Watch: Ruthless USA routs New Zealand, returns to U-20 World Cup quarterfinals
The U.S. Under-20 men's national team's World Cup run is alive and well after a 6-0 thrashing of New Zealand in the round of 16 in South Korea on Thursday.
After winning its group, the U.S. has matched the 2015 team's feat of reaching the quarterfinals, and the Americans have done so while being shorthanded. With Gedion Zelalem out injured (reported ACL tear) and Cameron Carter-Vickers, Derrick Jones and Aaron Herrera out suspended, Tab Ramos didn't have a full complement of players at his disposal. The U.S. did have the services of 17-year-old forward Josh Sargent, though, who scored three goals in the group stage and added to it with a deflection to open the scoring en route to a rout that exceeded the score when the USA beat New Zealand 4-0 in the group stage of the 2015 U-20 World Cup the Junior All Whites hosted.
Sargent's goal came after Real Salt Lake teammates Lennon and Justen Glad combined, with the later controlling with his chest before delivering a right-footed drive through the New Zealand defense. It took a deflection off Sargent to give the USA a 1-0 lead and tie the Missouri native for the most goals in the competition–and the most ever scored by an American in a U-20 World Cup (Taylor Twellman, Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore).
Eryk Williamson had a great chance to double the USA's lead shortly after the halftime restart, pouncing on a failed clearance after a U.S. counter and firing away from over 20 yards, only to have it saved by diving goalkeeper Michael Woud.
New Zealand's best chance at an equalizer came in the 55th minute, when Moses Dyer pulled a first-time chance off a cutback cross just wide of the far post and a diving Jonathan Klinsmann.
That wastefulness was punished in the 64th minute when Jeremy Ebobisse delivered a stunning, powerful left-footed strike after good work from Sargent to set him up.
The lead was extended just a minute later, when Brooks Lennon was played over the top by Williamson and finished from a right-sided angle to give the USA breathing room and a 3-0 advantage.
Sargent was denied a second in the 75th minute by a diving Woud, whose fantastic stop kept out a hooking, left-footed chance. Woud should have done better a minute later, though, when Glad's header off a corner kick was mishandled by the goalkeeper and trickled in to make it 4-0.
The USA wasn't done, either. Auston Trusty, fresh off the bench, had just missed out on a would-be sensational effort after cutting through the New Zealand defense when he got the opportunity to fire home off a corner kick in the 85th minute to extend the lead to 5-0.
In the waning moments of stoppage time Lagos Kunga dotted the exclamation point, finishing from the center of the box to give the USA its 6-0 win.
The USA advances to take on Venezuela on Sunday, with Portugal and Uruguay also alive on that half of the quarterfinal bracket. Mexico, England, Zambia and Italy make up the other half of the knockout bracket.