TSG has largely been focused on the USMNT, EPL and Americans Abroad.
Only recently did we dabble in the up-and-coming talent stateside, surveying the Rongen Disaster that was the U-20 tournament a few weeks ago
So you can imagine our surprise when we fired up the 360 today, took in the first 10 minutes from Nigeria and were greeted with a Jack McInerney run-on, a foul from Spain, a red card, and the US a man up for the remainder of the game.
Less than 3 minutes after that opening minute salvo, McInerney challenged the Spanish keeper on a free kick, collided with him Conor Casey-style, the ball dropped and McInerney tapped in for the score. 1-0 States.
Despite solid play the rest of the match that included quite a bit of managed possession, the final score told an inverse tale, 2-1 Spain.
The US U-17 team, in our rookie estimation, played a fairly decent team game but succumbed to a team that just had too much talent. Despite some individual mistakes, the only negative behavior I found the overall team culpable for was dropping man marking in the back against an extremely adept technical offense for the Spaniards. (see note on this at the bottom)
Other than that, I think Wilmer Cabrera’s team can be commended even though they failed to capitalize on being a man-up. They consistently took what Spain gave them (the flanks) and tried to move the ball from right to left after winning possession to avoid what can only be described as the
nasty triumvirate of Athletic Bilboa’s Iker Muniain (the youngest goal scorer already in La Liga history), Pablo Sarabia (at Real Madrid, but apparently an Arsenal target), and Borja (Atletico Madrid) who continually came barreling down and through the right central defense.
In what should not have been overlooked as a major development, it didn’t help that Zachary Herold picked up a yellow card for the States less than 5 minutes and was often then caught flatfooted in transition on that right flank. Such was the damage on the right that captain and right back Perry Kitchen was substituted just after the half.
Alas, despite what I thought was an excellent strategy, Spain’s cream of youth soccer just overwhelmed the Americans. After a giveaway by Tyler Polak in the back left, (Polak generally partnered well with going forward with Alex Shinsky on the left, but had several miscues of execution in the back) Borja got behind the defense and laced a true cross field pass to directly to the foot of an onrushing Sarabia who one touched ahead to get the ball on his striking foot and then drilled a gorgeous shot just below the right corner roof deck. ESPN worthy for sure; a professional strike.
What were we impressed with on the US side?
• The possession maintenance of this junior team and understanding what they needed accomplish to earn a victory. I thought the team
discipline and adherence to a game plan was excellent. Credit Wilmer Cabrera.
• Credit Cabrera again for an aggressive attacking style that mixed up play over the top, to a post-up offender and overlaps and through balls. Through fruitless, the play of Alex Shinsky and Tyler Polak going on the attack on the left showed soccer worthy of European, not American roots.
One specific pass by Shinsky somewhere in the 30th-40th minute sticks out. The left half curled a right footed pass between the central and wing defender to Polak making a run in space. The right foot and the curl were the only pass that would have made it through and Shinsky nailed it.
• Well, TSG wanted to see Jack McInerney toil up top and we weren’t disappointed. Showing a great melting pot of technical work, recognition of when to be aggressive and when to be patient, some strength and just whole range of attack-ability. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but watching McInerney operate with his offsides-tempting runs and deliberate moves harkens the pitch movements of Aston Villa’s Gabi Agbonlahor.
• Earl Edwards, goalkeeper, will be anointed next in the Stars & Stripes lineage.
The game, despite the US loss, was entertaining. With the sour taste of the U-20 tournament not yet dissipated, the U-17 team, even in their loss, showed a little bit of what good coaching, attention to the game plan, and creative offense can do to instill fan fervor.
Be disappointed at the result, not the effort.
On U.S defending: As a former player at a high level in some sports, the US U-17 and U-20 negligence in defense looks like the work of players who are used to being the best at their respective positions on the pitch and not used to the precise execution of their opponents. In essence a statement along the lines of “There is no way he’s going to complete or make that pass or that play.”
Too often good players, who have been playing inferior competition, give up on a play because they’ve sized up their opponents as not being able to make it. I saw Ike Opara take on this behavior in the U-20.
The behavior happened again today on both of the goals against the States in my estimation. The first, casual man marking as the backline pleaded for an offsides call that wouldn’t have been valid. The second, a failure to stick to a man as the opponent was working deep in the right flank. Against a lesser team, especially on the 2nd goal, that cross is knocked away or rolls out the sideline harmlessly, today Sarabia, the left winger for Spain, executed on it, much to the astonishment of the defender caught in no man’s land.