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USA VS. Ukraine, U-20 World Cup 2019: Recap and Reaction

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The Baby Nats suffer a tough defeat to open the group stage

England U20 v USA U20 - International Friendly Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The US U-20’s went down in a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine as they opened group play on Friday.

The young yanks got off to a good start and dominated possession early but were unable to create many quality chances. In the 26th minute, Sergiño Dest poorly played a long ball over the top of the defense and Ukraine took advantage. Serhiy Buletsa struck it beautifully on the half volley to beat Brady Scott at the near post.

The US would answer a few minutes later through Brandon Servania in the 32nd minute. The 20-year-old FC Dallas player tapped home Timothy Weah’s first-time cross. The goal capped a fantastic attacking move from the team that saw the US put 14 straight passes together.

Despite a few chances for the US (including a near moment of individual brilliance from Alex Mendez), the match would go into halftime level at a goal each.

The second half saw a better overall performance from Ukraine while the US whilted a bit. Ukraine hit the crossbar just two minutes after halftime. Then in the 51st minute, Ukraine scored the game-winner off a poorly defended corner kick.

The US struggled to create much for a good chunk of the second half following the goal with Ukraine displaying strong cohesiveness defensively. In the 74th minute, Mendez was denied by a fantastic save at the near post after he found himself in space from 14 yards out. In stoppage time, Pomykal dribbled at the defense and was pulled down in the box, but the defender got the ball first and VAR agreed with the referee. The clock would wind down, leaving the US needing to get something against Nigeria to remain alive.

The Positives

Alex Mendez showed flashes of the star player that so many (like myself) believe he can be. He tested the Ukraine keeper from distance on a few occasions and had several instances of quality touches in traffic. Paxton Pomykal legitimately looked like the real deal for chunks of this match. He was consistently dangerous and it was his touch that sprang Weah into space which would lead to the opening goal. The US also overall looked pretty good in possession and looked to consistently build from the back, even if they didn’t create a ton of quality chances.

The Negatives

Sergiño Dest’s quality in the attack has been well documented, but his struggles on the other end put the rest of the US backline in danger on too many occasions. I expressed my concern at the level of defending on this roster prior to the World Cup and my fears unfortunately were realized. Too often the US was caught on the counter as the midfield became stretched in the second half. Hopefully they can get off to a better start on Monday as they take on Nigeria (2:30 PM ET on FS1).

Hit the comment section to discuss who stood out and who struggled and what you think the US needs to improve upon if they are to reach the knockout round.