USMNT U20s player ratings vs Slovakia: Cade Cowell goes full Darwin Nunez as Earthquakes team-mate Niko Tsakiris joins him on scoresheet

USYNT celebrate U20 World Cup vs Slovakia
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The U.S. ran Slovakia ragged in a 2-0 win that featured a seemingly-endless wave of missed chancess.

Nine points from nine; you can't do much better than that. The U.S. under-20 men's national team made it three wins from three at the U-20 World Cup to complete the group stage, but now the real test begins as they look ahead to the knockout stages.

Led by an absolutely chaotic Cade Cowell performance, the U.S. topped Slovakia 2-0 in their final group stage game, sealing their spot atop the group. It wasn't the prettiest win by any means. In fact, it was the second game in a row where the U.S. will feel like they left handfuls of goals on the table, only to win by multiple goals in the end.

Cowell, to be fair, was responsible for most of those missed opportunities, as the San Jose Earthquakes star squandered chance after chance. Yet, chance after chance kept falling to him as he absolutely tortured Slovakia's backline with his pace, timing and dribbling.

The all-important opening goal did fall to, who else, Cowell, as he weaved past several defenders to finish off the hardest chance of the day. Missing four or five won't matter as much as long as you score the one that counts, and Cowell certainly did that.

He wasn't the only standout from this win, which saw Mikey Varas shift tactics to a 3-5-2. The U.S., by and large, dominated, with Slovakia rarely threatening and never really having much of the ball. In the end, Cowell's club teammate, Niko Tsakiris, sealed the win with a goal of his own deep in stoppage time to remove all doubt.

Tougher tests await, as the U.S. head to the knockouts for the fifth consecutive U-20 World Cup. At some point, they may rue the missed chances that have defined their run so far but, as long as those chances keep coming in waves, there's a pretty good chance they'll be just fine.

GOAL rates the U.S. players from the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario...

  1. Goalkeeper & Defense
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    Goalkeeper & Defense

    Gaga Slonina (8/10):

    Made an absolutely stunning save in the first half as Slovakia nearly scored against the run of play. Made a few good stops in the second half, too. This sport is a lot easier when you have a goalkeeper as good as Slonina in net.

    Caleb Wiley (7/10):

    Was all over the place and created a few chances. Would have had a goal of his own if Cowell had spotted his run in the second half. Overall, a good performance.

    Josh Wynder (7/10):

    Absolutely rock solid. Did everything right, on and off the ball. A good show of just how good he can be.

    Brandan Craig (8/10):

    Very good yet again and would have had a fantastic assist if not for Cowell's miss (yes this is a theme). Played several spectacular long balls and set piece delivery was good. A standout performance.

    Justin Che (7/10):

    Another defender with a high rating. Had two back-to-back chances at a goal miraculously cleared by Slovakia. Unlucky not to put one of those in.

    Michael Halliday (6/10):

    Was just fine on the right side, but nowhere near as menacing as Wiley on the left.

  2. Midfield
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    Daniel Edelman (7/10):

    A solid shield for the backline. Another good game from the captain, who remains a vital piece of the midfield.

    Obed Vargas (7/10):

    The youngest player in this team, but you couldn't tell by his performance. Was rock solid as the U.S. strangled Slovakia's midfield.

    Owen Wolff (6/10):

    Stop me if you heard this before: would have had an assist, but Cowell was offside. More attacking than his midfielder partners by design, but really only had that one standout moment before being taken out.

  3. Attack
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    Diego Luna (7/10):

    Chemistry with Cowell is off the charts. Opens up space so well, and can create danger when he does have the ball, too. Was unlucky to hit the post, denying him a chance to follow last game's stunner with another goal.

    Cade Cowell (8/10):

    How do you even grade this match? An absolute menace. Darwin Nunez-esque. Created loads of chances, totally fumbled a few of them, but still got the goal that mattered on the chance that seemed least likely to result in a goal. Will need to be more clinical, of course, but Slovakia defenders will have nightmares given what he did to them.

  4. Subs & Manager

    Subs & Manager

    Jack McGlynn (6/10):

    Was given a rest ahead of the knockout stages before coming in midway through the second half. Had been the best American player through the first two games, so he'll be back for the knockouts.

    Niko Tsakiris (8/10):

    Very smooth on the ball as he finds fitness and form. Got his goal in stoppage time to seal the result. Fantastic composure in the box to add the exclamation point.

    Darren Yapi (6/10):

    Came on for the final 20 minutes or so to give the U.S. a natural striker, but no real chances.

    Quinn Sullivan (7/10):

    Joined the fray alongside Yapi. Had one good chance blocked away for a corner before playing a fantastic ball for Tsakiris' opener.

    Jonathan Gomez (N/A):

    Replaced Wiley to give the U.S. a more pure defender on the left-hand side.

    Mikey Varas (8/10):

    Got the lineup right and was able to rest a few key players. Got the formation spot on, as the U.S. dominated with their three-at-the-back setup. Will have have a full roster of players for the knockouts with Rokas Pukstas and Kevin Paredes incoming.