The U.S. Under-20 men’s youth national team defeated Nicaragua 5-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Concacaf U-20 Championship in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Saturday night.

Forward Quinn Sullivan bagged a brace, opening the scoring at the end of the first half, while four second-half tallies from Sullivan, midfielder Diego Luna, defender Jalen Neal and an own goal put the game away to secure the win.

The USA will face Costa Rica in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, June 28 (7 p.m. ET; FS2, TUDN) for a berth to the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia. At this year’s Concacaf U-20 Championship, the four quarterfinal winners qualify to the U-20 World Cup, while the two semifinal winners advance to the 2024 Olympics.

Nicaragua, playing its first match at the tournament after advancing directly to the Round of 16 from a pre-qualifying tournament last November, put up a spirited effort in the first half led by goalkeeper Miguel Rodriguez. While the U.S. threatened early and often, dominating possession, the U-20s struggled to find the back of the net in the early-going.

U.S. wingers Sullivan and Cade Cowell menaced the Nicaragua defense, creating a number of chances in the game’s first 15 minutes. Cowell made a few runs deep into Nicaragua territory while Sullivan found success getting behind Los Pinoleros’ defense, with both firing off a number of dangerous shots. The Central Americans almost scored an own goal in the seventh minute when a good cross in from Sullivan was nearly headed into the net by a Nicaragua defender, if not for a leaping save from Rodriguez.

The USA midfield trio of Luna, Jack McGlynn and Daniel Edelman also did well to push the ball forward throughout the evening. While Nicaragua was out-possessed 69 percent-31 percent on then night, the team took advantage of a few threatening moments on the counterattack.

The breakthrough finally came in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Luna drove to the end line and sent in a cross for Sullivan, who slipped just beyond the six-yard box and headed it home for the game’s opening goal.

Luna netted one of his own shortly after the break. When Sullivan was brought down by a hard Nicaragua foul in the box, the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty kick, which was the USA’s fourth of the tournament. The newly signed Real Salt Lake midfielder was cool from the spot, sending it in to the right side of the net.

The U.S. continued to wear down the Nicaragua defense and cemented its lead with another goal in the 65th minute. This time, it was Cowell on the run to the end line before sending a service to the six for Sullivan, who one-timed it for his second goal. Sullivan’s five goals, scored in the USA’s last two games, lead the tournament.

The Americans made themselves at home in the final third as head coach Mikey Varas used all five substitutions. Midfielder Paxten Aaronson brought a spark off the bench, firing off a few dangerous shots. Shortly after entering the game, substitute Caden Clark sent a cross into the box that was deflected into the net by Nicaragua defender Dylan Pineda in the 72nd.

The exclamation point came in the 85th minute on Neal’s first U-20 international goal. In the aftermath of a free kick in Nicaragua’s final third, Edelman sent the ball back into the box where a shot from U-20 MYNT debutant Jackson Hopkins was deflected and fell to Neal, who tapped it home to finish the scoring.

 

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