USMNT U-20’s sputter against Ukraine


The final match of Group A for the United States under-20 Men’s National Team was supposed to be a special moment. After failing to make it out of the Group Stage during the past three tournaments, the U.S.A. were going to go on to the knockout  round of the 2015 U-20 World Cup. What’s more important is that they were going to do so after having hopefully achieved a result against a tough Ukraine side.

But reality set at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand on Friday. After having already qualified for the second round of the tournament, the USMNT U-20’s were given a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Ukraine, losing 3-0 and dropping out of the top spot in Group A.

Given that they were behind the United States two points in the standings entering the final match of the group, the Ukraine obviously had much more to play for in this match. Led by midfielder Artem Biesdin, Ukraine feasted on an out of sync USA defense and in particular worked on the center-back pairing of Cameron-Carter Vickers and Erik Palmer- Brown.  Biesdin’s shot in the 44th minute from just inside the penalty box looked promising, but USA goalkeeper Zach Steffen would make the save.

Biesdin would once against go against the Carter-Vickers and Palmer-Brown just a minute later with another shot on target. However, Steffen would keep the match even with another save. While US.A. coach Tab Ramos’ decision to move Carter-Vickers to center-bacl and give regular center-back Desevio Paine a rest seemed like a good idea on paper, Carter-Vickers and Palmer-Brown’s lack of chemistry hurt the United States in forming plays and strategies.

Despite coming up empty-handed in the first-half, the Ukraine continued to hit the U.S. in the middle of the pitch. In the 56th minute, Carter- Vickers would be called for a foul right outside of the U.S. penalty box. On the ensuing free kick, Ukraine forward Viktor Kovalenko would curve his shot over the wall and past Steffen to gain the 1-0 advantage.

Kovalenko’s day was not done as he would score again in the 74th minute. His second goal was a result of an expert give-and-go combination between midfielders Eduard Sabol and Vladislaev Kabiaev. Sabol’s deep run opened up space for Kovalenko to bury his chance. He would add another inn  the 79th to give himself the hat trick and the llead for Golden Boot at the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

With the win, the Ukraine (2-0-1, 7 points) assured themselves first place in Group A. They will take on either the third or fourth best -third place from the other groups.

For the United States (2-1-0, 4 points) the loss dropped them out of the chance finish in first place in Group A. However due to their victories over Myanmar and New Zealand they will still be heading to the knockout round of Group A. They will take on Colombia (1-1-1, 4 points) in the next round, who finished second in Group C. That match will be be on  Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday June the 10th at 330am EST.

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