USA beats Slovakia for perfect group finish at U-20 World Cup

The USA beat Slovakia, 2-0, in its final Group B game at the U-20 World Cup in Argentina after opening wins over Ecuador (1-0) and Fiji (3-0).

The first-round performance by Coach Mikey Varas' team marks the first time that USA in its 17 U-20 World Cup appearances, dating back to 1981, won all three group games.

It marked the second time the USA shut out all three of its group opponents. (In 2005, the Sigi Schmid-coached U.S. team's 1-0 wins over Argentina and Egypt sandwiched a scoreless tie with Germany. It exited in the round of 16 with a 3-1 loss to Italy.)

Varas' team, which played all three of its games in San Juan, now moves 100 miles south to Mendoza, where on Tuesday it will face a third-place finisher from Group A, C or D. 

On Friday against Slovakia, Cade Cowell (photo above) opened the scoring in the 38th minute after intercepting a Slovakian pass at the halfway line and beating four defenders.

Cowell, however, squandered far easier chances to score, as did his teammates including fellow forward Diego Luna.

In that sense, the USA's Friday performance resembled its play against Fiji, which finally fell on goals in the 66th minute (Luna), 88th (Cowell) and the ninth minute of stoppage time (Caleb Wiley) after frustratingly poor U.S shooting in the first hour of play. Both coach and players said after the Fiji game they needed to improve their finishing and convert early chances.

Against Slovakia, which the USA outshot 20-9, the Americans did get on scoreboard earlier and forced more difficult saves, but still won't be satisfied with its efficiency in front of the goal. After shooting over the goal twice, Luna did hit post in the 67th minute from 18 yards out. The USA's second goal didn't come until sixth minute of stoppage time.

Niko Tsakiris, a 67th-minute sub for Owen Wolff, struck with a close-range shot after fending off David Ovsonka and faking out Simon Micuda. Tsakiris was set up by Quinn Sullivan's pass.

Slovakia, which came into the game after a 4-0 win over Fiji and 2-1 loss to Ecuador, came closest to scoring shortly before halftime when Leo Sauer's 22-yard shot toward top left corner forced an impressive diving save from Gaga Slonina.

The USA entered the game assured of passage into the knockout stage but needing a tie or victory to win the group. With Ecuador beating Fiji 9-0 in game that took place simultaneously, a U.S loss would have dropped it into third place, which would have meant a meeting a group winner in the round of 16.

For Tuesday's game, Varas will have attacking midfielder Rokas Pukstas and winger Kevin Paredes.

Pukstas's arrival was delayed because of the Croatian Cup final, in which he helped Hajduk Split to a 2-0 win over Sibenik on Wednesday. VfL Wolfsburg, which is aiming for Europa Conference League qualification, has been holding on to Paredes for its final Bundesliga game on Saturday against Hertha Berlin.

May 26 in San Juan, Argentina
USA 2 Slovakia 0. Goals: Cowell 38, Tsakiris 90+6.
USA — Slonina; Che, Craig, Wynder, Wiley (Gomez, 77); Halliday, Edelman (McGlynn, 67), Vargas; Wolff (Tsakiris, 67), Luna (Yapi, 73), Cowell (Sullivan, 73).
Slovakia — Hrdina; Kopasek (Micuda, 75), Ovsonka, Kosa, Sikula; Snajder, Szolgai (Murgas, 68); Gazi (Csoka, 46), M.Sauer (Gajdos, 46), L.Sauer; Geiger (Jambor, 46).
Yellow cards: none. Red cards: none.
Referee: Ramon Abatti (Brazil), ARs: Rafael Alves (Brazil), Guilherme Camilo (Brazil). Fourth official: Ahmad Al Ali (Kuwait). VAR: Rodolpho Toski Marques (Brazil).
Att.: 15,059.

18 comments about "USA beats Slovakia for perfect group finish at U-20 World Cup".
  1. Santiago 1314, May 26, 2023 at 6:02 p.m.

    Just wanted to RePost this from the January Camp "CupCake" Game;
    I don't think anything about Cowell has Changed...

    1.      Santiago 1314 replied, January 26, 2023 at 6:37 p.m.

    I think the WOW Factor of Cowell, Overstates that he is a "BLACKHOLE"
    I don't think he Combined with Anyone the Whole night and all his Plays ended up Out of Bounds or Dead.
    Just seemed to be a Newer Version of Morris and Ariolla.
    NOT Bad, just NOT Effective

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, May 26, 2023 at 6:04 p.m.

    Luna has Just about the Same Issue, except, at Least he "Tries" to Combine with other Players.

  3. Santiago 1314, May 26, 2023 at 6:05 p.m.

    Edleman, I don’t get it.??? … Just a Little better than Useless

  4. Santiago 1314, May 26, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.

    What would the Offense look like with Pepe, Guti, Paxten Up Front …
    Supported by Alvarado, Cuevas, Neal…
    Hopefully when Paredes, Pustkas get there we will have a little more Pizzazzzzz …
    So, At Least (8) Starters Missing....
    and what happened to Caden Clark and Dante Sealy (A couple of “Sparkle” Players would be nice to see) …
    Instead we got a bunch of  MLS “Grinders for Life".!?!?!? (Except for McGlynn and Wiley)
    {The 3 Centerbacks seem like they might reach Euro Level, thou Che didn't seem to make it at Hoffenheim)

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, May 26, 2023 at 6:19 p.m.

    On a Positive Note... Congrats to Team and Coach for Maxing Out in the Group.!!!
    Now Let's GRIND our way to the GOLD MEDAL.!!!

    (I haven't had a Chance to watch any of the other Teams... Anyone got any Insight into other Teams that are Advancing.???
    Every Team seems to be Missing their Top players... So, maybe it will be a GRINDER Winner in the End... Why Not US.!?!?!?)

  6. stewart hayes replied, May 27, 2023 at 8:52 a.m.

    Argentina move together like they've been playing together a long time; look for Romero.  Italy dark horse; Gambia; A. Botang.  Nigeria and Korea.

  7. Gary Levitt, May 27, 2023 at 7:54 a.m.

    I do not understand the majority of the negativity with the comments. The U.S. side is missing some key ingredients, yet has advanced and plays a third place team from group A, C, or D. Sure, Cowell could have finished more efficiently and played in his supporting cast more often...but he is 19 years old, 6'-0" tall, 180 lbs., is fearless and has pace. Everyone needs to level-set their criticism and understand that the U.S. has advanced with three wins. Be happy - and support the U.S. on Tuesday.  Enough with the negativity.  

  8. stewart hayes replied, May 27, 2023 at 8:58 a.m.

    Third place Group D could be Italy and they are a solid team.  

  9. Santiago 1314 replied, May 27, 2023 at 9:02 a.m.

    Gary, Cowell hasn't Progressed in 3 Years...
    And everyone is like; "He's so Wonderful, because he so Athletic, Fast and Oh, THAT HAIR"
    He's Detrimental to the Progress of the Group.
    Luna and him Can't be on the Field at the same Time, Too many Play go "To Die" between those Two... Both are Capable of the Exceptional, but at what Cost to the Group.

    When Paredes gets there; Who is Coach going to play in that Position.? See my Point.???..  Media Hype is going to Win Out over "The Team"

    Coach made Edelman the Captain;
    Who deserves to Sit, When Pustkas arrives.???...
    Vargas or Edelman.???  (Edelman, Clearly)

    I don't see it as Negativity, just The Brutal Truth.
    I guess I could Just Blow Rainbow and Butterflies, but what's the Fun in That.!?!?!?

  10. frank schoon, May 27, 2023 at 9:32 a.m.

    Hey, Santi, can I get a word in here edgewise; don't hog all the writing space ,here,  :)
    I watched about 15minutes of the first half and turned it off after the US scored the first goal..
    The US looked good from a birdseye view. Whenever the US passed the ball, we were outnumbering them by one man, looked good. Then , I realized Slovenia played defensively ,employing sometimes 5 or 6 defenders in the back, using some of their midfielders.
    No wonder we looked so good in how Slovenia was always a man short somewhere....Not impressed with the Slovenia's tactics of playing so defensively......

    Luna tuna, is probably the best ball handler on the US team and why is that. I got a feeling he spend a lot of time , when he was young, playing in Mexico when visiting, pickup soccer for our guys look like stiffs compare to him....Realize Luna as an individual  'breathes fire', he shows no lack of confidence, it's all about him. This is what you want in a player as a basis to start out with.
    I can't find that type of attitude in our American boys. He's reminds me of the type that sits down at lunchroom table in school ,elbowing his way in and expresses his presence. THIS WHAT WE NEED IN OUR AMERICAN PLAYERS!!!!!! That's that inner strenght that don't have in our guys.

    Luna's problem right now is that he's trying to do too much, thereby wasting what he's good at, which is to go right at your throat ,one on one, with the ball. And the best way to that is to let him play 'DEEP WING' as far down the field as possible,  TO PENETRATE. 
    He's doing things too many aspects at midfield he's not good at or weak at which is his passing, especially long balls, or long medium range his field view and most important he needs to work on his right foot shooting and passing. His week points can be improved, but first let him establish at the wing, FIRST!!  

  11. stewart hayes replied, May 27, 2023 at 10:25 a.m.

    Oddly enough, not just Solvenia played overly defensive.  Toward the end of the game when the USA dropped into a defensive block they looked very vulnerable.  The USA showed they are very vulnerable trying to hold on to a lead by taking the foot off the gas.

  12. frank schoon replied, May 27, 2023 at 10:57 a.m.

    Stewart , your'e right....I forgot to say that when Slovenia pressured the US high up in the US third, the US did not look good.....

  13. ARISTIDES SASTRE replied, May 27, 2023 at 12:43 p.m.

    I often do not agree with you Frank but you are 100% on the nose in your analysis of Luna.  He clearly is the one player who stands out for his ability to not have to think about his decision making.  He is so much more instinctive than the rest of the players and as you said, it is most likely due to his having played small sided games for the majority of his life.  He is the rare type of American player who has the potential to play in any league throughout the world and succeed.

  14. frank schoon replied, May 27, 2023 at 1:03 p.m.

    Aristides, you used the correct word...'INSTINCTIVE'. Our American players are developed in a programmed setting where they have to think more about their actions which takes more time.
    Luna is impulsive in his actions and allow to play position that calls for creatiivity....

  15. humble 1 replied, May 28, 2023 at 9:56 a.m.

    It was that Coach Veras knew how Solvaks (not Slovenia l) would play and had the right tactics.  US stugggles in final 3rd bc these players play train little together.  Luna is another in a long line of So Cal yout procucts - waht is singular about him is the he is USL product - went to El Paso Loco(motive) (which is almost closer to LA than Houston) when he was 17.  El Paso has a very talented staff and an interesting setup in the USL context - locally they play San Antoinio and New Mexico in the USL that both regularly play their academy players.  So - it is not street ball - rather
    - good talent ID and development at USL.  There are several other players that came thru USL in this U20
    group.  USL only began their academy 3 years ago - just beginning to see the fruit.  Not so
    much that they found players at 14 and put years in developing them - rather - they take the 17 y.o. that could not break into MLS - and offer dev and play framework.  MLS Next Pro - is another similar platform - but let me just add - San Anton, El Paso and New
    Mexico - these are platforms with talented staff and when the player plays for USLC - the stadiums actually have fans - the train and play context they have in that triangle is world class.  I expect to see more from

  16. frank schoon replied, May 28, 2023 at 10:29 a.m.

    Humble, it is not that Luna is a USL product that has made him the player he is, for if that is the case we would see all these types coming out of the woodwork from those places you have mentioned. It is the individual that makes him the player he's become, that interests me. It has to do with his personality, backround ,growing up and his history of how he has developed, all of which has nothing to do with the training and coaching he's received as is the impetus of what he's become as a player.

    It's like at Ajax, they are known for their development ,meaning they are able to improve the level of the mediocre players but players like a Cruyff, vander Vaart, Wesley Sneyder, Van Basten and many more who came to Ajax are not the mediocre types they were allready ahead of the others. They had talent already and it has nothing to do with who trained them or where they come from.

    It is like Matt Crocker, which is a joke, mentioning that he attributed two well-known youth talent to his youth program he ran. That's like Ajax taking credit for vander Vaart . He was already a talented player compared to the youth he came on board with coming to Ajax, those types are not developed by some program or individual.

  17. Santiago 1314 replied, May 29, 2023 at 8:46 p.m.

    Hahaha ... How Funny, We got Solvaks and Slovenia instead of SLOVAKIA.!!!... Can't tell the Difference with our a Programe.!!!
    Just goes to back up my earlier Post ...

    Santiago 1314 replied, May 23, 2023 at 10:52 a.m.

    This Group continues to Impress as "Very Solid"... Very Professional and Business Like.
    Nothing Too Spectacular... Nothing Too Weak...
    Never seem to be Fazed by the Moment... No Helter-Skelter... Crazy GegenPress.
    Similar to what you see from: Chezh Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Poland...

    5-29-23.... You could have had the 2 teams ExChange the Shirts at Halftime, and No One watching, would have Noticed the Difference in play in the 2nd half... No Special Players, No Special Play...
    Ho, Humm

  18. humble 1 replied, May 31, 2023 at 10:58 p.m.

    Frank, agree with all you write, my point was that the USL Context is new and it's having a positive impact and we see it in Luna.  There are several players that came thru this context in the U20 roster.  This is literally - a break thru.  The YNT was previously spending 95% of it's scouting to build YNTs on DA - the other 5% went abroad.  This continued until the DA was disbanded in 2020.  Take the So Cal product Luna, not the first from this region, there have been many, but he is among the first youth to go pro thru USL.  They began their academy system in 2020/21.  This was not possible before 2020.  Not possible.  So we know his two years with El Paso must be a contributing factor in his players development.  Many of the USL youth academies are fully funded, San Antonio and New Mexico are, El Paso, not sure, but believe yes, these fully funded and non-funded USL Academies across the U.S. are almost all in non-MLS markets - where previously it was - pay-to-play or no-play - you have to travel to carry on.  This is having an impact.  Luna is case in point.  Thanks!  

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