- Owen Wolff (14')
- Cade Cowell (61')
- Justin Che (75')
- Rokas Pukstas (82')
The United States cruised into the quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a 4-0 victory over New Zealand in Tuesday's round-of-16 matchup in Mendoza, Argentina.
Austin FC's Owen Wolff got the opening goal of the contest with a low shot that caught out New Zealand goalkeeper Kees Sims in the 14th minute. Cade Cowell then continued his fine performances at the tournament by netting a third goal in three games in the 61st minute to double the U.S. advantage.
FC Dallas defender Justin Che and substitute Rokas Pukstas later put the exclamation point on the dominant win with goals in the final 15 minutes.
Having qualified for the knockout stage with maximum points and as the only team not to concede a goal, the U.S. defense again held firm for a fourth straight shutout.
It is the fourth Under-20 World Cup in a row that the U.S. has reached the quarterfinal stage. The young Americans will take on either Uruguay or Gambia -- they meet on Thursday -- in the last eight when it will look to reach the semifinals for just the second time and first since 1989.
While the win was eventually an emphatic one, Mikey Varas' team was grateful for a fine save by Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina to keep New Zealand out in the early stages, as he got down low to his right to turn a Jay Herdman shot behind.
And there was an element of fortune about the U.S. goal to break the deadlock, with Wolff's shot lacking power but still beating Sims in the New Zealand goal.
Still, it was a deserved win for the U.S., which had multiple chances to get a second goal before Cowell's strike. Jonathan Gomez twice went close either side of half-time following low crosses from Cowell and Caleb Wiley, while Joshua Wynder forced a smart save from Sims.
It was left to the 19-year-old Cowell to give the U.S. some much welcome breathing room and continue his star turn in the competition. The San Jose Earthquakes forward fired a left-footed shot low through the legs of a defender and into the corner of the net past an unmoved goalkeeper to effectively seal the win.
Cowell was again involved in the third goal with 15 minutes remaining. Fed by Diego Luna, Cowell rounded the goalkeeper before squaring the ball for two teammates in the center. While Luna's initial shot was blocked, Che scrambled in the rebound for his first goal of the competition.
There was still time for Pukstas to get in on the fun, heading home a free kick from Brandan Craig just three minutes after coming off the bench.
- Mohamed Marouf