The United States Under-20 national team fell in heartbreaking fashion to a surprising Venezuela side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea, losing 2-1 after extra time.
Down 2-0 in extra time, the U.S. pushed for a late equalizer, but to no avail. Jeremy Ebobisse provided the U.S.’s single goal in extra time, but any hopes raised by that goal were subsequently dashed.
Sergio Cordova nearly opened the scoring for Venezuela in the 20th minute, and for a few moments, it looked like that would actually be the case. But the referee went to his video assistant referee, and a Venezuela player was judged to have been offside in the buildup, handing the U.S. a lifeline.
Early in the second half, Venezuela nearly scored again, this time from a set piece — but an excellent header rattled the crossbar instead of nestling in the net. Not long after, Danilo Acosta saved a near-certain goal with a quick reaction header. The U.S. side struggled to maintain attacking possession, giving Venezuela repeated opportunities.
Cordova continued pressing the U.S. for answers, as he rattled the crossbar himself from a corner in the 62nd minute — which he’d earned with an excellent shot that tested U.S. keeper Jonathan Klinsmann.
That pattern continued, with a missed clearance rebounding off Klinsmann and Justen Glad making a vital clearance before Venezuela could score in the 72nd minute.
With extra time looming, the U.S. mounted a renewed attack, with Atlanta United prospect Lagos Kunga leading the way as a substitute. The best U.S. chance came in the 94th minute, when Erik Palmer-Brown hammered a Brooks Lennon set piece cross just wide of the goal.
The start of extra time was very much like the end of regulation time, with both sides trading chances and goalkeepers showing their importance. But the 95th minute changed that, with Venezuela picking up a lead through Adalberto Panaranda running between the two U.S. defenders and finishing a well-placed cross on a counterattack.
Minutes later, Klinsmann saved the U.S. from a deepening deficit when he stopped a clear-cut chance from Cordova. In doing so, he certainly kept the U.S. in contention.
But for all that hard work, Venezuela extended their lead in the 115th minute, with Nahuel Ferrarisi scoring from a corner — again, a corner forced from a Jonathan Klinsmann save.
Just when it seemed lost, though, Jeremy Ebobisse scored a headed goal in the 117th minute, with Brooks Lennon the reliable provider from a set piece, handing the U.S. a 2-1 deficit rather than that 2-0 one they’d been in.
With two minutes of stoppage time shown, the U.S. pushed everyone forward, but it was too late to make a difference.
Real Salt Lake’s four players on the U-20 squad will be available for contention in MLS play by the time Real Salt Lake’s next match rolls around, and for Mike Petke, it might just be perfect timing. But for Brooks Lennon, Danilo Acosta, Sebastian Saucedo and Justen Glad — not to forget Aaron Herrera, who is widely expected to sign with RSL by the time 2018 rolls around — the tournament will have ended two games too early.