U.S., Lennon want to stay on right U20WC track

Brooks Lennon (#17) has been one of the USA's standouts in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, playing every minute of the group stage, while scoring one goal and assisting on another. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

INCHEON, Korea – Forward Brooks Lennon believes the United States fully motivated to do well in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup knockout phase.

The Americans, who face New Zealand in the Round of 16 on Thursday, advanced by playing three close matches to finish atop Group F with a 1W-2D-0L mark. 

"When you go into the game, you focus on doing your job and doing it to the best of your ability because you know this could be your last game," Lennon said. "Especially at such a quality tournament like a World Cup, you don't want it to be your last game. You fight to the end if you have to. No matter what happens you just play your best." 

Lennon and his teammates did just that against Saudi Arabia in their last group stage match. Despite playing a man down for 45 minutes after Cameron Carter Vickers’ ejection, they managed a 1-1 draw with Lennon netting the lone goal. 

"It felt great, a lot of weight off the shoulders," expressed the Real Salt Lake attacker, whose ability to deliver accurate crosses from the right side has been uncanny. "I wanted to get on the scoresheet in one of the games." 

New Zealand (1W-1D-1L) finished second to France in Group E, beating CONCACAF runner-up Honduras, 3-1. 

"New Zealand's a great team," Lennon finished. "We've seen them in previous World Cups. They're a big, athletic team. Every team here is going to be good, especially going into the second round. So, we need to amp up our level. I think we can do that. We just need to grind again, get another result and keep going."