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U-20 World Cup: Soto brace leads U.S. past Nigeria (video)

Poland U20 World Cup Soccer

United States’ Sebastian Soto, front right, celebrates with United States’ Chris Richards after scores a disallowed goal during the Group D U20 World Cup soccer match between USA and Nigeria, in Bielsko Biala, Poland, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)


Sebastian Soto scored twice officially and once more though it was called back as the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team recorded a crucial victory to stay alive at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

The U.S. defeated Nigeria, 2-0 on Monday afternoon in Bielsko Biala, Poland at the Stadion Miejski. The game was marked both by the goals as well as the ones that didn’t happen, as the video assistant referee (VAR) called back a goal for the U.S. and a penalty kick for Nigeria.

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Soto, inserted into the starting lineup by U.S. U-20s manager Tab Ramos in place of Brandon Servania, paid dividends as he scored either side of halftime, including less than a minute into the second half.

Ramos, feeling that his squad played well against Ukraine in the opening match but was not clinical enough, decided to replace a midfielder in Servania with Soto, the same change Ramos made in the second half of the 2-1 defeat to Ukraine. The move to a 4-3-3 paid dividends, with the trio of Soto, Tim Weah on the left and Konrad de la Fuente on the right providing high pressure, and Paxton Pomykal and Alex Mendez providing support behind them. The U.S. displayed quick passing in tight spaces as well as strong passing from Chris Durkin to spray the ball around the field from his position as a holding midfielder.

The U.S. opened the scoring in the 18th minute. A corner kick delivered to the far post was headed home by Soto, after taking a bump on the way towards goal.

Soto then seemed to add a second in the 31st minute but Tim Weah was offside on the initial cross into the box. Nigeria threatened the U.S. goal a few times before halftime, including a strike that cannoned off the crossbar and out of play.

After the halftime break, the U.S. made an immediate impact. Chris Glouster dribbled up through the left channel. Nigeria barely put any pressure on him and less than 45 seconds into the second half, Glouster played Soto into the box. The Hannover connection was on display as Soto took a few steps before dinking the ball over Olawale Oremade.

After an injury to Chris Richards, which brought on U.S. captain Mark McKenzie, the latter seemed to have given Nigeria some life. In the 65th minute, McKenzie bundled over Nigeria striker Michael, leading to a penalty kick call.

However, after a lengthy VAR check, the penalty was wiped out due to an offside player.

With the win, the U.S. are in a strong position to advance out of the group, although both the U.S. and Qatar need a result from their final match.