Heading into the 2019 World Cup in Poland, some considered the squad head coach Tab Ramos assembled “one of the best U-20 teams we have seen in a while.”
With a talented pool from players who had MLS experience to those who took their talents across Europe, this was supposed to be a glimpse of what U.S. could become. However, the U-20 suffered a 2-1 defeat Friday at the feet of Ukraine in a Group D matchup at Bielsko Biala.
The U.S. dominated the possession game against Ukraine, controlling the ball at around 67 percent. Ultimately, the Ukrainians were able to capitalize on the American’s mistakes, which led them to an opening match victory.
Ukraine got on the board in the 26th minute after Serhiy Buletsa scored a left-footed shot at the center of the box that got past 1. FC Koln goalkeeper Brady Scott. The U.S. were able to score approximately six minutes later after PSG’s Timothy Weah went out wide and crossed it to FC Dallas’ Brandon Servania for the equalizer.
As the second half started, in the 51st minute, Ukraine was able to score off a Denys Popov header after the U.S. did a terrible job marking their matchups during the corner kick. That goal would ultimately seal the game for Ukraine, creating a difficult situation for Ramos and the U.S. U-20s.
A surprising event that occurred before the game was that Philadelphia Union center back and captain of the U.S. U-20 team, Mark McKenzie, was not in the starting lineup. McKenzie was on the bench for the match but his Philadelphia Union teammate Matt Real entered the game as a substitute in the 69th minute after Chris Gloster seemed to be dealing with an injury.
The U.S. have a chance to get back on track as they face group leaders Nigeria, which dismantled Qatar 4-0, at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday.