An England-USA matchup in the quarterfinals promised two teams loaded with attacking talent, and also two teams missing some stand-out performers. English talisman Jadon Sancho was recalled by his club, Borussia Dortmund, and handed his professional debut, while midfield stalwart Chris Goslin missed the game for the U.S. due to yellow card accumulation. Still, both teams headed into the game having already impressed in the tournament, and fully believing they had the quality to make the last four of the tournament.
This young USMNT is known for its potent attack that often makes up for a dearth of defenders, but that Achilles Heel was exposed by England almost immediately. Outside backs Chris Gloster and Akil Watts were nearly beaten at will, and England’s wingers and outside backs slipped behind the defense to create dangerous chances far too often. The dam didn’t hold very long at all, as Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden beat Gloster on the outside yet again, slamming a low cross into the middle. Goalkeeper Justin Garces got a hand to it, but the ball fell directly to striker Rhian Brewster, who made no mistake from 5 yards out.
Things went from bad to worse for the U.S. rather quickly, as Rhian Brewster secured his brace. James Sands, normally the rock the U.S. relies on to bail their outside backs out of trouble and a very good defender in possession, turned the ball over with an awful pass out of the back to send England on the break. Brewster’s pace carried him into the box, and Garces came far off his line to challenge him. Brewsters chip, however, just cleared the goalkeeper, and nestled into the far side netting.
England’s goals finally seemed to wake the U.S. offense up, as the team came roaring back to take control of the first half and pepper England’s goal with shots. Josh Sargent hit the crossbar with a bouncing effort from a corner kick, and really should have scored later on with a header from another corner kick. English keeper Curtis Anderson also made several solid saves to keep the U.S. out. Despite the English dominance early on, it was the U.S. who held a commanding statistical advantage going into halftime in both possession, shots, and shots on goal. However, the team was kept out of the goals, visibly frustrating Sargent and Andrew Carleton. The teams went into halftime with England up 2-0, and looking like a semifinal appearance was more or less assured to them.
England came out of halftime looking to reassert dominance, and they did. The U.S. seemed unable to get the ball out of their own half more than a handful of time through the first twenty minutes, as England sent corner kick after corner kick into the box, threatening frequently. Any U.S. counterattacks that got started seemed to break down before they could really threaten, and eventually England found the killer third goal. Rhian Brewster turned provider as he got loose in the corner once again, crossing into the box for Morgan Gibbs White to finish.
Following the third goal, Hackworth changed things up to try to get any sort of move going. Chris Durkin was moved to his natural midfield position to try to deal with England’s speedy attack and facilitate the U.S. transition. It was Durkin’s challenge on Jonathan Panzo and Panzo’s staying down that brought the U.S. a little life, as Durkin and Sergiño Dest played on. Dest worked his way free on the right, firing a low hard shot across Anderson, who got a finger to it, only to see Sargent pounce on the loose ball at the back post.
Josh Sargent scores. England leads 3-1 with 16 minutes left. pic.twitter.com/h5fj4ffb0T— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) October 21, 2017
It turned out to be a consolation prize only, though, and England saw off the game in stoppage time via a Brewster penalty to finish his hat trick. With the U.S. pouring forward in attack, the only way for Sergiño Dest to stop an English counterattack was to get himself red-carded in desperation.
Ultimately, it was poor defense from the U.S. and clinical attacking from England that won the game. The U.S. defense was unable to cope with Brewster, Foden, and particularly Callum Hudson-Odoi, while the English defense bent under the weight of the U.S. attack, but never really looked like breaking. The U.S. finish the tournament in significantly better standing than their 2015 U-17 team. It’s clear the Baby Nats have talent, but there’s still a ways to go.