Rongen Out As U-20 Skipper: Ramos Tabbed For Now

Rongen, out....

Update 05/05: News today that Thomas Rongen is now out as head coach of the US U-20 team, ending a rocky near 10-year tenure, according to Fox Soccer’s Ives Galarcep.

A March and April CONCACAF series where the US failed qualify for the U-20 World Cup seeming to be the niggling impetus for a change.

US Soccer player luminary Tab Ramos will assume the manager’s duties temporarily for the team’s sojourn to France scheduled for

The move by US Soccer would seem to corroborate their steadfast public message that it’s the results that matter most over player or style development.

Below, commentary from April.

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This is a guest post by Ryan Rosenblatt

Gyau, cause for optimism...

The United States U-20 team were beaten 2-1 by Guatemala, ending their hopes of qualifying for the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup? Awful, no? Not so much. When the match ended, factions of U.S. fans reacted by labeling the team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup being called disastrous or a step back.

The U.S. used to need the U-20 World Cup and other big youth tournaments because it was a chance for clubs to get a look at young Americans and sign them.

2011 is another story, the squad is made up of almost all professional players already and the one non-professional to start, UCLA’s Kelyn Rowe, has interest from clubs abroad and is projected to be a top pick in the next MLS Draft if he signs with the league. These U.S. players don’t need to be “discovered” like past Americans.

Playing with the national team used to be a giant step up in competition and development for the American youth players, that’s no longer the case.

Don't forget, neither Adrian Ruelas (pictured) or Juan Agudelo went camping for this one...

The U.S. will not see their development halted by missing out on the four games or so they would get at the U-20 World Cup. These U.S. youth players are going to return to Hoffenheim, West Ham and several MLS clubs. In fact, it wouldn’t be too difficult to argue that for a player like Bobby Wood with 1860 Munich or Conor Doyle with Derby is better taking part in preseason training with their clubs and establishing themselves their clubs than playing at a junior World Cup with the customary makeshift squad.

Players from several of the top teams in the world pass on youth international tournaments to focus on establishing themselves with clubs and it isn’t a detriment to their development.

The rise in quality in the U.S. youth is due in part to the Development Academy program that has made developing players a priority with matches and results not very high on the list. Isn’t that the point? Developing players as oppose to one observation on the road?

What the U.S. suffered from most in their loss to Guatemala is immaturity. When they fell behind they lost patience and were playing far quicker than they had to.

They looked very much like kids, which is what they happen to be.

They lacked cohesion and having been put together a few weeks before the tournament that is to be expected. The things that led to the U.S. losing were not things that related to developing skill and talent. They were issues with teamwork, maturity and in-match coaching. The first two could be attributed to their lack of time together and youth while the last one, conceding, will rightfully spur the debate about Thomas Rongen the coach versus Thomas Rongen the recruiter.

U.S. fans may be stung by this loss. Loses at any level are one some level themselves unacceptable, but this one, hardly.

The U.S. will now join Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and a host of other very good soccer countries that will not play in this summer’s World Cup.

Argentina and Portugal didn’t qualify for the previous one.

What the U.S. loss has really highlighted is the strides that the U.S. has made, talent-wise.

Now they are at the point that they can now look at youth tournaments the same way other established countries as a measurement of their players, not a measurement of the team. It’s the senior team’s victories and US soccer growth that will be remembered 10 years from now, not a loss to Guatemala that at present stings.

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60 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jake C on 2011/04/07 at 5:28 AM

    Good writeup, and good points. Different region, but if Germany didn’t qualify then I’m not going to beat myself up over this. Is it worth watching the replay on espn3, anyone?

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 8:50 AM

      Well, Germany didn’t qualify but they don’t need to prove anything. They’re already all in the Bundesliga.

      As to the players, of course it’s a big opportunity lost. The Traffic kids–Garza and Gale–were hoping to escape the clutches of Traffic with a big World Cup. Same for the college kids. And the MLS kids? Getting better, but not as good as the European teams. Anyone who tries to spin this as “not a big deal” is being a little too optimistic. Is it the end of the world? No. But trying to pretend it’s not a problem is wrong also.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/07 at 10:23 AM

        Maybe a missed opportunity for some (the Traffic kids, as you point out). But if the coaching problems are as blatant as what I’ve heard, I’ll remain in my state of antipathy on the loss. It’s good to see talent, but I’d rather see players playing well for club teams than for the U-20 side at this point.

        The competition we would get in the world cup is a loss, to be sure, but the bigger problem with Boss, for instance, is the mess that is his club situation. National team duty shouldn’t be the salve for that.

        Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/07 at 9:06 AM

      @Jake C – Yes on the replay. You’ll see skill, but horrible game management and cohesiveness by the US.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Iggystar on 2011/04/07 at 6:15 AM

    RE: Thomas Rongen the coach versus Thomas Rongen the recruiter.

    Will the lack of the U-20 World Cup hurt, help, or be inconsequential for recruiting?

    Reply

  3. Posted by euroman on 2011/04/07 at 6:38 AM

    This revelaed a lot about this pool of players & Coach. When the pressure was really on for the first time for many they all failed miserably. We alledged had the most talent but not the winning mentally necessary to win in this enviornment. Nothing good here and excusing it like many did with the Paraguay match for Seniors isn’t what is needed. At this level ‘playing good’ or ‘developing’ is not what is demanded; only winning matters and we weren’t up to it. Perhaps a few changes are necessary in the management of US Soccer would also help.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 8:53 AM

      Well, this view is about as wrong as the “not big deal” view. Of course winning doesn’t really matter. It’s the showcase.

      And of course just about any team can lose to any other team in a one-off. Germany lost 4-1 to Iceland in a u-21 competition and you don’t see the Germans freaking out that their players are worthless hacks who choke all the time.

      Reply

    • Euroman – If winning is the only thing that matters, what exactly would winning the U-20 World Cup mean for US Soccer, then?

      Winning mentatlity is something we need to be developing in our youth players from 16 on up, but winning for winning’s sake isn’t going to create a Senior National Team or player pool capable of competing with the world’s best players week-in, week-out. It’ll create a player pool who might surprise a great team one time in twenty, instead of being able to split those twenty games. Progress isn’t about winning a single match/tournament via getting hot at the right time, progress is consistently being able to win and compete.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/04/07 at 6:40 AM

    Right on point Ryan. In weird twist, it’s a sign of soccer maturity that this really shouldn’t bother us. “Soccer nations” don’t get bent out of shape about not making or winning youth tournaments. Yes, you’d like to win, but it’s about identifying talent and not so much about developing talent. As you noted, kids this age will have their talent developed by pro clubs…and thankfully, we don’t have to rely on US Youth system to further the development of these players.

    Reply

  5. Nice job, Ryan. I actually plan on writing about this later today– but one point: the label of “failure” is to some extent, an argument that exists in a vacuum– that is to say– sure, development is clearly working and our talent-level is vastly improved– but that’s one side of the equation. Qualifying for this tournament exists in and of itself and any view of last night outside of abject failure is a bit unfair.

    Part of becoming a nation with high-level soccer players and goals is expectation to drive those players: we should expect better because we can do better. This team was far better than the 09 version even with certain omissions like Agudelo and Gatt, and they are (time will tell) likely better than the 07 version as well. Rongen needed to find a way to win that game. He didn’t, and he must be replaced.

    Additionally, these kids should join the one or two age limited studs above them and steamroll into the 2012 games, a tournament that is essential because it will give them matches against the Brazil’s, Netherlands and the like. Expect more than just improved development.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 11:08 AM

      Re: 2012. I mean, sure, they might steamroll. On the other hand, qualifying in CONCACAF is very annoying. We missed out on the 2004 Olympics and had a ton of talent in that team. It’s tough to make the Olympics and it’ll be tougher if CONCACAF decides to dilute the field even more (as they did with the u-17s and 20s.)

      Reply

      • Should steamroll is the operative term, and even more so IF CONCACAF dilutes the field. Larger point to take away is the Americans ought to beat with impunity inferior opposition in their region at this point, at all levels. The senior team under Bradley has done that with one exception (Costa Rica in the Saprissa) and one draw outside the region(Slovenia at the World Cup). Hire a coach who gets it.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 2:18 PM

          If CONCACAF dilutes the field, they’ll have to have more one-off results in order to resolve qualifying. Sorry I didn’t make the logical connection clear.

          Does the senior team really beat “with impunity” inferior opposition? The U.S. has often struggled against inferior opposition e.g. the Trinidad & Tobago away game last year. These results appear to be less important because, well, it wasn’t do-or-die for the World Cup.

          Reply

          • They did “struggle” against Trinidad and Tobago– except they won. They did “struggle” in El Salvador– but they tied. They weren’t “great” in Honduras- but a result was found. Nearly every senior team Gold Cup win the last two years, including four of the five knockout “W’s”, were relatively convincing wins over inferior sides (Canada only exception, and still a win). Pretty simple. They get it done in these matches. Rongen’s side didn’t.

            Yes, One-off is harder but — probably not that likely to be increased even with a diluted field– at least no more than usual. Neither of us can say that for sure– but to me “dilution” is just another reason the Americans ought to defeat these sides.

            Reply

  6. Posted by Russell on 2011/04/07 at 7:32 AM

    All good points, however what is the context? Who did Germany, Netherlands and Italy lose out to? If you add any of those teams to CONCACAF, do they steam roll Guatemala?

    The arguement being made for including players like Wilshere and Carroll to the England squad is that these tournaments help these kids immensely in experience and pressurized games. Something that is of more long term value than missed early preseason camp.

    Regarding Rongren, it can be said that the 07 team underachieved as well. Similar to 10′ in SA that team ‘could’ have reached the Semi Finals. Given his epic failures are greater than his epic achievements shouldn’t US Soccer at least consider moving him on? I know when a VP at my company has a similar track record he is gone in less than 6-8 years. How good is his recuiting if the biggest fish he had to date was pushed out by him? What happens if 11′ kids flip back to Germany et al?

    Expect to Win. Be Champions. Sadly the U20s are not.

    Reply

    • Posted by s44 on 2011/04/07 at 10:25 AM

      “How good is his recuiting if the biggest fish he had to date was pushed out by him?”

      This has actually been pretty well debunked. Neven was never going to play for us, and Rongen left him out because he was injured.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Dougs on 2011/04/07 at 8:05 AM

    Good points but you failed to discuss the consequences of losing the confidence that comes with having played on the World stage before successfully. What happens when Kitchen Gyau Doyle and Co are at the Sr level and find themselves playing against non- Comcacaf competition? This is one less tourney experience they can pull from to remind themselves that they are up to the task. The significance if that lost confidence is substantial and that is why I am very disappointed in this loss.

    Reply

  8. Posted by phlub on 2011/04/07 at 9:15 AM

    One-off qualifiers are difficult in general. It was a hostile atmosphere in Guatemala City. I only watched the CONCACAF highlights, but it appeared that Rongren’s squad offensively played great. They were attacking the back line well, making great runs, good crosses, and just had bad luck.

    Certainly there should have been a penalty on a handball on the ground in the box in the first half on Rowe’s run that would have changed things dramatically. Also a lot of other golden chances that could have gone either way. Guatemala also looked pretty good offensively to give them credit. Their keeper made some major saves as well.

    Doyle and Gyau looked really dangerous. Looking forward to seeing more from this crew. I for one think it was just unfortunate to have to play for cup qualification in this uncontrolled manner of one-off quarter and semi finals.

    Reply

  9. Posted by JW on 2011/04/07 at 9:33 AM

    Upsets happen, and it’s hard to take too much from one game that was decidedly “away” in the sense that GUA was certainly “home.” It is probably more reasonable to chalk this up to playing a good team at home than some devastating harbinger of USA’s youth-system decline. The kids are all right… but that said, it’s still **** disappointing.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Erik the Orange on 2011/04/07 at 9:34 AM

    Well written article, Ryan. I just think it would carry more weight if it were written before last night’s result.

    If I had seen an article that argued the pros/cons of qualifying for the U-20 World Cup before the game was played, I would think that both points of view deserved merit. While the article does do a good job of pointing out the shortcomings of the kids, I still think that pointing out the fact that other “big guns” failed to qualify really does nothing but try and make last night’s result more palatable.

    I’m aware that growth in character and development may be aided in failure to qualify, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily for the better. Why compete if we think it’s ok to fail?

    Reply

  11. Posted by dude on 2011/04/07 at 10:41 AM

    It bugs me a lot. That we don’t “need” the u-20s doesn’t mean we couldn’t use them. Besides the obvious scouting, our players should learn at this stage how to be both cohesive and dangerous, tactical and technical. In short, they should be developing as professionals as well as talents.

    And it always seems like Rongen’s kids come out with heads far too big and almost no understanding of how to play at the international level.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 11:06 AM

      Always?

      I’d say this is an overreaction. The U.S. played, through its three games, well together on offense and executed well on moves. Last night the finishing wasn’t great, the keeper had a very good game, and the defense was poor. I don’t think this amounts to the complete failure you seem to think it is.

      Reply

      • Posted by Dougs on 2011/04/07 at 11:48 AM

        I disagree with your assessment that they played well last night and just lacked finishing. They pile not maintain possession and ran stupid ( is – they did not run with purpose but just to play fast). They rarely maintained possession for any significant period. And why is there so lite discussion of the complete failure to mark the open Guatemalan on the first goal? To get beat on a corner kick so completely should be unforgivable. That’s one area where our lessees skill development should not be a disadvantage. Mark your man and clear the ball.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 12:01 PM

          They didn’t maintain possession but people need to realize possession is just a tool, not an end to itself. Guatemala was pressing hard and leaving an extremely high defensive line: the obvious and necessary way to beat such a line is to play quick balls, either over-the-top or a through ball. It’s not an accident that Rowe’s two early chances came on a breakaway, or Doyle’s chances came on a breakaway, or etc. etc. Anyway, the U.S. didn’t have quite enough speed on the field, and the finishing was poor, and the opposing keeper played very well. That’s a bad combination. But the offense generated plenty of chances from a purposeful strategy, so it’s difficult to fault it too greatly.

          I don’t think anyone’s failed to mention the poor defense on the corner, whether it’s marking or MacMath’s hesitant goalkeeping.

          Reply

          • Posted by Dougs on 2011/04/07 at 7:35 PM

            Definitely agree on MacMath’s hesitation. I think a more experience/confident keeper would have pounced on that ball and punched it away. Either that or completely taken out that Guatamalan trying.

            Reply

            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/08 at 12:32 PM

              In a way I think the errors on both goals are–weirdly–not so bad. I’m more familiar with basketball thinking than anything else, but I suspect it’s true of soccer too: basketball scouts, at the age of the players we’re talking about, care disproportionately about the best efforts the players are able to summon. Dumb mistakes–if relatively rare–are preferred to, say, mistakes from lack of competence or athleticism because dumb mistakes are a savvy coach and some experience away from turning into heady plays.

              It’s in that view that I watched the game: the errors were more of inexperience than technical or tactical ability (though those could definitely use improvement), which indicates the players have realistic upsides to fulfill. The question, though, is whether the players will fill in that inexperience with valuable, enriching experience or not. In most cases I’m fairly confident with the coaching/mentoring/PT they’re getting.

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/07 at 12:19 PM

          Doug, I concur with your thoughts. The players out there have individual skill but collective buy-into-team concept/execute completely broke down.

          I saw a playground game from the US where they didn’t “value” their chances–finishing being one component of that.

          They consistently forced the issue…almost too much and left an attacker ahead with zero support if they couldn’t beat their man–that was essentially the second half.

          And their defensive shape and management by Boss & Kitchen was completely wanting. In my mind there, they played a scared which created hesitation.

          DTH, disagree with you that the offense created plenty of chances. It created one on one situations that forced the US attacker to break down a Honduran attacker who then often received help. They weren’t great chances. imo

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 12:35 PM

            Well, the U.S. created two one-on-ones with the goalkeeper, a one-on-two breakaway, forced some great saves from the goalkeeper…to me these are plenty of chances. If ever highlights were useful:

            And if anything the highlights understate the number of threatening situations for the U.S.

            Reply

          • Posted by Dougs on 2011/04/07 at 7:32 PM

            Thanks Matthew for explaining what I was trying to say much more eloquently and without the typos accompanied from my poor ability to text from my iphone. From the opening moment they looked like they were playing scared and I think it was no small part due to the unusually hostile atmosphere (for them) and their insufficient experience and preparation (yes, I mean Rongen’s failure again) for such a high pressure situation. This is the experience they will continue to lack due to their failure to make the world cup. What a shame.

            Someone else on this discussion board said it well — Rongen’s troops seem to believe their own hype and don’t have the same quietly confident “never say die” attitude as the senior group.

            Reply

            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 7:36 PM

              I agree with most of your points, actually. The team didn’t play anywhere near its full potential; nevertheless, I thought the U.S. team had the run of play on balance.

              Rongen’s comments about how the “B team is the best team you’ll face” were clearly idiotic.

  12. [...] There are two responses to this argument. First, that isn’t a reason to keep Rongen around. As Ryan Rosenblatt compellingly wrote this morning over at The Shin Guardian, yes—from a developm…. There are several players who appear to be national team fixtures in the future, and one or two [...]

    Reply

  13. Posted by manuel on 2011/04/07 at 12:56 PM

    GOOD POIT FOR THE GOOD PLAYERS ADRIAN RUELAS IS VERY GOOD PLAYER END WHERE IS HIM ??????? IS PLAY FOR WHO???? FOR
    USA NOOOO FOR MEXICO NOOOOO IS GOOOOOOD PLAYER SORRY FOR THE TEAM USA!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  14. Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/04/07 at 1:59 PM

    Here are my thoughts for what they are worth… (in list form as a crutch because I lack the writing skills for much else)

    1) This discussion is one of the reasons I like the site.

    2) U-20, Olympics, etc are not that important in my mind. I am one of those that look at the senior team as the be all end all of US progress. Yes it is good to get experience but at the end of the day you have young players who are still learning the game and don’t spend that much time together. If the senior team loses away in qualifying to Guatamala (assuming it doesn’t eliminate them from the WC) then we would not be up in arms so why are we up in arms over this.

    3) It is amazing how just a week ago people were talking about the 4-3-3 and the attacking style as the future of soccer and Bradley could take lessons from Rongen and now people want to fire Rongen.

    4) I watched last night’s game and one other game and liked the attacking style. The U-20 had a number of players that seemed to be good to me (Rowe, and #20 stood out in particular). We are not a soccer factory like Brazil yet. If we can produce 4 or 5 people from the U-20 that can convert to the senior team and get 1 or 2 more that are late bloomers (Duece, Dolo, etc) then the US should be fine. I think everyone needs to be realistic as to how hard and how long it will be to move from where we are (somewhere in the teens as far as best team in the world) to where we want to be (top 8).

    5) The people saying that we lack good youth seem to be missing something. Ream, Agudelo, MB90, Lichaj, Bunbury, Chandler, and Mix are nothing to sneeze at. Rather than looking for the next Landon what we really need is a number of Holden and Dolo types (technically solid, tactically smart, play well but not in an oh my god way) and one special player (that is the big hole right now). We seem to have a lot of young players that are on the cusp of getting into the regular line-up for the Senior squad.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/07 at 2:15 PM

      re point 5): the idea isn’t that we lack good youth or even that those players you’ve mentioned are bad. They’re not! They’re really good at soccer, and represent a nice trend for U.S. soccer. Unfortunately, the players who will win the 2014 and 2018 World Cups will probably be much better than they are: whatever team it is will have many top-50 players and probably have multiple top-10 players. Figuring out how to produce those kind of world class players is the operative challenge for US Soccer if its prime goal is to win the World Cup.

      It’s certainly possible one or even a few of these players might be a world class player by 2014 or 2018, but I don’t think any of them have that high upside you need to be world class player. Hence the critique that the U.S. isn’t producing good enough youth (the critique becomes even stronger when you realize that the U.S.’s population advantage dwarves most of the top soccer nations.)

      Reply

      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/04/08 at 3:27 AM

        I guess this comes down to expectations. While I would hope that we would be creating high upside world class player I don’t expect it at this time. Yes our population is large but soccer isn’t the first choice sport for our best athletes and more importantly we don’t have anywhere near the youth system of other countires. How many 6-10 year olds are being taught the game by someone that has never played it (or only played it at a very low level)? In the US that number is quite high… other countries not so much.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/04/08 at 9:04 AM

          Well, let’s compare us to a country like Japan. We started taking the game seriously at approximately the same time. Who looks closer to developing a world-class player? Whose player pool is better? I’d say the answer is unquestionably Japan.

          Reply

          • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/04/09 at 7:23 AM

            I am biased but I find it hard to agree with the comment that Japan is unquestionably better. I am not sure how you measure that. So I can’t even tell if I am right or wrong.

            Reply

            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/09 at 7:50 AM

              There are a lot of ways to measure it. Who has more players playing for big clubs? I’d say Japan: they’ve got Nagatomo at Inter and Kagawa at Dortmund. We’ve got…no one. Who has more players who seem likely to fetch big transfer prices should they be sold? Again, I’d say Japan: Kagawa at Dortmund and Honda at CKSA Moscow. Who has better younger players (defined here as eligible for the 2012 Olympics)? Again, I’d say Japan: Kagawa is better than any U.S. player who’s eligible for the Olympics and they have players like Ryo Miyachi who are attached to clubs like Arsenal.

              On what metric would you suggest the U.S. compares to Japan’s player pool?

            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/04/09 at 6:43 PM

              To be honest my initial thought was very simple and revolved around 1) WC results, 2) # of players in EPL (which is the league I follow closest, 3) FIFA rankings, and 4) my gut on a US versus Japan game on a neutral site.

              Also please don’t look at this as an attack because I am just continuing because I find this an interesting debate which is leading to me learning a bit about Japanese soccer.

              My thoughts:

              Is Nagatomo going to Inter any better than Gooch going to AC Milan? Yes Gooch got injured but that happens. Its a bad break.

              Is there a difference between Kagawa and Donovan going to Bayern or Dolo heading to the Champions League?

              Who is the Japanese equivalent of Holden? Someone that was potentially going to be in the Top XI of the EPL this year.

              Is Honda at CSK any different than Edu at Rangers, Gooch at FC Twente, Beasley at PSV, or Dempsey at Fulham or any of our other Europa League players as the US has a couple each year?

              If we are purely talking about development then Subotic needs to be counted for the US.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/09 at 7:21 PM

              Kagawa was one of the best players for Dortmund before getting injured, perhaps the best player for Dortmund. As to Nagatomo: he’s gotten 10 appearances for Inter since a January transfer and looked pretty good for them when he got on. So yes, a big difference for those two players.

              Honda with CSKA Moscow is different in the sense that he’s been one of the best players for them and is constantly rumored to be going to a better team/league.

              As to rankings: Japan is ranked 15 and the U.S. 18 in FIFA. In Elo, Japan is ranked 13 and the U.S. 27. In Nate Silver’s Soccer Power Index, Japan is ranked 15 and the U.S. 21.

              The “big league” count is kind of interesting. Let’s stipulate that there are five really top leagues in Europe: England, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France. For the sake of argument, I want to avoid points as to whether, say, Russia is better than Portugal or something. Let’s do two comparisons: one from the World Cup, and a second (a projection for the U.S.) in the two’s continental championships. The World Cup big league count featured three players for Japan and twelve for the U.S. The continental championships picture is considerably different: six for Japan and…for the U.S., I’m guessing something like this:

              GK: Howard, Guzan, Yelldell (3/3)
              DF: Chandler, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Ream, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Bornstein, Lichaj (2/8)
              MF: Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Edu, Jones, Diskerud, Bedoya, Kljestan (3/8)
              FW: Altidore, Bunbury, Agudelo, Wondolowski (0/4)

              That’s eight. But the numbers are even when you just concentrate on outfield players. Obviously goalkeepers count as real players, but you can only play one at a time and ideally you want your goalkeepers to be doing little more than shouting and guzzling Gatorade as he paces between the posts while watching the ball on the other side of the field.

              Overall, it’s probably not as clear as I originally set it out to be. Still, I side with the Japanese player pool: as I said, soccer is a game that rewards having really good players and I think Japan’s players are on a higher level than ours. Kagawa was the prime creative force for a dominant Dortmund team, and while Dortmund will probably still win the title without him, they’ve looked considerably less assured without him. Honda is similar for a pretty good CSKA Moscow team.

            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/04/09 at 8:30 PM

              In reading the posts and doing a little research I agree that it is close. My take is that if we are talking truly world class Japan is probably ahead but if we look at overall talent the US is probably deeper.

              Interestingly you mentioned that soccer is a game that rewards really good players. Soccer is also a game that punishes bad defensive players. Teams pick a weakness and go attack it relentlessly.

              Not to be picky… you missed one of defense for the US in the count as the US has Chandler, Dolo, and Boca

              Also Holden probably should be counted even though he isn’t in the Gold Cup roster rather than someone like Mix. I do believe that he is the future of the USMNT and one of our biggest pieces for 2014.

              There is also the question of Lichaj who is arguable given he is property of Aston Villa and has played well in some games, bad in others, Altidore who is with Villareal but out on loan, Davies who is on loan from France, where he played well prior to a fluke injury. While I am not saying that should count as 3 more “big league” players but they probably should carry some weight.

              I also think if you expand past the big 5 leagues to include consistent Europa League participants (Ajax, PSV, Rangers, Galatasary, etc) then the numbers get even more lopsided in favor of the US.

              Again, your original comment was “world” class which I give to Japan. This is different than my initial gut feeling. If we talk about depth at the top level I give it to the US.

    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/07 at 3:37 PM

      If the senior team loses away in qualifying to Guatamala (assuming it doesn’t eliminate them from the WC) then we would not be up in arms so why are we up in arms over this.

      I certainly would be (assuming that we were using the full squad and hadn’t already qualified for the WC or the next round of qualifying as the case were).

      The talent gap is so large at this point, that there really isn’t any excuse for losing to Guatemala no matter where the game is played. Indeed, we’ve taken at least a point every time we’ve played in Guatemala City during qualification for the last four World Cups.

      Reply

      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/04/08 at 3:28 AM

        The US doesn’t go undefeated in qualifying. If the results were based on the talent gap then the US would win every game in WC qualifying but Mexico away as there really is no other team comparable to the US talent wise.

        Reply

        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/04/08 at 9:59 AM

          Now you’re moving the goalposts. I didn’t say that talent gap was the sole determination of results, nor that we should expect the US to go undefeated through qualifying. I’m saying that some talent gaps are too big to be overcome, even when home field advantage is a factor. The gap between the US and Guatemala is one of those.

          Yes, we’re more talented than Costa Rica or Honduras, but not so much that dropping a game in Saprissa or San Pedro Sula isn’t understandable. But Guatemala is a poor team, made up almost entirely of domestic players from their not-so-good league. I think you’re underestimating the reaction if we dropped a game to them in qualifying; it would dwarf what we’re seeing about this U-20 loss.

          Reply

  15. [...] Are Coming, takes the loss as a crushing blow to USA soccer as a whole. The alternative view, a la this article from The Shin Guardian, admits the result is disappointing but that the quality of play from the [...]

    Reply

  16. Posted by dave on 2011/04/07 at 3:56 PM

    I disagree with your observation Ryan; the U.S. should qualify for the u-20s even if it is not the best u-20’s available. They failed in a track and field stadium (essentially a road game) but not a road game at Saprissa or Mexico. The lack of danger for the coaching jobs with the U.S. various teams led to this result. Firing a manager more often would force the manager to care about their position.The U.S. team lacked passion and determination while GUA had both in droves. This lack of passion and determination is disturbing. If the U.S. played with more passion they would qualify.
    The format is unfair; CONCACAF wanted more Caribbean teams to play and celebrate CONCACAF’s anniversary. Yet, only one Caribbean team advanced out of group and Cuba only got one point; the u17s had Haiti withdraw and Barbados crushed by an 8-0 score. It is time for the two groups of four teams each to return with 3 for North America, 3 for Central America and 2 for the Caribbean.I think everyone reading this should email Chuck Blazer and other CONCACAF heads responsible for the u17s and u20s and ask for this proper format change. Olympic qualifiers should have two groups of four leading to a final group of four and this should happen whenever less than three slots are available.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Ryan on 2011/04/07 at 7:15 PM

    I don’t think this is the end of the world. The qualification format almost guarantees something like this will eventually happen. The 2004 Olympic side failed to qualify and the program hasn’t collapsed on itself.

    Rongen’s recruiting almost requires he stay in the system in some manner. The style he has the lads playing, I think, outweighs the loss yesterday.

    It sucks, but we’ll be fine.

    Reply

  18. Posted by over there on 2011/04/08 at 12:40 AM

    What I find most troubling is that our U-17, U-20 and senior teams are all playing different systems and formations. THAT concerns me.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/08 at 7:50 AM

      That concerns me not at all. Smart players can change formations and systems; bad players can’t.

      Reply

  19. Posted by dth on 2011/05/05 at 1:47 PM

    Yes, because Tab Ramos will have them bunkering in no time…oh wait, probably not.

    While development might be more important than results, this doesn’t imply that results are unimportant. Rongen’s results have been steadily declining, and a certain point enough is enough. I agree with the decision and I’m sure Ramos will do a good job as an interim coach and might not be a terrible choice for the permanent job.

    Reply

  20. Posted by gonzobiology on 2011/05/05 at 6:05 PM

    “The move by US Soccer would seem to corroborate their steadfast public message that it’s the results that matter most over player or style development.”

    This is either disingenuous or wildly ignorant.

    Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Rongen has had more problems than simply results. Also, it’s not like he’s some style guru that had them all playing beautiful soccer that just didn’t win.

    The fact is that not making the U20 WC does matter. The US essentially qualifies for every relevant tournament at every level every time. That’s a huge selling point when we get into dual national battles. We’ve lost the ability to make that promise now, and it’s a big deal.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/05/05 at 6:26 PM

      Yeah, and it’s tough to take a steadfast message of results over style development from its youth hires anyway. Claudio Reyna comes in and his apparent brief is to develop creative play; Wilmer Cabrera coaches his teams to play aggressively and with possession… And does anyone really believe Tab Ramos is suddenly going to go bunkerer on us? This doesn’t feel like a very well-thought-out topper at all.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/05/06 at 4:59 AM

        I’m very excited by the new direction of youth development with US Soccer. Putting two of our more technically skilled vets in charge can only be a good thing.

        Reply

    • Per others on the interwebs, I haven’t actually done the statistical leg-work, Rongen was good at unearthing the dual nationals and getting them their shot with the US Youth System. Keeping them is for another debate.

      I concur that results (at the youth levels) matter but not over player development. That is a wildly ignorant message to be sending out. The people who care only about results don’t follow the US National Team enough to read these press releases and those that do will care and take umbrage with that statement.

      Reply

  21. Posted by Russell P on 2011/05/05 at 9:38 PM

    For as long as I care.. I’ll never understand how a US U20 coach says the kid isn’t good enough fir my team. Yet two months later he is starting on a to be promoted Bundesliga2 team. And 20 months later the kid us a starter in the Bundesliga.

    Is that incompetence or having it out for the kid? And the kid he picked instead is where now.

    That is like ur stock broker selling ur google stock 20 months before IPO. You probably fire the guy immediately for being an idiot.

    Reply

  22. Whether or not Rongen was a good coach overall is debatable (I think he was), but this certainly seems like the right decision. USA soccer has been criticized in the past for being too forgiving of coaches who don’t live up to expectations – I like seeing this sort of accountability.

    Applying this principle of accountability out to our senior team…if we don’t win the Gold Cup, I’d expect Coach Sweats to find himself ousted as well. But don’t worry, Bob. We’ll win it.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Crow on 2011/05/06 at 11:32 AM

    Let there be rejoicing!!!!!

    Reply

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