USA, Colombia face off in U-20 World Cup second round tie

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Congratulations to the United States under-20 Men’s National Team for making the second round of the 2015 U-20 World Cup! Now what? After having barely made it through Group A the U.S.A. are back in the second round of the under-20 World Cup for the first time since 2007. If they are looking for greater glory they will need to go past one of the top u-20 teams in the world in Colombia (330am EST, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports Deportes) at the Auckland stadium in Auckland New Zealand.

Despite having a relatively decent history  against Colombia, the United States come into this match with their confidence. After having earned a 4-0 victory over New Zealand in their second match, the U.S.A were trounced by the Ukraine 3-0. While the team was without midfielder Rubio Rubin (2 goals) that result coupled with the shaky 2-1 win over Myanmar has cast fresh doubt over coach Tab Ramos and his tactics.

Rubio Rubin scored two goals in the United States under-20 World Cup match against New Zealand (photo credit: FIFA)

Rubio Rubin scored two goals in the United States under-20 World Cup match against New Zealand (photo credit: FIFA)

At the heart of the issue seems to be the forward position. Forward Bradford Jamieeson IV has had some moments where he looked brilliant (his pass to Rubin for the U.S.A.’s first goal against New Zealand) and some terrible ones (four missed runs against Ukraine). Without forward Maki Tall (broken toe) the U.S.A. will need Jamieson IV to form a tighter passing pattern with center midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Gedion Zelalem.

The United States may be have a few issues but so does Colombia. After having barely beaten Qatar, Colombia drew with Senegal and lost badly to Portugal. Much like the United States Colombia’s attacking corps led by forward Rafael Borre really have yet to click. Portugal in particular showed that a back four can use their size advantage on Colombia and force them to take long range shots.

For both teams wide play is critical to advancing. Hyndman and Zelalem will  continue to look for midfielder Paul Arriola on the outside which will in turn free up Zelalem for the late ball in. Arriola was one of the lone bright spots in the U.S.A. The  Tijuana man used his pace to blow past defenders in the Ukraine match and it aleast keep things interesting.

Colombia it is the work of right midfielder Alexis Zapata  that will dictate the pace of their match. Zapata currently plays with Udinese in Serie A and has moved the needle for Colombia during this World Cup.. If he can link up with forward for to change the field of possession then Colombia might be moving. USA’s Kellyn Acosta will be tasked with tracking him for the full 90 and will need to minimize his passing windows to keep this match close.

Aside from Zapata, the ..has to be worried about allowing goal-scoring opportunities early 3 of the 4 goals during the World Cup occurred before the 24th minute of the match. When that is put against USA’s one goal allowed in the CONCACAF U-20 ChampionshipHaving Matt Miazga back will certainy help given his experience and height. But Carter-Vickers has to prove his worth and stopping a difficult Colombian attack would be a start.

For years U.S. Soccer has made it clear that the second round in the World Cup is no longer acceptable and that teams must go deeper.  Is this the year for the under-20s? We will find out tomorrow morning.

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