BIELSKO-BIALA, Poland – The United States dropped its opening match of the Under-20 World Cup 2-1 to Ukraine Friday.
The Americans carried play throughout the game, accruing 66 percent possession and an 83 percent pass completion rate on more than twice the number of passes: 597 to 295. Although Ukraine ceded much of the ball to the U.S., the Europeans were dangerous on the counterattack and struck first in the 26th minute when Serhii Buletsa capitalized on a long ball over the top by screening off his defender and hitting a low volley from just inside the box inside the near left post.
The U.S. stuck to its attacking game plan and found pay dirt in the 32nd minute as Brandon Servania capped it off that saw the USA scythe through Ukraine’s midfield before the ball came out wide to Tim Weah, who hit a smart, low cross into the six-yard box for Servania to tap in.
In the second half, the teams probed for the go-ahead goal with Ukraine hitting the cross bar and Alex Mendez, a long-range threat throughout the game, forcing an excellent save from Andriy Lunin in the Ukraine goal.
In the 51st minute, Denys Popov headed home the game-winner on a corner kick.
Searching for the equalizer, U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made all three subs beginning with an attack-minded change in the 66th minute when Sebastian Soto came on for Servania.
The American attack that had outscored opponents 46-2 in World Cup qualifying was blunted by a physical and well-organized Ukraine defense that consistently brought 10 players behind the ball to defend its lead. A Mendez shot that hit the base of the left post in the final 15 minutes illustrated the fine margins of the game.
The U.S. will next face Group D leaders Nigeria, who beat Qatar 4-0 earlier in the day, on Monday at 2:30 p.m. ET (FS1, Universo).