With a Colombian penalty kick threatening to erase the U.S. Under-20 national team's tenuous 1-0 lead, U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen stretched out all of his 6-foot-3 frame to deny the penalty attempt and preserve a lead his team never surrendered.
Steffen's 83rd minute penalty save helped the U.S. beat the Colombians 1-0 in their Under-20 World Cup round of 16 clash. Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin delivered the game-winning goal in the 58th minute to help the U.S. in a match Colombia had taken control of before the goal.
The victory propels the Americans to the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. The side will face Serbia on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rubin delivered the only goal after a deflected Paul Arriola shot fell to his feet, and the young forward blasted a right-footed shot into the top corner of the net from 14 yards out in the 58th minute.
The Rubin goal came against the run of play in a match Colombia was beginning to take control of. The Colombians' superior strength and athleticism caused problems for the Americans throughout the match, limiting the U.S. team's chances and keeping the Americans on the back-foot for long stretches of the game before Rubin's goal.
The match threatened to get away from the U.S. in the 81st minute when U.S. defender Kellyn Acosta was whistled for a foul in the penalty area. Acosta was issued his second yellow card, leaving the Americans with 10 men as Colombian forward Jarlan Barrera stepped to the penalty spot. Steffen jab-stepped to his left before diving to his right and slapping away Barrera's penalty.
Colombia saw another great chance denied just a minute after Steffen's penalty save when Arriola headed a Deinner Quinones shot off the line to keep the score 1-0.
That was as close as Colombia came, with the U.S. defending well in the final minutes despite being a man down.
The U.S. saw the match begin in discouraging fashion when LA Galaxy forward Bradford Jamieson suffered an injury in the fifth minute that forced him to be stretchered off the field and be replaced by Jordan Allen.
The U.S. midfield struggled to deal with Colombia's physicality in the first half, limiting the American chances. Colombia was able to generate chances of its own, but the U.S. defense stood up to the challenge, with central defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miaza delivering outstanding performances on the night.
The second half started slowly for the U.S., with Colombia taking clear control of possession as it pressured the U.S. defense. The tide turned in the 58th minute when Steffen delivered a long goal kick that Emerson Hyndman eventually headed to Arriola. The Club Tijuana midfielder struck a quick shot that deflected off a Colombian defender and fell to the feet of Rubin, who quickly blasted it into the top corner for his second goal of the Under-20 World Cup.
The U.S. will now face a Serbia team that reached the quarterfinals by defeating Hungary 2-1 in extra time. Serbia reached the knockout rounds after topping Group D, which included Uruguay, Mali and Mexico.