The US Under-20 National Team captured the 2010 Milk Cup with a convincing 3-0 win over hosts Northern Ireland in the final, making it three wins from three matches for coach Thomas Rongen’s side.
Captain Gale Agbossoumonde opened the scoring on a free kick before a wonder goal by Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo made it 2-0 at halftime. A first-time blast by Adrian Ruelas sealed the result in the 68th minute and the US held on for the win despite finishing with 10 men after Agbossoumonde was ejected near the end of the match.
“It’s a special tournament, one of the best in the world,” Rongen said. “We haven’t won it for a while. I am happy for the group and happy as a coach that we were able to execute our game plan. I’m extremely pleased.”
Toronto FC forward Fuad Ibrahim nearly latched onto a cross by US right back Zarek Valentin on two occasions early on but the US would later take the lead on a set piece in the 24th minute. Agbossoumonde took a long run-up and blasted a searing right-footed drive from 35 yards out that found a crack in the Northern Ireland wall and easily beat the opposing ‘keeper.
The Americans enjoyed the best opportunities of the first half and Ruelas nearly doubled the lead in the 30th minute on a near post header off a corner kick by midfielder Alex Molano, who showed he can deliver expert service on dead balls.
Agudelo then stole the show with a sensational solo effort from midfield in the 43rd minute. He powered past several Northern Ireland players on his charging run before unleashing a shot which was deflected on its path under the crossbar. Just nine minutes before the goal, Agudelo had poked home a goal when the opposing ‘keeper dropped a corner kick at his goal line, only for the referee to whistle for a dubious foul on the play.
“I just tried to go out there and have fun,” the Red Bulls’ Agudelo said after the match. “We knew what we were going to do go because we believe in ourselves. US soccer is improving every day.”
Down 2-0, Northern Ireland nearly got a goal back in first half stoppage time when forward William Grigg bounced a header just wide of the right post. Grigg was again dangerous early in the second half but could not get the ball on target in the 58th minute and then again two minutes later when his volley from point blank range finished over the bar.
The match was sealed in the 68th minute as Ruelas extended the US lead, driving home a Valentin cross with a first time shot that finished inside the far left post to make it 3-0.
“We put up our best performance in the final in terms of a football performance,” Rongen said. “Everything fell into place for us today.”
Agbossoumonde, who wore the captain’s armband, was sent off with 10 minutes remaining after a scrum broke out when US goalkeeper Zak MacMath was clipped on a play in the US box. Rongen chose to have Dillon Powers hoist the Milk Cup trophy in place of Agbossoumonde at the conclusion of the match.
“He needs to learn,” Rongen said. “It’s always a good teaching moment … Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. That’s not the way we teach our players.”
Houston Dynamo player Francisco Navas Cobo nearly put his signature on the match in the 89th minute with a fine solo effort, which was blocked by the Northern Ireland ‘keeper.
US goalkeeper Zak MacMath also made a final save in stoppage time on another Grigg attempt to preserve the shutout and victory.
USA: 18-Zac MacMath; 2-Zarek Valentin, 6-Perry Kitchen, 22-Gale Agbossoumonde, 5-Greg Garza; 13-Adrian Ruelas (79' 19-Ethan White), 8-Dillon Powers (88' 3-Sacir Hot), 7-Alex Molano (63' 21-Conor Shanosky), 9-Omar Salgado (68' 10-Francisco Navas Cobo); 14-Fuad Ibrahim (58' 15-Bryan De La Fuente), 17-Juan Agudelo
Head Coach: Thomas Rongen