The United States have all but secured passage to the knockout round at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, earning a 3-0 victory over Fiji on Tuesday through second-half goals from three MLS youth standouts in Real Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell and Atlanta United winger Caleb Wiley.
The Yanks were building off a 1-0 win over Ecuador from last Saturday, and now will conclude Group B play on Friday when facing Slovakia (2 pm ET | FS2, Universo). Each group’s top two teams, plus the top four third-place finishers, qualify for the Round of 16 at the Argentina-based tournament.
After being held scoreless in the first half, the US U-20s found their finishing boots starting in the 66th minute when Luna collected a loose ball and curled home the opener to beat Fiji goalkeeper Aydin Mustahib.
Cowell joined the fun with a far-post blast in the 88th minute, then Wiley cleaned up a 99th-minute free kick from Philadelphia Union defender Brandan Craig that deflected off the near post.
The US outshot Fiji by a 31-6 margin, but left it late in a game the Concacaf champions were expected to comfortably win against the Oceanic qualifier.
- THE BIG PICTURE: The US U-20s rotated their squad, then found another level when regulars like Luna and Wiley entered the mix. While the MLS homegrown-heavy group could have padded the goals column more, they were in control from start to finish and have six points from six available. Getting Cowell back in the lineup was big, and they’re closer to having Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg) and Rokas Pukštas (Hajduk Split) join in the knockouts.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Chance after chance was missed by inches, then Luna opened the scoring in the 66th minute. The RSL talent, sporting the No. 10 shirt, lifted a weight off everyone’s shoulders.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Cowell, who’s played over 4,500 regular-season minutes in MLS and has three USMNT appearances, showed his quality. His goal was one for the highlight reels and he struck woodwork twice late as well.
- USA: Friday, May 26 vs. Slovakia | 2 pm ET | Group B play
- FIJ: Friday, May 26 vs. Ecuador | 2 pm ET | Group B play