The United States U-20 team bowed out of the U-20 World Cup on Thursday in unspectacular form, losing to Ghana 4-1. The loss gave the U.S. a final total of one point from group play, coming in the team’s 1-1 draw with France earlier this week.
Here are five things we learned from the tournament.
Repeatedly, U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Cody Cropper kept the U.S. in games throughout the tournament. Against Spain, Cropper had five saves, against France, four and against Ghana, five.
In the France game, three of Cropper’s saves were game-saving as his defense completely let him down. Against Ghana, the same was true as Cropper came up big, time and time again, to keep the U.S. in the match early.
Although Cropper could have done better on Ghana’s fourth goal, by then, the game was over. Without him in the net, the U.S. could have easily lost the France game by three goals and the Ghana game by six goals.
With Cropper, the U.S. legacy of outstanding goalkeepers appears to be in good hands.
While DeAndre Yedlin also proved in the tournament that he has a very bright future, it was Cropper who made the biggest impact for the U.S.
Prior to the start of the U-20 World Cup in Turkey, the U.S. lost several players that could have made a significant impact for the Americans.
Defender Will Packwood and midfielder Marc Pelosi, both plying their trade professionally in England, were widely expected to be a part of the team before both suffered season-ending leg breaks this winter.
It was also hoped by many U.S. fans that German-American center back John Anthony Brooks, who started 26 games for Hertha Berlin this past season as Hertha won the Bundesliga 2, would be a part of the squad. However, Brooks chose not to represent the U.S. in the tournament and is still trying to decide his international future.
Forward Jack McBean, who won a regular spot in L.A. Galaxy’s starting lineup this spring, also suffered an untimely injury, breaking his clavicle in April.
Finally, FC Dallas center back Walker Zimmerman, was somewhat inexplicably left off the roster by U.S. head coach Tab Ramos.
Daniel Cuevas, who has been a spark plug for the U.S. attack, was again left on the bench against Ghana. The U.S. headed into the match needing a win, but Tab Ramos instead preferred to use Oscar Sorto in the starting XI.
Sorto contributed almost nothing to the attack and when moved to right-back in the second half, Sorto was outright abysmal, being beat repeatedly.
When Cuevas did finally enter the match midway through the second half against Ghana, he was again a bright spot, kick-starting several promising U.S. attacks.
Tab Ramos was criticized in the match against France for keeping Javan Torre in the starting lineup and instead benching Caleb Stanko.
Against Ghana, Stanko was restored to the starting lineup, but was repeatedly abused by the Ghanaian attackers on the dribble and in the air.
In addition to Torre and Stanko struggling, Juan Ocegueda’s performances left a lot to be desired. Against France, Ocegueda was repeatedly culpable for the U.S.’ defensive breakdowns, and against Ghana, Ocegueda was lucky the Ghanaians did not take advantage of the times he lost track of his runner on the back post.
Oscar Sorto also struggled at right-back in the second half against Ghana.
Shane O’Neill played fairly well, as did DeAndre Yedlin, but overall, the U.S. defense was in shambles for most of the tournament.
Jose Villarreal and Luis Gil, the U.S.’ two most-seasoned professionals in the tournament, didn’t do nearly enough on the attacking end to help the U.S. advance out of the group stage.
Both are undoubtedly top prospects for the U.S., but as was evident in the tournament, compared to the top youth prospects from other countries, they were simply outmatched.
Against Ghana, both Gil and Villarreal repeatedly lost possession and struggled to find the U.S. the goals it needed to advance. Combined, the two stars of the U.S.’ U-20 level contributed one goal and zero assists in three games.
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