The United States have topped Group B at the FIFA U-20 World Cup after earning a 2-0 victory over Slovakia, a result that was secured Friday by goals from San Jose Earthquakes homegrowns Cade Cowell and Niko Tsakiris.
After their latest triumph in Argentina, head coach Mikey Varas’ team will face a to-be-determined third-place finisher in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, May 30. The Concacaf champions posted a plus-six goal differential in Group B while obtaining three straight shutout victories over Ecuador, Fiji and Slovakia across a week-long stretch.
Cowell’s breakthrough came in the 38th minute, embarking on a stunning solo run from midfield before cutting past several defenders and finishing low past goalkeeper Adam Hrdina. Tsakiris then doubled the US advantage in the 96th minute, collecting a chipped pass from Philadelphia Union homegrown Quinn Sullivan before finishing at the near post.
Prior to Tsakiris’ shining moment, Cowell had several chances to double the Yanks’ advantage via his powerful runs and Real Salt Lake attacker Diego Luna struck the post in the 67th minute when trying to finesse home a shot. Former Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper Gaga Slonina also made a crucial first-half stop to preserve the win, displaying a strong hand on a top-corner-bound strike.
- THE BIG PICTURE: The US have qualified for three straight U-20 World Cup quarterfinals, and now they’re one match away from continuing that impressive streak. While the Yanks’ finishing left something to be desired in Group B tests, they’re cruising into the knockouts and are yet to concede a goal down in Argentina. Now, their squad gets a boost as midfielder Rokas Pukštas (Hajduk Split) and winger Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg) join following pre-arranged agreements with their European clubs.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Cade Cowell’s first-half goal was his second of the tournament after sitting out the opening win over Ecuador (suspension). The 19-year-old USMNT forward is certainly turning heads at the U-20 World Cup.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Philadelphia Union homegrown Brandan Craig put in yet another calm, assured performance at center back. He’s been stellar across all 270 minutes of Group B action.
- USA: To be determined
- SVK: To be determined