The United States under-20 men’s national team are headed to the Round of 16 of the World Cup for the second straight time. They had officially booked their ticket before their final group match against Saudi Arabia kicked off. The 1-1 draw that took place coupled with a 0-0 draw between Senegal and Ecuador meant the U.S. would win Group F and advance to face New Zealand (June 1, 7:00 a.m. ET, FS1). However, it would be a heavy cost as three players will be suspended for that match thanks to some questionable refereeing decisions.
Saudi Arabia began the first half by stifling the U.S. in the midfield and did so for the majority of the half. The Americans were forced to attack from the outer edges of the field as they constantly faced 11 defenders clunked into the center of the field. Much of the half was ruined by Diego Haro, a whistle-happy ref who thought the 5,000 or so patrons bought their tickets to hear him blow his shiny toy every 30 seconds. Before the hour mark, the U.S. would get bad news for their first knockout stage match as Aaron Herrera and Derrick Jones both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament and will be suspended.
A goal finally broke repetition of the referee’s whistle in the form of Brooks Lennon tapping in a rebound. The play began by a great entry ball into the box by Tyler Adams to Josh Sargent. The 17-year-old settled and centered a ball for Luca de la Torre who had a shot saved, but the rebound sat invitingly for Lennon to poke home.
The half wouldn’t end without the referee getting the last word, however. After previously being wrongly booked in the half when an opponent dove, Cameron Carter-Vickers was shown his second yellow of the match for an innocuous aerial challenge that appeared to be completely innocent. After some playacting from the recipient of the challenge, the ref decided CCV needed to miss the rest of this match and the next for doing absolutely nothing at all except step on the field to play the sport he loves.
Saudi Arabia enjoyed much of the possession while up a man in the second half. Jonathan Klinsmann was forced into one big save just after the hour mark. Justen Glad’s inclusion at halftime shore up the defense in conjunction with Erik Palmer-Brown. However, their strong play wouldn’t be enough to hold the lead. The equalizer would come from Abdulelah Al-Amri in the 74th minute, who was able to get space in the box on a corner kick and head past Klinsmann.
A last-gasp dangerous free kick for Saudi Arabia would be the last real threat of a goal, but it flew high and wide to end the match in a draw.