US U-20’s Golfing This Summer

First, two points:

Amobi Okugo had a big task in the middle tonight..

1) I don’t have enough observations of the U-20 team to comment on tonight’s affair in depth like with the senior team. So help out.

2) If it wasn’t for–a fantastic product–I never would have seen this game.

The U.S. U-20 men’s national fell to Guatemala tonight in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship campaign. The loss means no World Cup this summer for the team.

Guatemala jumped ahead in a 1st half largely controlled by the States. After threatening on many chances in the 2nd, Conor Doyle was played in and sand wedged a composed chip over the keeper to level things.

No sooner had the US scored than the home side edged forward again. Miscommunication and slow reaction were to blame as Henry Lopez gathered an over-the-top ball–something the US struggled with all game–tangoed past a befuddled Gale Agbossomunde and slotted the ball past a deer-in-headlights pose from keeper Zac MacMath.

As the hype crescendo this week–with goal celebration video wafting through YouTube–the team failed to deliver on the pitch.

The talent appeared to be there, but for the second tourney, Thomas Rongen’s on-field prowess couldn’t match his recruitment record off it. The U-20’s played a very rushed brand of soccer. It’s one thing to play fast; the U-20’s were rushed. However, this isn’t the senior side either.

Now….the team has plenty of time to slow down.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Russ on 2011/04/06 at 10:09 PM

    The realities of a qualifying format involving one off games. Throw in some big name starters not released by their clubs, a hostile home crowd, concentration lapses and voila: upset special.

    Disappointing but I won’t lose sleep over it. We’re getting some quality wingers/forwards out of this U-20 class for the senior team regardless.


  2. Posted by dth on 2011/04/06 at 10:34 PM

    The team has a lot of talent relative to past u-20 teams, yet they didn’t play their best game and they weren’t coached to their best. Rongen came in with a difficult problem: he’d had a bit of an injury crisis, with wingers Eder Arreola and Bobby Wood going down. These things happen. Rongen chose to play left back Greg Garza as as left forward in a 4-3-3, which was not the worst idea in the world, I think. Garza didn’t look terrible. The problem was that Garza’s replacement at left back, Moises Hernandez was–while fine at defense, except for that long ball on the second goal–very poor with the ball at his feet. This situation underlined a few big Rongen tactical errors:

    1) Given that the left half of the field was such a mess, Guatemala could focus on the right half in the second half. The first half featured Gyau and Valentin rampaging up the wing. Rongen could’ve subbed off Hernandez for an offensive player; unfortunately, no obvious left-sided player presented himself. This gets at another big Rongen error, namely: bringing Dillon Powers along. Powers is a pretty OK player: a good range and quality of passing, good work rate…but kind of a plodder. But Powers was injured and Rongen brought him along anyway for experience and leadership. However, with the injury crisis, Rongen was effectively ceding three men on his twenty-man roster to his opponent. Had Rongen called up a different player, there might have been another offensive option on the bench, which brings me to problem two:

    2) Rongen didn’t make a sub until minute 77′, if I’m not mistaken. This was strange: the problems were obvious. The left side is one I’ve focused on, but then there was also Kelyn Rowe, who was dangerous if imprecise in the first half but pretty terrible in the second. A sub–say Moises Orozco–would’ve been a needed refresher.

    3) Rongen’s formation was very naive. His 4-3-3 featured two offensively-minded players in Kelyn Rowe and Sebastian Lletget. Both of them have high work rates and defensive abilities for #10s, but nevertheless it was left to Amobi Okugo to shield the backline on his own. I felt Okugo had a very good game despite that, but he was clearly exhausted by the end of the game. Rongen’s formation is fine if you expect to hold the majority of the possession but quickly caught out if you don’t. This is why managers play with two defensively-minded central midfielders.

    Nevertheless I felt the U.S. had more chances, but things did not quite come off. They were able to adjust somewhat–they hit upon the tactic of over-the-top balls and other quick balls to punish Guatemala’s high backline, which was very effective and (after a nice, long through ball from Okugo) ended up generating the goal. Guatemala premised its game around a high backline and furious pressing and more speed in the team was clearly needed.

    Ultimately, with Rongen’s two most recent teams going down in embarrassing failure, the USSF should replace him in a second with a qualified candidate. Unfortunately, if the USSF goes American, it will probably be a bad decision: either taking someone who’s completely unsuited to the role, or–if taking someone who’d be good–disrupting the valuable work they’re already doing (example: I’ve heard calls for Caleb Porter. What, exactly, would be the point of that? Caleb Porter does much more good work for the U.S. in Akron than he could ever do with the u-20s.)


    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/06 at 10:38 PM

      One additional note: looking at this year’s vintage of u-17 and u-20 crops, we can say we’re producing reasonably good technical players who can play creatively. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately for us: none of them appear to have the kind of obvious potential that world-class players have. (by world-class I mean the top fifty or so players in the world). If the U.S.’s goal is to win the World Cup, then the country has to not merely produce one potential world-class player, but several per youth team. This is another leap entirely and I’m not sure how it’ll be made.

      We know it can be done–indeed, a country like Japan is in the process of making that leap.


    • Posted by Dikranovich on 2011/04/11 at 2:29 PM

      You must be kidding when you say the acron coach does more good with a college team than he would with the under 20 national team. Acron does produce a lot of mls talent. It’s at least safe to say if porter were the under 20. USA would get better results


      • Posted by dth on 2011/04/11 at 2:37 PM

        Uh…I’m very much not kidding. As Akron coach Porter gets his guys four or five months of the year to develop them and make them into better players. As a theoretical u-20 coach Porter gets his guys a cumulative two or three months over a two-year cycle to achieve results which aren’t hugely important.


        • Posted by Dikranovich on 2011/04/11 at 2:48 PM

          I guess I’m asking who do you want closer to the reigns of the us mens team, rongren or porter?


          • Posted by dth on 2011/04/11 at 2:49 PM

            Neither. Porter is too good for the job and Rongen isn’t good enough.


            • Posted by Dikranovich on 2011/04/11 at 11:36 PM

              Dth it does sound like you would rather have porter in the position. Whose coaching the Olympic team?

  3. Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/06 at 10:37 PM

    Speaking of recruitment… I wonder if this will create problems with regard to landing some of the dual nationals. Guys like Zahavi and Huerzeler would have had to apply for their one-time federation switch to play for us in the World Cup, but now they can kick that decision down the road. Also, Huerzeler cited Rongen as a big factor drawing him to the US. If Rongen gets the axe, does that affect his decision? Does Ruelas decide he really wants to play in the competition, and accept if Mexico decides to call him up?

    Probably not worth losing too much sleep over, as no one knows how these guys will turn out, and I’m not in favor of pining after guys who aren’t committed to the US anyway. Still, it’s always nice to broaden the player pool as much as possible, and qualifying for the WC could have helped with that.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/06 at 10:40 PM

      I don’t worry about Zahavi: he seems to skip from team to team, wowing none of them enough to make an effort to hang onto them. So, you know, an issue. Huerzeler and Ruelas are perhaps more worrying, I suppose. Ruelas has always sounded committed to the U.S. and has even disparaged Mexico’s coaches. Huerzeler, on the other hand, may be a bit more of an issue.


  4. Posted by mbw on 2011/04/06 at 10:41 PM

    Having watched these three games, I still don’t know what to make of Rongen’s remark that the individual talent on this team doesn’t match that of the 2007 squad. Maybe the result bears him out. On the other hand, I could see Lletget and Gyau on the senior team within a few years.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/06 at 10:43 PM

      I think he meant that there’s no superstar talent like there was in 2007. Which seems fair: Altidore and Adu were high achievers for their age. None of the players on this team have the professional achievements they did then. But then again most of the players have more achievements than most of the players on 2007. Higher average, lower ceiling.


      • Posted by soccerfanatic on 2011/04/07 at 12:49 AM

        Im so disappointed that they lost, really taught they were going to win it all! This team has a lot of talent but what did you think of the college players such as Ibeagha?


  5. My observations of this team were very limited since ESPN3 doesn’t play nice with my internet carrier….

    I caught the first half of the Panama game and we looked like a team who had known each other for a year or so offensively and a gaggle of confused 13 year-olds defensively. The offensive movements weren’t exactly crisp but there was some good movement for each other. The disconcerting thing about it all is that they didn’t build up possession or really own possession at all, instead they were always chomping at the bit to get forward but with little regard for what their track-meet style of offense and possession will have on their defenders.

    From the 45 minutes I saw, plus the highlights it looks like there’s some talent in this crop of players but none of them appear to be transcendental, yet.


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