A surfing nod in that title.
As you become older, wiser and more experienced in surfing, you learn that Mother Ocean always wins. So when sets of 12-foot waves are hurdling towards you, you wait until the set of waves subsides and make your play or you sort-of stick-and-move your way out to the line-up, prodding for the little channel that hopefully exists.
When you’re young, you paddle out in the middle of that barreling set. You rely on your strength to get you out there–and most of the time you make it–and you’re only not exhausted by the time you reach the line-up because you’re, well, young.
The US U-17s sent waves upon waves of big surf at their Brazilian counterparts on Sunday and Brazil’s U-17 squad made like the youngsters they are attempting to take on what probably was–for them–a surprising onslaught, head-on.
One problem. Both sides of the ball were young and Brazil’s attempts to play their usually dominating game against the United States left them on the short side of the scoreline, 3-1.
TSG often tries to temper enthusiasm around a single game. We call it a single observation and–broken record time–you need multiple observations to really start drawing a conclusion–the, yes, whole body of work.
Therefore, with that annotation in hand, we’ll still calmly call Sunday’s display by the Yankee Mini-Me’s, impressive.
Impressive across the ball.
First, impressive from a skill-on-skill perspective. US attackers Junior Flores–the Pretty Boy with a well-earned Man of the Match nod–and Wesley Wade continually busted up the Brazilian right flank with either staccato passing attacks or swashbuckling attacking runs. Most impressive was Flores continually navigating is way in, around or through yellow jersey duress. Flores–in what is becoming a hallmark of US Soccer focus across the board here in late 2011–was not content to go negative or neutral with the ball–always looking to keeping attacking even when boxed in.
Second, impressive from a player game awareness perspective. Brazil–and sometimes Spain–youth usually can sleepwalk their way through opponents on the strength of their individual on-ball prowess. This is nothing new and we mentioned during the game that the Canarylanders looked more like a group of Kobe Bryants–only dishing the ball when they ran out of options. Inverse for the States, who looked to take space when the smallest was forwarded, but looked to continually get the ball up the field to dangerous positions as quickly as possible.
Which brings up to, number three.
Impressive from a coaching standpoint. US coach Wilmer Cabrera can flat-out coach. Period. It’s often difficult to balance bouts of inconsistency, the sometimes silly, folly-filled play of young players with key coaching objectives. Cabrera paints in masterstrokes.
Sunday his squad continually took advantage of their opponents weaknesses. They were prepared in the second half for a post-halftime onslaught with Cabrera making a subtle change in tactics to take his centermidfielders’ feet slightly off the gas and look to drop back for their fullbacks who would have slightly more time on the ball to make a more educated decision on whether to boot it away or attempt to work it up the field. In short, they were prepared and executed.
It’s a single game–though the Nike International Friendlies Championship title went to the States on the day–but it was an impressive performance against the youth of a member of international soccer’s sacred and elevated inner circle.