USA 1, Spain 4 | U-20 World Cup Match Recap
It was a valiant attempt by Tab Ramos' US Under-20 national team, but perhaps one always destined to end in failure.
The United States attempted to go toe-to-toe with Spain on Friday in their FIFA U-20 World Cup opener at Ali Sami Yen Arena in Istanbul. But, like so many before them, that gameplan failed to keep the reigning kings of tiki-taka from running roughshod to the tune of a 4-1 victory.
Jesé Rodríguez and Gerard Deulofeu each notched a brace for Spain, and Luis Gil answered back with a magnificent strike for the US as Ramos' side now face difficult matches against France and Ghana to get out of the group stage.
Colorado Rapids defender, Shane O'Neill, served a one-match suspension after receiving a red card in his last international FIFA match in March in the CONCACAF Championship final against Mexico.
It didn't take long for Spain to display their class, with Jesé opening the scoring just five minutes into the match after a long ball in the right channel opened up the US defense. Deulofeu raced in behind Javan Torre to corral the ball at the endline, and with pressure late in coming, he curled the ball to the back post, where the Real Madrid attacker applied a cool volley that slipped past DeAndre Yedlin and goalkeeper Cody Cropper.
U-20 World Cup: Ramos satisfied with aggresive strategy in loss to Spain
The US didn't back down from their high-pressure gameplan, though, and Gil nearly created the equalizer after 13 minutes. After picking up the ball at the top of the 18-yard box, the Real Salt Lake midfielder flicked the ball through to Alonso Hernandez, but the striker dragged his right-footed shot wide of the back post.
From there, Spain had the better of the play, as the US showed occasional flashes but were undone by untimely turnovers and an inability to measure the final ball. Torre was lucky to avoid a penalty kick in the 18th minute after he tripped up Deulofeu and Cropper came up with big saves to keep the margin one until late in the first half.
That's when Spain picked up where they left off in the fifth minute, through Deulofeu. The Barcelona winger got on the scoreboard in the 42nd minute after finding a sliver of space on the left side to curl a shot inside the far post past a diving Cropper.
He wasn't involved on the third, as Javier Manquillo once against exploited the space behind the US backline in the right channel. After beating Torre to a through ball, Manquillo cut back and found the feet of Jesé, who took a touch before coolly slotting the ball inside the near post.
US head coach Tab Ramos made one change at halftime, sending Mario Rodriguez on for Hernandez. He was also forced into another substitution 10 minutes into the second half after Danny Garcia took a blow to the head, replacing the newly signed FC Dallas Homegrown midfielder with Danny Cuevas.
Still, it was the US defense that faced the brunt of the pressure, conceding for the fourth time in the 61st minute. Once again, it was Deulofeu who made the decisive run into the right channel, finding himself one-v-one with Cropper, who came out of his net to snuff out the chance but couldn't keep the winger from rolling the ball into an empty net.
And although the tide of the match didn't turn, the US pulled one back in the 77th minute through Gil, who was the Yanks' most dangerous player on the afternoon. After a Spanish turnover, Gil found himself isolated at the top of the box, shook his defender and whipped a beautiful left-footed shot into the top corner.
The US return to action against France on Monday at 11 am ET on ESPN2.