After a come-from-behind win over France, the US Under-20 men's national team were looking to become the first US team in 30 years to reach the U-20 World Cup semifinals on Saturday. But they stumbled at the last hurdle, falling to Ecuador 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
Jose Cifuentes opened the scoring in the 30th minute after breaking into the US half in transition. Alex Mendez failed to close him down and the Ecuadorian fired a shot past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa from 25 yards out.
Tim Weah leveled the score just six minutes later off of a corner kick. Gustavo Vallecilla fluffed his clearance attempt and the ball popped up perfectly for the PSG striker to strike it off a volley with his left foot from seven yards out. The goal was his second of the tournament.
Ecuador found another lead in the 43rd minute when a Leonardo Campana shot deflected off of Jhon Espinoza and into the US goal. After a VAR check, Espinoza was ruled to have been behind the ball when Campana released his shot. The play started when Gonzalo Plata fired a shot from a distance that hit off the crossbar. Campana was able to beat the US defense to the rebound.
The scorer was behind the ball when it was played. Well then. pic.twitter.com/mpOUDS754t— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) June 8, 2019
Sebastian Soto had the best US chance in the second half, after he hooked up with Uly Llanez in the 58th minute. Both had chances had to score, but ultimately Soto's first touch took him too wide of goal and his outside of the foot shot found the side netting.
Ochoa made his biggest save of the game in the 68th minute when Alexander Alvarado had a chance with his head from point-blank range. Unfortunately for Ecuador, it came off his head at an angle where Ochoa could get to it fairly easily. An ensuing set piece saw a header came off crossbar, the second time Ecuador hit the woodwork in the match.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Ecuador were the top qualifiers from South America, so a loss to them is nothing to get too be too upset about. But ultimately the US's goal in this tournament was to win it, so this has to be looked at as at least a little bit of a failure for Tab Ramos' team. One stat that cannot be taken away from the US is that they are the only country to reach the quarterfinals in the last three U-20 World Cups.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Campana beating Chris Richards to the ball on the rebound from Plata's shot is what led to Ecuador's winner.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Ecuador's Gonzalo Plata was an absolute terror on the wing, giving the US issues all day.
- USA: End of tournament.
- ECU: Semifinals vs. South Korea (Tuesday, June 11 at 2:30 pm ET)