With one game to go in the group stage of the U-20 World Cup, plenty of storylines already surround the U.S. team. Many people have questioned U.S. head coach Tab Ramos’ selections at center back, while DeAndre Yedlin’s sublime performance against France and Luis Gil’s superb goal against Spain have also grabbed headlines.
However, as the team enters its final match of the group stage needing a win against Ghana to keep its hopes of advancing to the knockout round alive, the man to watch may very well be Daniel Cuevas.
Cuevas, who plays his club football for Santos Laguna, was one of the stars for the U.S. during CONCACAF U-20 World Cup qualifying, scoring twice in the tournament with goals against Haiti and Cuba. Cuevas also scored the game-winning goal against Congo earlier this month in the Toulon Tournament—the only game the U.S. won in that tournament.
However, so far in the World Cup, Cuevas has been limited to substitute appearances, as Alonso Hernandez has been the preferred choice for the U.S. up top.
In its games against Spain and France, with Hernandez starting up top, the U.S. struggled. Against Spain, Hernandez missed a golden chance on a breakaway in the 13th minute, putting the ball wide of the net, and he was subbed off at the half. Cuevas came into the Spain game in the 56th minute and added much-needed energy to the U.S. attack.
After the Spain game, many expected Cuevas would be given the start against France, but Hernandez was again preferred. Against France, Hernandez struggled to hold the ball up top, making it very difficult for the U.S. to break pressure. Once again, he was subbed off at the half.
Late in the game, in the 77th minute against France, Cuevas was brought in off the bench. Once again, he made an impact, scoring the game-tying goal for the U.S. in the 86th minute and rescuing the team's chances to escape the group stage.
The U.S. now needs a win in its final group-stage game against Ghana, and Cuevas has proven he deserves the chance to start. Based on his impact in qualifying, in Toulon and on Monday against France, he could be the man the U.S. needs to advance to the knockout round.
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