Tim Weah scored his second goal of the tournament for the U.S., but it was not enough. (Photo courtesy of Paris St-Germain)
GDYNIA, Poland – The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team fell to Ecuador, 2-1, in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Saturday.
All three goals came in the first half with Tim Weah scoring his second U-20 strike for the U.S. and a lucky technicality allowing Ecuador’s winning goal to stand.
After becoming the only nation to reach the quarterfinals of the last three U-20 World Cups, the U.S. will send its players back to their professional clubs.
The opening 10 minutes were a harbinger of the match to follow as Ecuador’s high energy carried play but the U.S. defense held firm and methodically brought the team into the game.
Near the 20-minute mark, Weah, who played with B.W. Gottschee (Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League) hit a rising shot that barely lifted over the bar and Alex Mendez followed up minutes later with another long drive that forced goalkeeper Moises Ramirez into a diving save.
The initial breakthrough came on the half hour as Ecuador got out on the break. Jose Cifuentes cut inside from the left wing to avoid pressure and fired a 20-yard bullet into the right side of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
A Mendez free kick moments later grazed past the post as the Americans built toward an equalizer, which came in the 36th minute. The U.S. won a corner kick that Mendez served in looking for Chris Richards but the ball deflected up in the air off a defender before falling perfectly for Weah to volley home.
The U.S. nearly took the lead on a counterattack, but Weah’s cross for the U.S.’s tournament scoring leader Sebastian Soto (four goals), which was just out of reach for the striker.
Just before halftime, Ecuador retook the lead as a long-range shot off the crossbar rebounded to Leonardo Campana. The forward fed it across the six-yard box to Jhon Espinoza, who was behind his defender but not ahead of the ball. In other words, he was onside to bundle it into the back of the net for the 2-1 lead.
U.S. head coach Tab Ramos turned to his bench, bringing on Ulysses Llanez to start the second half as the speedy attacker helped improve the attack.
While goalkeeper David Ochoa made two saves to keep his team within striking distance, the Americans could not find the final product despite carving outseveral opportunities.