A solid World Cup run came to a harsh end for the US Under-20 men's national team on Saturday thanks to a frustrating 2-1 loss to Ecuador.
Ecuador came to battle with quite possibly their best side ever, and it took the US a good half hour plus the opening goal leak to truly come into the contest. The young Americans quickly pulled level, but in the end were unable to overcome Ecuador's physical strengths and tactical smarts.
David Ochoa (6) — The US goalkeeper had no chance at Ecuador's opening golazo, but that was partially because he was positioned too tight to the near post. It's hard to fault Ochoa much on their second, and he did come up with a couple of solid second-half saves to keep his side in it.
Sergino Dest (6) — The Ajax prospect often did well to push play up the right flank, but without delivering much in the way of service. He wasn't flawless in defense, but generally made light work of slowing Ecuador advances into his zone.
Chris Richards (5) — As usual, Richards generally conducted business at the back in a tidy manner and he also kept the corner kick alive on Weah's goal. However, the Bayern Munich talent made some regrettable errors. He reacted too slowly to make a stop when the initial shot came off the post on Ecuador's second and was let off the hook for losing a box runner on Ochoa's best save.
Aboubacar Keita (4.5) — For much of the first half, Keita responded well to Ecuador's physical nature to make some important stops and passed fairly well out of trouble. It started to fall apart when his ball-watching slack allowed Jhon Espinoza plenty of free space to score the winner just before halftime. That wasn't the end of his problems for the day, but it's the one that will be remembered.
Chris Gloster (4.5) — While the Hannover 96 left back did play in a couple of tempting crosses, he wasn't a great help in the build and a handful of mistakes in the US end put the team under unnecessary duress.
Chris Durkin (3.5) — It was a disappointing tournament for the D.C. United midfielder, and this game was sadly no exception. He had no positioning or athletic answer for Ecuador's constant pushes through the middle and was rarely in place to close down shooters above the area. Durkin started to rally after halftime to provide some positive passing through central park, but his game eventually devolved again over the final 20 minutes. Like a couple of his teammates, he had to be bailed out after a miserable giveaway in the US end.
Paxton Pomykal (5) — The FC Dallas string-puller never really got his traffic direction game going in this one. It wasn't a disastrous outing, but the team needed a lot more from Pomykal against this foe. Unfortunately, he struggled to keep up with Ecuador's athletic prowess in central park.
Alex Mendez (3.5) — As is often the case, Mendez threatened with a couple of rasping shots from distance. Even so, this was his sloppiest outing of the tournament. He completely neglected to close down the shooter on Ecuador's first. He committed a terrifically unwise pick foul away from the ball when the US had a head of steam and Ecuador defenders caught up field. To top it all off, his link passing became increasingly weaker as the game went on, sparking his 74th minute removal.
Konrad de la Fuente (4) — While the winger's sense of defensive responsibility was again helpful, he continued to lack the decisiveness and touch to get anything at all going in attack. De la Fuente was pulled at the break, cementing the notion that this tournament came a bit too soon for the 17-year-old.
Tim Weah (7.5) — The speedster was easily the best US player on this day, at both ends of the field. Weah repeatedly provided a sorely needed pressure release out of the back, while his touches and decisions keyed many of their rushes forward. His efforts were rewarded on a snappy loose ball finish for the lone US goal.
Sebastian Soto (4.5) — The young striker started the game somewhat brightly, working combos with teammates to put what little pressure on Ecuador the US could muster. Soto's performance actually dropped as the team started coming into the game. Most notably, a reluctance to finish first time finally caught up with him as he squandered a pair of nicely worked chances to equalize.
Coach Tab Ramos (3) — There's not much to gripe about concerning the the boss' in-game management. The problem here is decisions made prior to kickoff, and most of those in question didn't even have to do with the actual gameplan. Ramos just kept trotting out struggling starters, which was repeatedly damaging and eventually dooming.
Ulysses Llanez (7) — Once again, Llanez almost immediately sparked rushes upon entering the fray. The fact that his outstanding 58th minute pass did not compel a shot on goal from Soto is especially aggravating.
Richie Ledezma (5.5) — The PSV Eindhoven midfield prospect dribbled the team into a few good positions, but lacked the ideas to complete those moves.
Justin Rennicks (-) — Just a few minutes on the field, with even fewer touches.