The U.S. under-20 men’s soccer team rebounded from its opening loss at the World Cup last Friday, delivering an impressive 2-0 win over perennial African youth power Nigeria in Bielsko-Biala, Poland.
Sebastian Soto opened the scoring for the U.S. in the 20th minute, rising high to head in a corner kick from Alex Mendez.
Mendez nearly got another assist in the 21st when he sprung Tim Weah with an inch-perfect through ball from midfield, but Nigeria goalkeeper Olawale Oremade made a great save of Weah’s shot.
Soto doubled the lead 25 seconds into the second half, as the U.S. took the kickoff and never gave up the ball in a beautiful eight-pass buildup.
There was an injury scare in the 56th minute when key centerback Chris Richards slid toward Nigeria's Muhamed Tijani and ended up getting kicked along the wayRichards walked off the field under his own power, but gingerly. The Union's Mark McKenzie, who again did not start, came in as a substitute for his first game action of the tournament.
McKenzie ended up in the spotlight for the wrong reason in the 64th minute when he barged into Kingsley Michael and was whistled for a penalty kick. But the video replay booth overturned the call for offside in the buildup, giving the U.S. a fortunate escape.
After 10 minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle finally blew, and the U.S. could celebrate a well-earned win.
The Americans will play their group stage finale on Thursday against Qatar, which lost its first two games and gave up five goals combined. Fox Sports 2 and Universo will televise the game, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. Eastern.