When the United States U20 team faces in Trinidad and Tobago in the third of their five group stage matches tonight (7:45PM ET), they will continue to rely heavily on Philadelphia Union’s academy. Mark McKenzie joined U20 captain Matt Real and Anthony Fontana in Bradenton, Florida last week and immediately got in on what has been an eyebrow-raising amount of scoring.
USA U20s vs Puerto Rico
Union players involved: Matt Real (captain)
Through two matches, the US has rippled the net 20 times. First, on November 1, Matt Real led the U20s out for a 7-1 win over Puerto Rico. An own goal and strikes from Alex Mendez of LA Galaxy’s academy and Paxton Pomykal of FC Dallas’ academy put the Americans up three inside of 30 minutes. Puerto Rico struck back in the 33rd, but then Ayo Akinola of Toronto FC and Ulysses Llanez of the Galaxy took over in the second half. Akinola notched two goals while Llanez took home a goal and a helper.
USA U20s vs US Virgin Islands
Union players involved: Matt Real (captain), Anthony Fontana (one goal), Mark McKenzie (2 goals)
Real, Fontana, and McKenzie all started against the US Virgin Islands on November 3. The USVI fell 13-2 to Suriname in their opening match of the group stage, and things did not get better for the islanders against the US team. The Galaxy’s Llanez was the star of the show early, and he was involved in all six of the Americans’ first half goals. First Llanez set up Griffin Dorsey and Akinola to give the US a 2-0 lead. Fontana nearly provided Akinola with a second in the 15th minute, but the USVI goalie, Connor Querrard, made an excellent stop. Llanez then scored a hat trick and finished the half by playing a sumptuous combination at the top of the box to release Fontana, and the Union midfielder lashed home the final goal before the whistle blew for the break.
Justin Rennicks made a play at replicating Llanez’s output in the second frame. He scored in the 62nd minute before flicking a header across the box to the Union’s Mark McKenzie to blast home.
Rennicks set up Pomykal in the 69th before Alex Mendez eased in a penalty kick. McKenzie was back on the scoresheet in the 81st minute. Real put a shot on frame from a corner but it was saved. Both Real and McKenzie then sought to punch the ball past the defense with the center back getting the last touch. Manny Perez rounded out the scoring in injury time.
Real, McKenzie, and Fontana are all back in the mix for minutes tonight, November 5, at 7:45PM ET as they face off with Trinidad and Tobago. Through two matches, the US, T&T, and Suriname are are even with six points, though the Americans are in first place thanks to a +19 goal differential.
USA U20s vs Trinidad and Tobago
Philadelphia Union homegrown players Mark McKenzie and Matt Real started in defense — with Real retaining the captain’s armband — as the United States U20 squad knocked off Trinidad and Tobago 6-1 to remain on top of their U20 World Cup Qualifying Group.
Entering the match, T&T was 2-0 with eight goals scored and only three conceded. That goal differential quickly shrunk as the US put three past their opponents in the first half. FC Dallas homegrown player Paxton Pomykal was at the heart of much of the Americans’ early success. After Justin Rennicks set up Brandon Servania in the sixth minute to open the scoring, Pomykal found Rennicks in the box and the striker’s shot struck T&T’s Justin Homer and ended up in the net. Pomykal added his own in the 45th minute before becoming provider for Alex Mendez in the 52nd and firing a saved shot that fell to Ulysses Llanez to finish in the 56th.
McKenzie and Real were composed in back, and Real nearly provided a secondary assist in the 25th when he slipped a ball through the lines for Llanez to center for Alex Mendez. Denzil Smith was off his line quickly to save, though, and the US had to wait another 20 minutes to add their third.
The US team returns for their fourth group stage match on November 7 against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. St. Vincent is currently 1-2 with six goals scored and four conceded.