds little to the table.

  9. frank schoon, May 28, 2019 at 11:02 a.m.

    The US looked nice ,in the way they played but I was very disappointed in the Nigerian team. The Nigerians gave away a lot of space allowing the American team to look good. I'm not concerned about the results of the U20 team as a whole because a lot of these guys will go the way of  "whatever happened to?", a few years from now. I'm not impressed with Weah and I wouldn't be surprised seeing him back in the MLS, in the future.
    I liked Dest, the kid from Ajax. He could definitely be an addition to the USMNT.  I watched him against Poland, in the 2nd half, and I was very impressed with his ballhandling skills and passing.
    He's been well trained and can handle a ball in "smallspaces" which is a rare characteristic of American players, for they prefer lots of running space. As you see can by the way Dest moves he  is not a defender but a former winger who couldn't make the grade to play wing at a higher level. By playing back he brings with him all the qualities of a wing which will really add to the US attack. He has the ability to take on players ,but more importantly, the ability to draw opponents to him thereby relieving  our wing like a Pulisic. Dest can cross the ball with either foot, has the ability to look for that smart 'through' pass. Also Dest, has good ball control and playing sense and doesn't lose the ball much at all when on attack. He is the kind of back we miss for he brings to the table a lot more options than some big surly guy who runs down the flank and give the ball a 'poof' into the penalty. 
    Watch how Dest  'SHIELDS' the ball on the dribble ,an aspect not taught to American players . Also watch how Dest passes the ball, with feel and with the right velocity, aspects which are taught and strongly emphasized at Ajax. He really puts himself into the pass, which is another quality American players don't display especially in medium to short range passes, often remindingme  of touch on the ball of a Russian Tractor....

  10. beautiful game replied, May 29, 2019 at 10:25 a.m.

    Nigeria lacked discipline.

  11. frank schoon replied, May 29, 2019 at 10:38 a.m.

    BG, That is a characteristic of African soccer and that makes it also interesting. Just like dutch soccer by nature is offense which is part of makeup of the Dutch nature, it can have its advantage and disadvantages.....

  12. frank schoon, May 28, 2019 at 11:43 a.m.

    As far as Nigeria, goes ,I've never seen a worse Nigerian team. Guys, I don't know if you notice when watching soccer it is all so predictable. The problem is that soccer has become tooooo PROGRAMMED. Years ago you couldn't tell what a player will do with the ball or where the ball will go. That is no longer the case ,today. I could close my eyes for 2or3 seconds and know where the ball will go or will be. Every team plays with two centerbacks, positioned square, basically stiffs, whose job it is to hand the ball off to a #6,lets say, and if not it goes to a back or it goes long. All the PASSES are made to players in the backfield standing STATIONARY.
    If the back has the ball, optionless, he passes back to the goalie or the centerback who receives it ,sometimes dribble towards the other centerback and passes and then ball ends up at the other back and if there is no option like  #6, it goes long. I'm virtually going nuts by this time.
    This what I see from every team and Nigeria, likewise has that disease. The reason all these teams do it is because coaches are all PROGRAMMED as they go for their coaching license.  Nigeria represents 'African' ball , free and loose, lacking some discipline, tactically not as strong, but the players are good individuals on the ball and can take on opponents. This is why Europeans teams look for African players due to Individual prowess knowing he will learn the tactical finesse later.  
    But this Nigerian team displays none of that great individual prowess, insteaed all these players looked liked they've been neutered ,soccerwise. They are playing against own nature, kicking lots of long balls and the reason why is is they a programmed coach, who teaches the same boring approach of playing soccer.
    This style of soccer has got to change, it is too structured , too programmed and it is NON-CREATIVE.
    Since all these coaches are not creative and afraid to try something different to break the mold, but  instead play it safe and just copy what the latest stupid trend is. For example if Guardiola decides to play not with 2 square centerbacks but instead a libero, a la Beckenbauer, with good offensive attacking skills, then all of a sudden  these blowheart coaches will decide to follow Guardiola's way. This is what happened when Cruyff became coach , he decided to go against the popular 4-4-2 system and instituted the 4-3-3 and 3-4-3. They first laughed at him and now the 4-3-3 is much more applied than the 4-4-2.  Nest Post.

  13. beautiful game replied, May 29, 2019 at 10:29 a.m.

    Programmed? Player abilities decide a coaches game plan. 

  14. frank schoon replied, May 29, 2019 at 10:49 a.m.

    BG, programmed soccer can stifle player abilities. That's a trueism in soccer. You need to know the history or rather the playing development and/or specifically the technical development and the deliterious effects caused by programmed soccer
    On a tactical level you deny the players thinking abilities which likewise has lessened in soccer as compared to players of 50years ago. Technically, I hope you realize, has gone down in quality, because players are told what to do, what is not allowed, don't take risks, etc...The coaching has become too much of an influence.
    It is so obvious watching Nigeria play that have been forced to play in such programmed manner, which has really effected their individual prowess.....

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, June 1, 2019 at 1:37 a.m.

    BG, development is not supposed to be the same as senior soccer. You know that. In development, how the team plays, regardless of success, reflects the coaches view of player development. In senior soccer the coach chooses game plans to win matches rather than to develop players. 

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, June 1, 2019 at 1:40 a.m.

    I might add in this case the coach selects the players so the type of players again reflect his view of player development. 

    I wouldn't be so concerned except everywhere I see hype about what a great bunch of players this team is. They may be great players, but they aren't special.

  17. frank schoon, May 28, 2019 at 11:59 a.m.

    The problem with a lack of attacking centerbacks, makes it already predictable, as to what can happen. For with attacking centerbacks, you not only can create midfield superiority, but also the centerback will be a better technical player unlike the current version. The more and better technical  players  in the backfield the more attacking options teams have thereby reducing the current  predictableness of our soccer.
    The problem we have today and especially in America, is that our kids/players don't play PICKUP soccer ,therefore our kids learnin a programmed soccer environment, lacking good individual skills and prowess and one on one savviness with the ball under pressure. This is why our teams regardless of the level of play are not good  operating in small spaces...This is a problem the soccer Academies can't solve for they likewise follow a program structured set up as well....We need PICKUP soccer as an additional factor in developing our players....Everything is just way too structured for our players to learn....It is no wonder we don't produce great individualist with the ball.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, June 1, 2019 at 1:51 a.m.

    The way I would describe the tactical problems you describe is that the coaches spread the attacking players over the entire field so that the result is that the defense with interior lines can maintain superior numbers wherever the ball goes. In other words our conventional tactics isolate our players.

    What I like to see is teams that have most of the team when attacking concentrated within supporting distance of the ball. Ideally you want each player to be supported by at least 3 team mates and in the center channel an attacker should have 5-6 options around him.

    All this backpassing is supposed to create gaps between the defensive lines by playing in a north south direction. I have never seen it work. Stretching defenses with diagonal balls works much better to break down zone defense.

    I have nothing against back passes per se. They are extremely useful in creating more space behind the opponents back line (or between the lines if the back line won't move up).  

  19. frank schoon replied, June 1, 2019 at 10:48 a.m.

    The problem with backpassing as it is carried out today, means that the team is not positioned well for forward ball movement. In other words "Positioning' off the ball is poor...Realize that a team that builds up from the back always outnumbers the opponents in their own half. So go figure why we need to pass back and square which is so often seen today. Cruyff lamented this problem which he blames on mostly on van Gaal when he coached Ajax back in the early 90's;he set the trend which ofcourse was copied by other coaches. Worse, it was not only the backpasses that you so often see but all passes are made to stationary players. As a result of all this, Cruyff stated today the players who tend to have more touches on the ball are the defenders instead midfielders and attackers, along with tempo of the game slowed down; this results in another Golden Rule broken which is 'You don't slow the tempo down when you outnumber the opponent.....
    Another Golden Rule in building up first of all is that the pass must beat an opponent, otherwise what's the use...So what we find today, tons and tons of backpasses, square passes that have no use. All that does is to give the opponents time to set up defensively...
    The only reason for a back pass in the build up is when the pass out of the back skips a station allowing the station that is skipped to receive the ball facing downfield...which would be called the 3rd man pass who not only faces downfield but is on the move and not stationary....
    Soccer as such has gone down in quality becuase of the lack of good positioning off the ball on the build up causing lots of back and square  which ends up kicking the ball long downfield.
    Watch the old Ajax games of the 70's on YouTube and you can count on one hand any back passes given in the game. Ajax played so much faster and more determined in those days.

  20. Nick Gabris, May 28, 2019 at 12:25 p.m.

    Fun game to watch. There were some beautiful passes, plays. Soto is a beast. I always thought T. Ramos would make a good NT coach, has a high soccer IQ, knows the game, adapts to changes quickly. Was disapointed when he was not chosen to be NTC. 

  21. ARISTIDES SASTRE replied, May 28, 2019 at 12:44 p.m.

    Agree with you Nick. This was an enjoyable game to watch and Ramos encourages these kids to be creative. It was great to see the productive
    movement without the ball by so many of the players. We played a possession game with a purpose which resulted in a number of good scoring opportunities.  It's great to have one of our most skilled players ever spread his influence amongst our younger players.

  22. clayton nissan, May 28, 2019 at 2:11 p.m.

    R2 dad... Cheers ... Bradley is the single biggest reason the USMNT team is a failure.   His decision making is some of the worst i've ever witnessed.

  23. R2 Dad replied, June 1, 2019 at 5:09 p.m.

    CN, I'm not seeing whatever it is that the Nats see in MB. Maybe it's a MB/GB bromance, maybe Change and Risk aren't valued over Experiene and Loyalty--I don't know and Chicago is bad at communicating required player attributes beyond Hustle & Running.

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