Thanks to some late heroics by their talented goalkeeper, the United States beat Colombia in the round of 16 at the 2015 U-20 World Cup. A tight, tactical battle went down to the very end with the Americans fighting to prevent a Colombian equalizer. Physicality was at the forefront all night long, but the U.S. overcame an early injury, a late red card, and penalty to win 1-0.
U-20 MNT Starting XI vs COL: Steffen, Payne, Miazga, Carter-Vickers, Acosta, Delgado, Hyndman (c), Zelalem, Arriola, Jamieson, Rubin.
— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) June 10, 2015
Only three minutes into the game the U.S. lost a player when Bradford Jamieson IV tumbled awkwardly onto his shoulder. Play was stopped for over five minutes as the LA Galaxy youngster to be stretchered off the field and replaced by Jordan Allen.
Once play resumed it was a cagey affair with both teams enjoying separate spells of possession. Neither team created a dangerous chance in the first half.
The second half started much of the same way, with the U.S. holding their defensive shape and trying to find Rubio Rubin at the head of the attack. Rubin worked tirelessly throughout the game, most of the time all alone up top. The breakthrough came in the 58th minute when a long ball was nodded down into the box. A Paul Arriola shot was blocked right into the path of Rubin. The 19-year-old smashed a right-footed rocket into the upper corner for a brilliant goal.
After the goal, the U.S. seized the momentum and continued to push forward. Despite regaining a foothold in possession they failed to create more chances. Colombia finally regrouped and started seeking an equalizer. With 10 minutes remaining Kellyn Acosta fouled Rodin Quinones in the box. The ref pointed to the spot and handed Acosta his second yellow card of the game. The U.S.' fortune clouded over as it would have to play the with 10 men and had a penalty to defend. Jarlan Barrera stepped to the spot looking to level the score, but Zack Steffen denied him with a great one-handed diving save.
Colombia were dejected after their penalty failure, but continued to look for a goal to push the game to extra time. The U.S. dropped all 10 players behind the ball and defended with their lives. A hard fought effort was rewarded when the referee blew the final whistle five minutes into stoppage time. A victory over Colombia in the round of 16 and a ticket earned to the quarterfinals to face Serbia.
- Rubin is arguably the best player on this team. He stepped up when it mattered most like star players are supposed to.
- Steffen had a tremendous game. Not only did he have the crucial penalty save, but he had two more big saves in the second half to keep the Colombians off the scoresheet.
- Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Desevio Payne were pretty much flawless on the back line. They snuffed out every attack.
- Acosta again looked out of position at left back and the decision to keep starting him there almost cost the U-20's their World Cup lives. His red card will force him to miss the quarterfinals.
- Marky Delgado looked extremely shaky as the team's defensive midfielder. Several bad turnovers in crucial areas of the field almost cost his side dearly.
- Gedion Zelalem and Emerson Hyndman again found it difficult to find a rhythm. Zelalem's lack of strength really showed as he was barged off the ball numerous times. They eventually found space in the attacking third in the second half and created a few opportunities for others.
- The overall game plan may have been altered when Jamieson got injured, but the 4-1-4-1 strategy of relying solely on Rubin for hold up play doesn't seem to be very effective for the most part.
- Jamieson's injury looked very serious and Acosta is suspended, so expect several changes to the lineup and hopefully the tactics.