DINAN-LEHON, France – The United States team Monday accomplished something that no other Under-20 national team had done before in eight previous Under-20 Women’s World Cups.
The Americans failed to reach the knockout round of the competition for the first time.
They were their own worst enemies, falling behind 2-0 before rallying for a 2-2 Group C draw to European champion Spain.
The U.S. needed a win to advance to the quarterfinals as it was bounced from the tournament.
With Japan defeating Paraguay 6-0 in the other Group C match taking place at the same time, the Americans needed a victory to jump over Spain and earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
To understand this underachievement, it must be noted how successful the USA has been in the previous eight tournaments, reaching the semifinals four times.
The Americans won in 2002, 2008 ans 2012, finished third in 2004 and took fourth in 2006 and 2016, the most recent competition before this year.
Spain had the better of the early going and got on the board in the seventh minute through Patri Guijarro, who finished after a misplayed U.S. clearance.
The second Spain goal came in 42nd minute and put the North Americans in a deep hole. The U.S. once again failed to clear, this time a long free kick, and Lucia Garcia scored from close range.
The U.S. got its footing midway through the first half with forward Erin Gilory creating danger down the left wing. With the help of two substitutes, forward Abigail Kim and midfielder Brianna Pinto, the U.S. pushed to get back in the match in the second half. The Americans had the better of the game in the last 20 minutes, eventually matching Spain’s 16 total shots.
The Americans scored in the 82nd minute on a free kick from forward Sophia Smith. When Savannah DeMelo’s deflected shot spun into the net in the 87th minute, the U.S. had about seven minutes, including stoppage time, to produce the game-winner that would have secured advancement.
Despite several dangerous forays into the attacking third as the minutes ticked away, and a volley by Gilroy that sailed over the net in the waning moments, the USA could not get the precious goal it needed.
Spain won Group C with seven points and Japan finished second with six.
Next year the full name team hopes to journey to France to compete in the 2019 World Cup and if they do, the Americans probably will hope not to duplicate their junior side’s underachieving performance.