Serbia Eliminates USMNT U-20’s from World Cup


by Deny Gallagher
USMNT writer

If it were up to goalkeeper Zack Steffen, the United States would be onto the semifinals at the 2015 U-20 World Cup after saving his team from elimination twice in the penalty kick shootout.

However, a series of missed penalty shots would doom Tab Ramos’ side, as the scoreless draw would finish 6-5 on PK’s in favor of Serbia.

The game got underway with the United States getting the better of possession on the attacking end. After the first 20 minutes, both sides had an equal share of the scoring chances with neither side posing a real threat on goal.

As the match wore on, Serbia made an effort to break the American back line, but the foursome played as a unit causing Serbia fits. The first great chance for the United States came just before half time. A low cross by Paul Arriola would connect with Tommy Thompson, but the San Jose midfielder pushed the effort just wide of goal.

Despite Serbia putting pressure on late, the sides went into the half locked a 0-0.

In the 69th minute, Serbia created their most dangerous scoring chance off a free kick. Steffen showed his quality deflecting Andrija Zivkovic’s effort away from the bottom left corner of the net.

As the second half progressed, the tandem of Cameron Carter- Vickers and the New York Red Bulls’ Matt Miazga kept the threatening Serbia attack at bay.

Just before the end of regulation, John Requejo played a nice pass that found Rubio Rubin in on goal. However, Serbia’s Predrag Rajković made himself big to deny the opportunity.

Ninety minutes would not be enough to decide this quarterfinal, as both sides got set for extra time.

The first 15 minutes belonged to Serbia, as the United States fatigue began to show.

Serbia’s edge was evident when a simple pass from the top of the box beat five U.S. defenders to find the feet of Staniša Mandić. The striker would look for Ivan Šaponjić on the back post, but the attack came inches from going in the back of the net.

When the whistle blew, the first period of extra time ended level at 0-0.

In the final 15, the United States got the better of the chances, but none that caused a serious threat to the Serbian goal to force penalty kicks.

If there was any indication early how this shootout would go, it came on the first kick when Rubio Rubin’s effort was saved. Serbia would convert their opportunity to take a 1-0 lead. Desevio Payne converted his opportunity of the tie things up at 1-1.

The United States would then be given new life as Serbia’s second kick went well over the bar. Paul Arriola proceeded to finish his penalty to make it 2-1. Back and forth the sides would go, keeping the early theme of this shootout, with the outcome looking favorable for the Stars and Stripes.

Up to take the next kick for the United States was Joel Soñora. The player’s effort would hit the corner of the post to keep things level at 4-4. With the opportunity squandered by the U.S., Serbia had a chance to take the lead. However, Steffen was not about to let his side lose on the evening denying the opposing goalkeeper to keep it at 4-4.

The two sides would split the next pair of penalties to make at 5-5. After Carter-Vickers shot flew over the bar, it was once again up to Steffen to keep the Americans on life support.

The Pennsylvania native would come up huge once more to keep things level.

With new life, John Requejo would step to put the U.S. in front again. His weak effort barely troubled Serbia, and put the U.S. on the brink of elimination.

With a calm, head Nemanja Maksimović of Serbia stepped to the spot. Upon the whistle, the 20 year old struck a hard shot that Steffen had no chance at saving.

With a kick of a ball, the United States were eliminated from the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

The campaign was one that has brought great optimism about the future of U.S. soccer. On this particular evening, the United States was a kick away from doing something that hadn’t been done since 1989. History of this tournament will be written from the view of the victor, but this collection of players is far from done making history for the red, white, and blue.

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  • They were not that impressive luckily sneaking by Colombia. You give them far too much credit. A good run by them,but hardly world beaters or part of the elite IMO.

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