The U.S. U-20 National Team overcame some opening game jitters to get past World Cup debutant Myanmar in New Zealand.
The victory was not as convincing as the staff or fans would have wanted, but the victory leaves the U.S. in sole possession of 1st place in Group A following a scoreless draw between New Zealand and Ukraine in the earlier match.
It only took nine minutes for the first goal to come, but it came from the minnows, with Yan Naing Oo stabbing home at the near post after American goalkeeper Zach Steffen failed to claim a corner.
The goal was not against the run of play, with Myanmar surprisingly dictating play in the opening minutes, even having a penalty claim seconds into the game.
But the goal brought the U.S. out of their shells and they grew into the game after a nervy start.
The equalizer came through Maki Tall, the former French and Ivory Coast youth international stretching to volley the ball into the back of the net following a flick on from Cameron Carter-Vickers on Emerson Hyndman’s corner.
Myanmar, who had vocal support in the stands, struggled to cope with the physicality of the game and clearances were greeted with cheers from the crowd.
The red, white, and blue had a variety of chances via free kicks around the 18-yard box, but the only chance that could be mustered for the remainder of the opening period was an ambitious bicycle kick from Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin.
The United States carried their momentum into the second half of the game, but couldn’t convert their dominance into clear-cut chances.
That was until the 53rd minute, when Kellyn Acosta missed an open goal in what will most likely be the miss of the tournament. A quick free-kick found Rubin on the right wing, but his low ball across goal was put wide by a sliding Acosta at the back post.
Luckily, Acosta would be spared his blushes as a lightning quick counter-attack would put the United States ahead for good and get them off to a winning start.
Minutes after golden-boy and Arsenal prodigy Gideon Zelalem came on for his first competitive appearance for the U.S., a clearance from an American defender found Rubin on the left flank, from which he charged forward and put the ball on a silver platter for Hyndman.
The Fulham midfielder took a great first touch and slotted the ball past the onrushing Myanmar goalkeeper.
Zach Steffen did not have much to do in goal for the U.S. until the closing ten minutes, when Myanmar decided to push numbers forward in search of an equalizer.
Despite numerous crosses and free kicks, the debutants could not find a goal to draw the match level and the Americans held on for their first win in the U-20 World Cup since September 2009.
Since that 4-1 victory over Cameroon, the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2011 edition and could only gain a point versus France in three games two years ago in Turkey.
The U.S. can clinch a berth in the knockout rounds if they can get the three points against hosts New Zealand, which kicks off at 3 AM ET on June 2nd.
While head coach Tab Ramos will be happy with the victory, improvements will need to be made if the U.S. hopes to make some noise in the U-20 World Cup.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
MYA 1 0 1
MYA – Yan Naing Oo 9th minute
USA – Maki Tall (Cameron Carter-Vickers) 17
USA – Emerson Hyndman (Rubio Rubin) 56
USA: 1-Zack Steffen, 2-Shaquell Moore, 4-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 5-Matt Miazga; 6-Kellyn Acosta, 15-Marky Delgado, 10-Joel Soñora (19-Gedion Zelalem, 55), 20-Jordan Allen (13-Tommy Thompson, 72), 8-Emerson Hyndman, 9-Rubio Rubin, 14-Maki Tall (11-Bradford Jamieson IV, 49).
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Thomas Olsen, 21-Jeff Caldwell, 3-John Requejo, 7-Paul Arriola, 16-Conor Donovan
Head coach: Tab Ramos
MYA: 1-Myo Min Latt, 3-Htike Htike Aung, 5- Nanda Kyaw (c), 6-Kyaw Min Oo, 8-Maung Maung Soe, 9-Aung Thu, 10-Than Paing, 11-Mg Mg Lwin, 15-Yan Naing Oo, 16-Myo Ko Tun, 17-Thiha Htet Aung
Substitutions Not Used: 2-Aung Moe Htwe, 4-Naing Lin, 7-Nyein Chan Aung, 12-Hlaing Myo Aung, 13-Yan Lin Aung, 14-Nan Wai Min, 18-Pyae Sone Chit, 19-Swan Htet Aung, 20-Myo Zaw Oo, 21-Wai Lin Aung
Head coach: Gerd Zeise
Stats Summary: USA / MYA
Shots: 14 / 11
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 3 / 6
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 20
Offside: 4 / 0
MYA – Nanda Kyaw (caution) 5th minute
USA – Shaquelle Moore (caution) 67