On the strength of four goals by MLS players, the US Under-20 national team advanced to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals on Thursday with a dominant 6-0 win over New Zealand in Incheon, South Korea.
The USA advance to play Venezuela in the U-20 World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday (1:50am ET on FS2) within hours of an international friendly between the senior teams of both countries at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday night (10 pm ET on FS1).
A shot by Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad was deflected by Josh Sargent to break the New Zealand resistance and open the scoring in the first half. That strike was followed by an avalanche of five second-half goals, including a one-two punch in the span of two minutes by Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse and RSL's Brooks Lennon. Glad finally got his goal on a corner kick header and substitute Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union) added a late strike before Atlanta United academy player Lagos Kunga wrapped up the scoring in stoppage time.
The American side was missing three starters due to suspension (Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Herrera and Derrick Jones), but head coach Tab Ramos rolled out a new 4-4-2 formation, lining up Glad at right back and pairing up Ebobisse and Sargent up top.
The US were rarely troubled by a New Zealand side that sought to defend in numbers. Glad's deflected strike finally gave the USA the lead in a first half the Americans dominated with 61 percent possession and an 8-1 shot advantage.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Kiwis could have equalized on a quality chance in the 54th minute as captain Moses Dyer made a ghosting run to the penalty spot, but he missed wide on his one-time attempt to convert a cross from the right.
The US then proceeded to put the match out of reach 10 minutes later on a sensational strike by Ebobisse which was quickly followed a minute later by a powerful solo run and finish from the right side by Lennon.
Glad's downward header off a corner (76th minute), Trusty's strike into the far upper 90 on another corner kick (84th minute) and Kunga's late finish (93rd minute) rounded out the score line.
The result marks the sixth time that the United States have advanced to the quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, including in the last edition in 2015 when they lost on a penalty-kick shootout to eventual champions Serbia, who were coached by current Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic.
The winner of Sunday's USA-Venezuela quarterfinal will move on to the semifinals to face the survivor of the Portugal vs. Uruguay quarterfinal. Of interest to US national team fans: Mexico are also still alive on the other side of the bracket and they will meet England in a quarterfinal matchup.
USA - Sargent 32'
USA - Ebobisse 64'
USA - Lennon 65'
USA - Glad 76'
USA - Trusty 84'
USA - Kunga 93+
USA lineup (4-4-2, left to right): #1 Jonathan Klinsmann -- #3 Danny Acosta (76' #2 Auston Trusty), #5 Erik Palmer-Brown, #4 Tommy Redding, #6 Justen Glad -- #20 Luca de la Torre, #7 Eryk Williamson, #8 Tyler Adams, #17 Brooks Lennon (79' #13 Lagos Kunga) -- #15 Jeremy Ebobisse (79' #11 Sebastian Saucedo), #19 Joshua Sargent
New Zealand lineup (5-3-2, left to right): #1 Michael Woud -- #13 James McGarry, #3 Sean Liddicoat, #5 Hunter Ashworth (65' #18 Sarpreet Singh), #15 Reese Cox, #14 Jack-Henry Sinclair -- #6 Joe Bell (82' #16 Callum McCowatt), #8 Moses Dyer, #17 Logan Rogerson -- #9 Noah Billingsley (53' #11 Henry Cameron), #19 Myer Bevan