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

The U-20s bounce back with a big win to set up a good shot at getting out of the group

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Semifinal Round-Guatemala at USA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The United States U-20s responded from their defeat against Ukraine to knock off Nigeria 2-0 on Monday. Points will still be a must on Thursday against Qatar if they want to advance to the knockout stage. The match opened with the U.S. in command of possession and threatening early. In the 18th minute, the breakthrough came as Sebastian Soto headed home a corner to put the US in front.

The U.S. continued to dominate for the next 15 minutes, but Nigeria started to pull some momentum in their favor heading into halftime. They threatened to tie on a few occasions, but Köln goalkeeper Brady Scott kept the Stars and Stripes in front with some excellent saves.

The second half started with a bang. The United States came out on a mission to put the game away, and did so inside the first minute of the second half. Chris Gloster played a lovely one-two with Timothy Weah and drove hard towards the 18-yard box. He then displayed outstanding patience and played Soto into space. Soto made no mistake to dink it over the Nigerian keeper and put the US up 2-0.

Nigeria looked likely to get back into the game when Mark McKenzie (who came on for the injured Chris Richards) was whistled for a penalty in the 64th minute. However, the Americans were fortunate as a VAR review waved off the call due to him being offsides. Nigeria would continue to threaten, but they were unable to generate many quality chances. The referee eventually blew the whistle as the U.S. defeated Nigeria by the 2-0 scoreline.

The Positives

Chris Gloster has had a fine tournament so far, and he was a menace today. On top of his outstanding run and assist on the game’s second goal, the 18-year-old Hannover left back consistently did his job defensively again. Sebastian Soto got his first start of the tournament and paid Tab Ramos back with a brace, which was nearly a hat trick. The Hannover striker caused problems with his movement. Look for him to stay in that spot against Qatar. The U.S. generated a ton of chances today, especially as the game became stretched. This was a good sign after struggling to create quality scoring opportunities in the group stage opener.

The Negatives

The U.S. once again gave up plenty of scoring chances to the opposition. While they avoided the mistakes (McKenzie’s overturned penalty notwithstanding) that plagued them in the opener, it was still concerning that Nigeria caused the backline problems today. On top of that, Chris Richards limped off injured, so it remains to be seen if he will be available for Thursday’s match against Qatar (2:20 PM ET on FS1).

With Ukraine beating Qatar, the United States needs to win and have Nigeria beat Ukraine in order for the U.S. to have a chance to win the group on goal differential. Anything other than a loss will likely see the U.S. through to the knockout round since four of the six 3rd place teams from the groups advance. Hit the comment section to discuss your thoughts on the players and the performance in the 2-0 win.