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USL Youngsters Lead United States to FIFA U-20 World Cup

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 11/16/18, 9:21PM EST


Mendez, Llanez and Akinola on target in 4-0 victory against Costa Rica

BRADENTON, Fla. – Current and former players who have featured in the USL Championship helped book the United States U-20 National Team’s place at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland on Friday night with a 4-0 victory against Costa Rica at the Concacaf U-20 Championship hosted by IMG Academy.

Former LA Galaxy II midfielders Alex Mendez and Ulysses Llanez and current Toronto FC II forward Ayo Akinola all found the net as the United States moved alone into first place in Group G to guarantee their place at next year’s tournament. The U.S. will face Honduras – which drew 1-1 with Costa Rica in the first game of the three-team round robin on Tuesday – on Monday night for a place in the tournament’s final next Wednesday.

The United States struck twice in four minutes to take control of the game inside the opening 20 minutes. The opening goal arrived in the 15th minute when Mendez fired home a perfectly-placed shot into the top-left corner of the net from 25 yards for his sixth goal of the tournament.

Llanez added a second four minutes later with another strike from distance as he cut in from the left side to the top of the penalty area and drove a low finish just inside the near post to make it 2-0. The goal was Llanez’s seventh of the tournament.

The United States struck again early in the second half when Juan Pablo Torres got onto the end of a low cross from the right on the second effort and shot low into the net from the top of the six-yard area. Akinola then wrapped up an impressive victory with a looping header that dipped under the crossbar off a free kick by Mendez.

The United States’ victory continued its impressive tournament on home soil which has seen it now accumulate 43 goals in six games while conceding only twice. In addition to the goalscorers, four other players with USL experience saw action in the contest, including 2018 USL 20 Under 20 selections Brandon Servania (Tulsa Roughnecks FC) and Matt Real (Bethlehem Steel FC).

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