SAN JUAN, Argentina (Tuesday, May 23, 2023) - The United States U-20 Men’s Youth National Team clinched a berth in the knockout rounds at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a 3-0 win over Fiji, on the back of RSL midfielder Diego Luna’s game-winning goal and additional assist performance.
After an impressive 90-minute showing in the first match against Ecuador, Real Salt Lake’s Diego Luna featured as a halftime substitute against Fiji in the second of three group stage matches. The first half saw the United States dominate possession but fail to capitalize on their 13 shots, testing the Fijian goalkeeper just twice.
Luna made an impact immediately as a second-half substitute, breaking through with a shot on goal while drawing a corner kick in the 51st minute, after his shot was deflected wide by a defender. Fifteen minutes later the dynamic super-sub found the back of the net with what proved to be the game-winner and knockout-clincher, scoring his fifth goal with the Stars-and-Stripes and his first-ever at a World Cup. Dribbling from the left side of the 18-yard-box, Luna played a centering pass to Cade Cowell, who took one touch and was brought down from behind, the ball trickling away from his feet. Aware of the no-call, Luna pounced on the rolling ball and curled a shot to the far post, beating an outstretched Aydin Mustahib to put the Red, White and Blue in front.
The goal came in the 66th minute after the United States had managed more than 20 shots and controlled over 70% of possession. Head Coach Mikey Varas’ decision to bring Luna on in the second half paid off as the 19-year-old RSL midfielder provided the clinical finish his team needed. Luna’s shot extended the U-20 United States Youth National Team’s streak of games at a World Cup with a goal to 12 matches.
Luna and Cowell linked up again in the 88th minute, as Luna settled an aerial pass and laid the ball off to Cowell, who side-stepped his defender and sent a curling shot to the far post, mirroring Luna’s goal from 12 minutes before. Caleb Wiley sealed the win in stoppage time, tapping in a post-deflected ball off a freekick from Brandan Craig, capping a dominant 3-0 victory.
In a team-leading 18 matches for Team USA, Luna has recorded a combined five goals and six assists, accounting for an offensive contribution in more than half of the matches in which he has appeared.
Sitting atop Group B with six points, the United States has secured a spot in the Round of 16 regardless of the remaining results in the group stage. The U-20 United States Youth National Team will face Slovakia on Friday, May 26 at 12 pm MT in the final match of Group B play, with a chance to finish first in the group. The game will be available on FS2, Universo, and Telemundo (see USSoccer.com for more details).