The United States under-20 men’s national team opened their World Cup with a dramatic 3-3 draw with Ecuador. After falling behind by two goals early in the match, the Americans fought back behind a Josh Sargent brace. A Jonathan Klinsmann error pegged them back again, but a late stoppage time equalizer rescued a vital point heading into the last two group matches.
The Baby Yanks couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of starts as they found themselves trailing by two goals in the opening seven minutes of play. Ecuador came out blazing and punched the Americans in the mouth with a rapid 1-2 combination that left them stunned and shaken. Herlin Lino scored the first after cleaning up a loose ball created when Klinsmann cleaned out Washington Corozo in the box. If another attacker hadn’t been there to knock in the resulting deflection, a penalty and possible red card could have been issued. Bryan Cabezas made it 2-0 with the very next attack. He received a pass on the left side of the box, blew past USA right back Aaron Herrera and blasted a finish high past Klinsmann.
More Ecuadorian domination continued after the shock two goals. The U.S. were left reeling and they couldn’t find their legs. Finally play settled down and they found some possession as the South Americans began to sit back and play disciplined defense.
After Gedion Zelalem went down with a non-contact injury and was replaced with Derrick Jones in the 33rd minute, the U.S. got a chance to breathe and collect themselves. Soon after, they pulled a goal back through the youngest player on the team. Luca de la Torre’s surging run from midfield helped him find Sargent at the right side of the box, the 17-year-old took a touch and smashed a clinical finish past the Ecuadorian goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
The goal brought life into the side as several great scoring chances followed. Tyler Adams had a golden chance to equalize right after but his flick in front of goal was sent high of the mark. Sargent ended the first half getting another decent chance, but his attempt to round the goalkeeper wouldn’t bear fruit.
The U.S. began the second half much better. With more confidence and urgency in their play, they quickly found an equalizer and a beautiful one at that. Brooks Lennon found space on the right flank and whipped in a picture-esque ball for Sargent to nod home for his second goal of the match. A truly gorgeous goal with the service and the finish.
The fight back and improved play was inspired, but a boneheaded gaffe by their goalkeeper would undo all of their hard work soon after. A ball played back to Klinsmann left him slightly under pressure. Instead of getting rid of it, he decided to try and dribble out of trouble and gave it right to Cabezas who slotted home the finish to restore Ecuador’s lead. A horrible way to concede after showing so much heart to equalize.
The confidence exuded early in the half was all but squashed when the third goal went in. Heads went down for the next 20 minutes. Not many chances were created by the U.S. until stoppage time, but it was only once chance they needed to find a dramatic equalizer.
That’s exactly what they did when Lennon crossed into the box just as the third of four stoppage time minutes ticked off. A failed clearance found De la Torre in stride and he stuck a right-footed finish past the Ecuador goalkeeper to tie the match at three. Yet again, the U.S. found a way to overcome some poor run of play and find the leveling goal.
It wasn’t the greatest of performances, but to come away with a point in this match will be crucial to their chances of qualification to the knockout rounds. An amazing display of heart overcomes a lackluster overall performance.