US Draws El Salvador, 3-3…And The Bridge To London Falls Down

Not what was supposed to be the resonating image of the Group Stage for the U-23's.

The US U-23 squad took the field Monday night in Nashville with their proverbial backs to the wall.

They left with a valiant effort behind them, but their heads ultimately down.

Needing a win against El Salvador to advance out of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying group stage, the US players acted their age and put on an “immature performance” replete with wild momentum swings, a frenetic comeback and mental lapses at the worse moments to see their bid to play for a berth in Kansas City denied.

The US players will be airborne tomorrow, back to their clubs instead of Missouri (save Teal Bunbury of course.)

The crushing blow for the United States was as cruel as it was–objectively–deserved.

With the US holding serve in stoppage time, an errant pass by Brek Shea proved beyond costly as El Salvador gathered the turnover.

Now-villian Jamie Alas split two over-zealous defenders, cut across the grain in the center of the pitch to the left and fired a shot off Ike Opara and into what are typically Sean Johnson’s goal-retardant arms.

Only the ball did one of those squirmy things. Johnson met it a tad to late in flight and it short-hopped off the keeper’s snuff attempt looping into the goal tearing up the US boarding pass to London and ripping the heart out of his teammates on and off the pitch.

The story up to that point had been one of both resolve and uneven play.

After the US brandished a Terrence Boyd volley in the opening minute to seize the initiative in the match, El Salvador notched two goals two minutes apart late in the first as the US defense was playing at “tournament-level”–which was not very good for this crew this month.

Making matters worse, down 2-1, Caleb Porter had to call to his bench…for the aforementioned Johnson. Bill Hamid was injured–replays would show he probably should have been pulled before the second goal–and the US would have to use one of it’s sub rations in the wrong place, early in the match.

The second half began with El Salvador displaying one of their best traits, time management La Selecta put six players in their defensive third and went to the ground often under minimal contact to milk the clock. The US had other ideas though as Freddy Adu seized the match and told it what to do.

Adu played in Terrence Boyd to make it 2-2 and then moments hooked in a cross that Joe Corona “Dempsey’d” off his head to put the US, temporarily, on top.

however, as the US lost the initiative to go goal-seeking, their shape and discipline fell apart. Balls were hucked up the field and/or misplayed. Tackles were missed and assignments neglected.

The final sequence saw three errors in defense before the ball made its way to the Chicago Fire keeper and it made the US Olympic aspirations history. It was a microcosm of the tournament.

The skies the limit for Terrence Boyd, but gazing at it Monday brought no respite.

Lead passes:

The U-23′s and its identity are/were in transition.

A team’s identity is one of those conceptual, glob-like thinks that’s hard to define. To use our most aggressive analogy to date on TSG, a team identity is similar to Potter Stewart’s threshold test for pornography. Stewart in the famous Supreme Court pornography cased defined it as, “I know it when I see it.”

Identity is a feeling or even a repetition of one or two things the team does well that forces the opponent to play reactivly instead of proactively.

It’s that last sentiment–one or two things done well–that the US desperately searched for in this match, but game up empty.

US fans “never knew it because they didn’t see it.”

That the US controlled possession all tourney is a good thing; however it’s tempered by the quality of the competition it faced and what it did with that possession. The US is in transition.

The US didn’t do enough things well and did enough things poorly–defensive integrity–that it had no positive identity. Sure Joe Corona, Brek Shea and Freddy Adu took over games from time to time, but nothing was established in a YOU-MUST-DEFEND-THIS way.

Coach Caleb Porter could even feel that in the Cuba game expressing displeasure at the way his team moved on the attack despite the scoreline.

At the most basic level, the US was caught in some half-formed state–that eventually made it irrelevant in this tournament despite building hope for the next.

The players didn’t and don’t have enough reps to grasp the nuances of Porter’s system. They were not collectively good enough for other teams to react to their formation. And when that broke they relied on the familiar–counter-attacking–which exposed a defense that was designed to play chase-and-retrieve not stand-and-defend.

———-

———-

Freddy Adu is best as an attacker–not as a captain….and that’s not a knock on him.

Did you ever think you’d see Freddy Adu compared to….Jack Jewsbury? You could consider these players totally different and you can consider Jewsbury the better for the captain *given the system (4-3-3) that both are/were deployed in.

Adu was the best offender on the pitch for the States in totality throughout this tournament. He “led” them back against El Salvador.

But captains on the field drive the tempo and play of their team and the armband both shackled Adu in the attack and almost uncomfortably channeled too much of that attack through him.

Players deferred to Adu.

One major problem.

Adu was deployed way out on the right flank where it was not always easy in the tournament to get him the ball. It wasn’t a coincidence that Adu’s best work was done when he came inside and found space–Monday night that was when Okugo played well behind him and gave him that space.

Adu needed someone and it was Okugo and Sakodie who got him going in half two in Nashville.

Contrast this to Jack Jewsbury who will never be mistaken for Adu of for even Diego Chara.

Jewsbury is centrally-rooted.

His role bears a responsibility to both the attack and the defense. It is Jewsbury who–through being a linking and distributing conduit–decides when to speed the attack, slow the attack and when to switch the field.

Consider the relationship between Jewsbury and Kalif Alhassan in Timberville.

It’s Jewbury who goads or slows Alhassan. It’s Jewbury who can push Alhassan to stay focused and keep pushing. Jewsbury very legitimately controls this relationship by choosing whether or not to pass to Alhassan and how and where to pass it to him.

It was a tactical error by Porter to give Adu the armband and to insist he played wide. It compromised the attack. The proof is in the data that Adu was a whirling dervish  when he came centrally and dominated the ball.

That Adu tends to ebb and flow over as a player over the course of the match only magnified the mistake. Perhaps it was Mix Diskerud who could have or should have tugged on the armband?

Square passes:

• Before you judge Ike Opara and Perry Kitchen in central defense, ask yourself this: Just how challenged has the senior team’s centerbacks looked under Jurgen Klinsmann.

As a whole the United States has played better defense under the German at the top level, but US fans have born witness to some highly tense 1-v-1 moments against the likes of Goodson, Bocanegra, Orozco-Fiscal and more.

The US pressing style puts more pressure on the centerbacks. Neither Kitchen (by position and formation) or Opara (by formation and team defensive disposition) are schooled in playing in a system that forces then to choose their line in nanoseconds and make player marking calls on-the-fly.

It showed and was not accounted for by Porter, especially with two novice-by-definition keepers in the back.

• If the central defense was an eye sore, the same cannot be said when looking at the forwards in aggregate. Juan Agudelo looked spry and in control in his single runout and the team stumbled to check to a forward against Canada without him. Agudelo was the youngest player on the squad.

Post-injury, the future remains bright.

Terrence “The Body” Boyd was everything you could ask in a fulcrum forward on Monday night. Boyd dutifully chased on defense and consistently made himself available coming back for an outlet or going forward. Up the depth charts.

The US found some striker depth to work from during the tournament. (Note: Teal Bunbury needs to work on his hold-up and distribution game before getting another call.)

• Okay, let’s finish up with some Twitter True-or-False

Shea, with new meaning for the term: "Crest-falling"

» @iliketuesday: “Brek Shea just doesn’t do enough, even at this level.”

FALSE: Shea surely should have done more, but take a look at many of the plays he was involved in. Shea was consistently double-teamed or at least encounter a marker with a shadow lurking. Continually Shea was played into positions–through formation and midfield passing–without a shot to create an opportunity.

This tweet pairs with….

» @pckilgore: “Formations aren’t absolutely good or bad, but situationally good or bad. This situation screams 4-4-2.”

TRUE: The US attempted to dictate play through flank work, possession and pressure. Both Canada and El Salvador countered with defensive resolved and out-numbered the States in the central pitch. With Porter’s crew unable to grab how to break down the opposing defenses outwide, a tactical change–to any formation that created more interplay in the center of the pitch–was vital, was necessary.

It didn’t happen and the States were worse for it.

» @shinguardian: Sean Johnson can deliver babies with those hands. Fact.”

TRUE: Dude, that Twitter account is a JINX!

Sean Johnson is perhaps the most even-keeled youth player we’ve ever spoken to at TSG. The Fire man will “bounce” back. A terrible gaffe, but many comment on “missed sitters” or “howlers”–Johnson’s save should have been made, but it was not a simple, automatic one.

Conclusion:

The US should be commended for attempting to dictate tempo in this tournament. Some of the attack was scintillating at times. That said, if you are going to state that your goal is to play in the Olympics and you face Cuba, Canada and El Salvador at home in group play of the qualifying tournament, you need to advance.

But should anything be changed or amended to the program, coaching staff or players because of this? That question takes more time.

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92 responses to this post.

  1. [...] from OlympicsWDTNLate goal ends Olympic dreams for USBoston HeraldWhy the US lost to El SalvadorESPNThe Shin Guardian -Gant Daily -STLtoday.comall 903 news [...]

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  2. Posted by crow on 2012/03/27 at 10:50 AM

    Wow, excellent write up. One of the best ever. Succint and elegant. bravo. There is nothing more to say.

    And thank you for mentioning that this was not a Robert Green gaffe by Johnson. That was not an easy save like so many people are inferring it was.

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    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/03/27 at 12:17 PM

      Not sure what view you had, but that was a bread and butter save. It was a nothing shot and Johnson needs to save it everytime. Simple as that.

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      • Posted by crow on 2012/03/27 at 12:24 PM

        As a goalie again I say that’s the last shot you want to see. Screened from the shot, off a deflection, knuckling into the ground. Off replays I feel even stronger with that sentiment. You cannot tell me that was even remotely close to the Robert Green gaffe.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/03/27 at 3:26 PM

          I played as a goalkeeper at a high standard for many years. But that is also irrelevant.

          It seems as if he over extended himself; the ball seemed to have gone in the goal behind him (in a sideways sense). I think he just took his eye off the ball / lost concentration because it wasn’t as if he was slow getting done or reaching the ball. He tried to push it to the side and effed it up. Not sure how there’s even a debate on this to be honest!

          Yes, Green’s howler was worse, as it was a softer shot, and it was at senior level in the World Cup. But what they have in common is that they should be saved 100% of the time.

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          • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/27 at 4:17 PM

            Agree — both shots should be saved. That said whether it was Sean Johnson or Joe hart…the shot Monday was a difficult save. Always is when it’s redirected in some manner.

            Green’s a was a pure gaffe with extremely poor fundamentals.

            But again, both should still be saved.

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          • Posted by crow on 2012/03/27 at 7:02 PM

            I saw comments (not all on this site) basically saying that Johnson’s error was the worst in the history of American soccer. I literally think that every goal Hamid allowed in the tournament was an easier save than the one that Johnson did. Could of the timing been worse? No. In fact if it happened earlier in the game I doubt people would be talking about it as much.

            I thought Johnson should have started the whole tournament and especially after the Canada game. I’ve always though he was the better keeper. He is more composed. Such a shame he let that one by.

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            • Posted by Arisrules on 2012/03/27 at 8:03 PM

              Actually Tim Howard made a worse gaffe in MLS: he dropped the ball on the ground, thinking there was nobody behind him. Of course Josh Wolff was there, stole it and scored.

              After that, every time Howard is about to drop the ball, he always looks around. That to me was a horrendous gaffe. The Johnson goal was misplayed, but it wasn’t easy.

      • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/27 at 12:27 PM

        Yep, needs to save it every time.

        He might not have called it a Robert Green level gaffe but did describe it as a “terrible gaffe”.

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        • Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 12:56 PM

          Crow, with all due respect my man, I’m sure you were a great goalie, but when you are a U-23 player in Olympic qualifying, that save needs to be made. Most keepers at the international level make that save in their sleep. It wasn’t even struck that well.

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      • Posted by CJ on 2012/03/27 at 12:58 PM

        GC, I have to agree with Crow on this one. Any ball that hops immediately in front of you can either bounce high, skip, seem to accelerate like a lacrosse ball or slow up. A better save attempt would require either attacking the ball more directly and not letting it bounce or backing off to give that slight bit more of time to react to the change in direction. He was fully stretched out to his side after a redirection.

        I would challenge that Howard would struggle to make that save every time given the redirection (albeit slight) and the skip-hop effect it took. Sean Johnson is capable of making that save but, that is far from a gaffe.

        For me a gaffe would be the attempt Hamid made on that 1st goal. Ugh. The way he wildly threw himself at it when all he needed to do was raise his arms was horrible goaltending. The commentators made a statement to the effect of “…look at how he didn’t jump…” referring to the leg injury, the fact is on a ball that goes only 3 inches over your head, you don’t need to jump considering your arms go 3 feet over it. His ankle didn’t allow that, his lack of poise and grit did. Couldn’t he have told the Coach he wasn’t able to continue? He knows there’s another goalie on the bench…

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/29 at 6:36 AM

      Thanks Crow for the feedback

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  3. Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 11:22 AM

    I disagree Matt. I don’t understand why Shea escapes so much criticism amongst pundits. Maybe its bc of his flash, his potential, or the fact that other players always out do him in terms of underwhelming play. Somehow people (cough, Steve Davis, cough) are going after Adu for only playing well for 30 minutes of the tournament. Don’t understand how anyone who watches soccer as consistently as Steve has so many strange opinions, but I guess it happens. My point is, Shea had a hand in the Boyd goal, and make no mistake, it was a great run by Shea. But is never a consistent threat. I’m not saying he takes plays off, it could be exhaustion, or it could be the defense locking down..but you want to talk abouta guy who disappears from games? Also, it should be noted that Shea needs to be more than a guy who streaks down the left side and hits in crosses. His skill level is such that he should be capable of coming inside and creating his own shots on goal. I mean, the guy dwarfs the U-23 competition physically, but he seems to get pushed off the ball too much. And btw, outside of his crossing, his passing is suspect. He often waits too long and makes the wrong decision. This kind of stuff is acceptable in the MLS where mistakes are not as harshly punished as mistakes in international football (which is why I think he needs to find a club outside of the MLS that will give him playing time..maybe not in England, but somewhere else in Europe). I still can’t get the image of him turing the ball over to El Salvador out of my head. I love Shea, think he has all the potential in the world, but he hasn’t improved much since I saw him play against Mexico back in the early fall/late summer.

    Otherwise, I think its a great review. I think the key point from this, is how the US federation responds. This is the 3rd straight tournament they’ve bungled and they literally have nothing to play for (outside of WC qualifying) until 2014. This needs to be used to the federation’s advantage, they can’t let the program stagnate.

    Last point (this will attract DTH’s attention for sure), Boyd is going to be a star (by US standards). I know, I know, there have been plenty of young US forwards who have scored with ease at the youth levels only to be overwhelmed against senior team competion. And I know, I know, Boyd isn’t even getting regular minutes with his club. First off, Boyd is poised to break into the first team at Dortmund for the 2012-2013 season. And if he isn’t, he’ll likely be put on loan so that he gets first team minutes somewhere. He’s clumsy at times with both passing and dribbling, but name the last US forward with his knack for finishing? That first goal was a thing of beauty. Most US forwards try and settle the ball at their feet in order to take a shot (and in doing so, lose possession). Boyd took it well. He’s a goal machine wherever he goes. Here’s hoping it continues. I say he starts for the US in Brazil (so long as we actually qualify….)

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/27 at 11:52 AM

      You agree with Tuesday in terms of Shea. A lot of merit to both of your arguments. I just saw a player this tourney who took the initiative and really needed to combine with teammates who didn’t show up.

      Against both Canada and El Salvador Shea was very tighly shadowed.

      In another nod to the formation, I thnk if you have Shea in a 4-4-2 where he is the winger or in essense a forward, he’s more productive this tourney.

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      • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 11:54 AM

        I more agree with you, I guess. Shea was below expectations, but he was probably the best or nearly the best of the bunch and he didn’t shirk his responsibilities at all–unlike some of the rest of the team that looked like it really shrank from the occasion.

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    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/27 at 12:08 PM

      His non crossing passes are very suspect. He never seems to hit them with conviction either so even if it is the right pass it takes too long to get there allowing the defender to close down.

      The longer he stays in MLS the more he will level off. He’s done what he can there and needs to move on. I’d love to see him end up in Holland to start. That should be the goal of all US players upon leaving MLS unless they are stars already like Dempsey when he left. That league seems to offer the US players what they don’t get in the US in terms of training on technique. England is the last place I want him to end up right now because that style of play won’t change his level of skill because he can just play kick and run there.

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      • Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 1:03 PM

        Fair point Matt, and I agree with DTH as well in that he was the least of the problems. I just, given his pedigree, expect more from him. No one has yet discussed how difficult of a time he has had scoring at the international level. I’d also expect a guy his size to be way more of a threat off of set pieces than he is.

        Cannot agree more in terms of him heading to Holland. I think that MLS supporters need to understand that while keeping homegrown talen in the league is important to long term success, the league, at this point, still does not allow for young players to fully develop. Specifically with Shea, in the MLS, he is given a lot of space, something that allows him to run at people and fire off dangerous shots from behind the 18. He needs to figure out how to perform better while under pressure. If he goes to England, he’ll probably sit on the bench. He needs Holland, even France if the French will take a chance on an American striker. A league where he’ll be forced to make quicker decisions.

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        • Posted by Excellency on 2012/03/27 at 4:47 PM

          Shea can play midfield defence so he could go to Italy. The first thing Shea needs to learn is how to use some muscle on offence instead of running a 40 yard dash in a straight line, beating everybody else, only to find there’s nobody in the box.

          Di Matteo played Torres 95 minutes today against Benfica. He stunk the place up. His assist on the only goal gave Chelsea the win. In that case he picked the ball up at central right mid. That’s what he should have been doing all along instead of trying to force himself on two center backs at the 18 m line. Sometimes you have to play people. We need to play Shea but we can’t just have him running down the wing in a 4-3-3. He’ll never get better. We know he can do that. So what? Who cares?

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        • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 8:54 PM

          “I just, given his pedigree, expect more from him. No one has yet discussed how difficult of a time he has had scoring at the international level. ”

          Shea did about as well as I expected. He is promising but his ball control could be tighter and and he could make better decisions once he has slowed down. He would benefit from playing with a team like AZ.

          In basketball terms he is very good at transition, fast break ball but not so good at the more deliberate half court game.

          What pedigree?

          He plays for FC Dallas. He does well for them. I’m not sure you can say he is their offensive leader though as that would be Ferriera.

          Dallas are probably a better overall team than the Under 23 team so it could be said Shea in the Under 23′s is getting less support than he does at Dallas.

          He does good for the USMNT senior side but taken in total his performances for them are more about potential and promise as opposed to actual productivity. And they are probably a better overall team than the Under 23′s.

          He’s a regular now but he has a very, very long way to go.

          “I’d also expect a guy his size to be way more of a threat off of set pieces than he is. ”

          Because he is big and tall? Does that mean he is supposed to be good in the air? Kenny Cooper and Peter Crouch are bigger and taller and they aren’t particularly threatening in the air. Height and size do not necesarily translate into being good at set pieces.

          The biggest problem with this team was they didn’t really have a lot of time to gel and develop a team mentality. If the US was going to have so little time and effort devoted to team building ( how can you build a team when you aren’t sure who is going to be available?) then they certainly were not doing Porter, a fine coach with a lot of potential but just brash enough to be easily misled and utterly and completely inexperienced, any favors by hiring him for the job.

          Those of you who were touting him to be JK’s replacement after the 2014 World Cup need to re-think that.

          Jason Kreis would never have made this veritable cornucopia of rookie mistakes. If Porter hasn’t come out and taken the blame for failing to put these kids in the best position to succeed, he should.

          Four camps and a series of scrimmages for friendlies against semi serious patsies and a Mexican team that gave up early is not much of a grind.

          The fabled Miracle on Ice 1980 hockey team spent four months playing a grinding schedule of exhibition games across Europe and North America.

          It was very clear in the last stages of the El Salvador game that the team were either exhausted or were very unsure about what to do.

          The players and the coaches were inexperienced and, when it all finally hit the fan, it really showed. No one was sure about what they should do. This is what you see in inexperienced new teams.

          If Porter had had a few more games against more serious opposition ( such as RSL in a bad mood) I suspect this would not have happened.

          A little luck would also have helped. Johnson makes that save 99 out of 100 times, though I must say I’ve rarely seen such a screwy bounce. And that includes the time I saw Bobby Charlton beat Gary Sprake with whizbang from 30 yards, have the ball hit one post, run along the line and then hit the other post and go out.

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/29 at 6:42 AM

        Late here. But I feel Shea often at times was playing at a higher level than his teammates.

        IMHO his non crossing passes got worse as the tourney wore on. Why. I saw a lot of lead passes. That us passes to space where a teammate should’ve gone. Instead hys teammates, especially Bunbuey against Canada, villafana at times and Corona were reactive.

        This put Shea in a tigh spot in my opinion. Lead a pass to where it appropriately goes and increase the likelihood of a turnover or sent it “to feet” and ruin the opportunity.

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    • I really think Shea’s problem is the speed of his decision-making. When he knows what he wants to do like bombing down the flank and putting in a cross, he’s fine.

      When he’s got to choose between options, he just takes so much time he finds himself under pressure. That’s a big reason why his influence was limited with double-teams.

      His involvement in the build-up play can be problematic, slowing down forward thrusts and often making the wrong decision in the middle third of the pitch, over-elaborating at the wrong times like in the 94th minutes Monday.

      His movement needs to be better and more varied around the box – he’s the outside forward in a 4-3-3. That player should contribute goals, especially when mentioned as a U-23 standout. And why isn’t he better in the air? He’s practically the yank Peter Crouch.

      That said, I think Shea wasn’t really the problem for the team. I just want to see more progress from him than we’ve seen since his promising arrival on the scene.

      For me the biggest problem for the team was actually Agudelo’s injury. Agudelo’s movement and willingness to come back and become an extra player in midfield before getting into the box in a timely fashion was the biggest difference for me between the success of the Cuba match and the failures of Canada/El Sal matches.

      I think Boyd is a great player and did everything you could ask of him. He will be a fixture in the full team, but he’s a different player from Agudelo. And Bunbury looks like a bust to me.

      That and the clueless, naive defending and lack of goalkeeping heroics.

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  4. Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 11:27 AM

    And excuse the sentimental nature of the following, the biggest disappointment for me is that guys like Boyd, Mix, Agudelo and others couldn’t go to the Olympics representing the US. Those guys, either first generation Americans or recent US citizens would have had a chance to hold the flag. That would have been cool.

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  5. Posted by dude on 2012/03/27 at 12:15 PM

    I refuse to blame Adu or Shea for the results. You can argue that they didn’t lead the team to victory twice, but they did create consistently from their positions and never gave up.

    I place blame on Mix, Jeffrey, Opara, and Bunbury, and Porter for not recognizing their shortcomings. He was so desperate to control the ball that he played Mix 270 minutes, only 90 of which had any energy. By El Salvador, he couldn’t complete a short pass due to lack of mustard.

    Jeffrey I don’t think has any right to ever play D-Mid on any team, ever. The position calls for some defensive talent.

    Opara, poor kid, is just overwhelmed by the finesse required to make this system tick.

    and Bunbury, I don’t know if it’s bad form or just bad perspective, he looked like he “deserved” to be on the field, and the ball not going into the net was it’s own fault.

    I feel bad for Porter. I think that if he had more options off the bench that he wanted, the rotation system would have bee a lot better. But he still managed his weakening squad worse than Arena in 2006.

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  6. Posted by Crow on 2012/03/27 at 12:26 PM

    What was George Vescey thinking- Substituting Adu causes the USA to miss the Olympics? Seriously???!!! The article is not as bad as that sentiment and headline would cause you to believe but that is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard. Talk about losing credibility.

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    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 12:42 PM

      Have to agree. Anyone who talks about a singular “cause” to this particular collapse is drawing the wrong lesson, for certain. This was many, many problems all braided together.

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      • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 1:16 PM

        To wit, here’s my list (probably non-comprehensive) of problems, divided into “stuff we reasonably could’ve anticipated” and “unknown unknowns”:

        Unknown Unknowns:
        1) Catastrophic Goalkeeping: Going into the tournament it’s hard to view this as anything but a genuine strength. Both Johnson and Hamid were first-choice players who frequently looked impressive at the MLS level. This was unprecedented for a u-23 qualifying team; 2008′s edition featured Chris Seitz, owner of 3 first-team appearances at the time of that tournament, plus Dominic Cervi, who has made 7 total first-team appearances…over the course in his entire career. In other words, either Johnson or Hamid made four times the number of first-team appearances last year than Cervi has in his entire career. They’re just better players, period.

        2) Injuries: Agudelo injury, obviously; Hamid injury, obviously; the injury to various Molde players which lost us Gatt. Am I missing anyone?

        Known Knowns:
        1) Defensive frailities: we knew the defense had a strong possibility of suckage…and sure enough, it sucked.

        2) System adjustment: it’s tough to adjust systems.

        3) Tactical naivete on coach’s part: I think some people have overstated the extent to which Porter was tactically outthought, but certainly he could’ve done himself a favor in this regard. (He got his initial tactics wrong against Canada…but by the twentieth minute was yelling at the team to get the ball wide.). I don’t necessarily view this as a massive indictment on Porter’s future, by the way. How many coaches have been tactically perfect or have even not screwed up a game or two over the course of years? I don’t think we should give up on Porter’s future by any means.

        4) Talent left at clubs: I think people have made too much of this–this wasn’t a talent problem primarily–but there’s little doubt that in a hypothetical world of unicorns and cookies, with Jozy Altidore and Timmy Chandler et. al. playing, the odds of qualifying are substantially increased.

        5) Reffing: it was bad. But this is CONCACAF. We know these things already.

        Stuff we figured out:
        1) Coaching cronyism, to a certain degree: mostly Bunbury, here. I think Porter was right to take the rest of the Akron players.

        2) Rotation: American coaches seem to be bad at rotating players. Porter, Arena, and Hyndman have all made hashes of this within the past few months. Only American coach I can recall managing successfully over multiple fronts recently is Jason Kreis.

        3) Fullbacks: I wouldn’t call them bad, precisely, but they provided no where near enough thrust.

        4) Mentality: I’ve said before it’s a group of guys without grit.

        And so on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some factors, but insofar as there are more…it just shows you how complex this series of results are and how hard it is to reduce to a simple set of “problem:solution.” For example, I’m not even sure how much of this is a development problem (which is the typical thumbsucking response whenever the U.S. runs into problems. Fact of the matter is that this U.S. qualifying team has made more professional appearances than any U.S. qualifying team before it, with fewer years in college. These are the symptoms of what we take to be success. So why no success?)

        Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/27 at 1:53 PM

          Well, I think a lot of it still goes back to development if you look at one of the major issues in terms of defense. That was very weak and that is where a lot of those guys spent time in college. I would call the fullbacks bad. They didn’t defend particularly well and provided little support.

          Also, the coach wasn’t a developmental step forward for US Soccer as it was still a college coach. It’s not a surprise that a lot of US coaches have issues with rotation when a lot of them come through the college ranks where rotation isn’t an issue due to subsitutions and lack of games.

          I think the grit can be fixed with this group as they are mixed in with the full team. There wasn’t a good grit guy to be captain for this bunch while there are several grit guys at the next level in Dempsey (how many times has he been on the receiving end of hard fouls/had to fight for playing time), MB90 and Boca.

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 1:58 PM

            Don’t think the rotation issue can be chalked up to college.

            One of the ways Porter prepares his players for the professional level is mimicking professional substitution patterns–so he doesn’t resubstitute, and he doesn’t do more than three subs.

            I think the rotation problem is mostly due to the fact that rotation wasn’t necessary, and due to lack of depth, would be counterproductive anyway.

            Reply

            • Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 2:57 PM

              What no one is talking about is that “Porter’s System” is also “Jurgen’s system”. They both employ a high line, high pressure, possession dominated 4-3-3. These are the tactics that Jurgen essentially mandated the US work to employ at all levels.

          • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:06 PM

            “I think the grit can be fixed with this group as they are mixed in with the full team. There wasn’t a good grit guy to be captain for this bunch while there are several grit guys at the next level in Dempsey (how many times has he been on the receiving end of hard fouls/had to fight for playing time), MB90 and Boca.”

            The chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Or to use another cliche, the ball always finds the fielder with the weakest glove.

            The players who were lacking “grit” need to remedy that, if they can , from within themselves.

            It won’t magically appear just because you play alongside Dempsey.

            Reply

  7. Posted by amh on 2012/03/27 at 12:45 PM

    Glad to see TSG back in full stride. Always appreciate the insights.
    A few comments/questions:
    Not sure how the communication with the bench during an injury works, but does it take two goals to realize Hamid is hurt? Is it his responsibility to be honest with the trainer? Porter’s to read his players better? Or did it take that long for Johnson to warm up?
    Diskerud is getting good at the back pass. Is that because no one is making themselves available ahead of him, or is he supposed to take at least one defender one-on-one?
    Porter’s tactics should have changed after the Cuba game. First the scoreline was not indicative of the US play or ability. Down to 10, Cuba made the US look much better than they were. With that goal differential however, Porter should have considered playing for the draw against Canada once he saw their formation and intent. 4 pts with a +6 gd would have made the ES game a different concern.

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  8. I hate to nitpick, but I keep thinking of those two opportunities in the first half when Adu received the ball in the no with a clear look at goal but wasted time trying to switch to his left foot instead of using his right and inevitably the defense closed down and no shot was taken. Trying to set up his left foot and shying from the right is probably the greatest indicator he actually is still a young player.

    Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:10 PM

      “Trying to set up his left foot and shying from the right is probably the greatest indicator he actually is still a young player.”

      No it is not.

      Do you know who Arjen Robben is? Watch him sometime. Lots of older players do what Adu did.

      You have no way of knowing whether or not a right footed shot from Adu would have gone in, so it’s irelevant.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Jared Launius on 2012/03/27 at 1:05 PM

    Plaudits for a Comm Law metaphor! Day: made.

    Anyway, it’s hard to pin down one culprit here, but how about just the idea of youth?

    The team was composed of players from several walks of developmental life, all brought together and shoehorned into a formation and tactics many of them weren’t reared with. The team collectively was too young to adapt to and develop in the system. That’s why, despite their relative technical advantage compared to the senior team, they weren’t able to game the way the latter does.

    Porter showed his youth, too. We laud him for bringing the style he does to a level (the college game) that needs it, but he seemed out of his depth in game management and adjustment at this level, no? Perhaps a little naive to think he could get results playing exclusively his way with this pool here?

    It’s interesting, I think, to think of this particular team as a representation of American soccer as a whole. They were all born right around the time this country started taking soccer seriously and, like US Soccer overall, they still demonstrate strong growing pains along with strong, strong signs of encouragement. The optimist in me is still, somehow, encouraged by a lot of things we saw.

    All that said, Chandler for Sarkodie would have made a fairly significant difference in this tournament, no? Would have given Adu more opportunities to cut in with Chandler overlapping. I didn’t think Sarkodie was particularly bad, but the guy doesn’t even start for Houston. Obviously, the odds of getting Chandler released from Nurnberg were, what, like, the same odds I have for scoring a date with Natalie Portman by sending a request in her fan mail? Still though, would have been huge.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 1:30 PM

      Disagree with your Sarkodie assessment. He was pretty terrible against Canada. Almost as bad as what I consider the lead standard of bad fullback play for the U.S.: Jonathan Spector.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:12 PM

        A few names for you dth:

        Ramiro Corrales
        Marvell Wynn

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        • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 9:20 PM

          Probably accurate that Wynne is worse, but Spector has seven times the caps. So in aggregate his worseness is much worse.

          No comment on Corrales since I barely remember his USMNT heyday. (Though, again, I note Spector has seven times the caps for Corrales.)

          Reply

    • Posted by Sean on 2012/03/27 at 2:33 PM

      I disagree with the fact that these guys were not familiar with Porters system. How many of them came from Akron? For the most part, they knew what he expected. Tactically, Porter did not make the necessary adjustments. Mix was gassed in this match from the get go. Why not sub out Hamid before the two goals? Why not bring in a guy like Taylor to get some space in the midfield by stretching the defence? Most importantly, like I said in the other thread, why let a guy dribble away from you in the 94th minute? Somebody foul him, like when he got the ball.

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/03/27 at 3:03 PM

        I agree. I think Porter’s substitutions and game management was awful.

        Disagree that they’re familiar with Porter’s system. In that final game, you had, what, two players from Akron in the final match? Sarkodie & Kitchen.

        Corona looked utterly lost as Adu struggled to stay wide. Perhaps the worst move there.

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        • Posted by crow on 2012/03/27 at 3:19 PM

          As much as i like Porter, we slammed Bob Bradley for his game management in the Gold Cup and Porter’s was possibly worse.

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          • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 9:25 AM

            This is even more important when taken with the recent news that Hamid is out for 3 weeks with a sprained ankle and bone bruise. Its probably more on Hamid than on Porter (Bill should have said, “take me out”.). But still.

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  10. Posted by Carlos on 2012/03/27 at 4:58 PM

    Agreed to the above poster reference when Adu failed to pull the trigger when he had 2 good looks off his right foot. But he finally learned his lesson with his right footed cross to Corona.

    Sorry but no excuse not to bring your subs in during regulation time. You can make a case that Porter believed what was out there was better then the sub but when you take into account the fatigue; a pair of fresh legs would have done wonders in the last 20 minutes of the game.

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  11. Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 6:53 PM

    No one’s talking about Bruce Arena’s comments huh? Was he directing them at Gulati? I’m not quite sure. He couldn’t have been directing them at Jurgen, given that Jurgen hasn’t even been on the job for a full year and he hasn’t coached a single meaningful game. But, Jurgen was the one who hired Porter as coach. Really not sure what the point was.

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    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 7:00 PM

      Probably at Gulati. Arena’s been steamed at Gulati ever since Sunil G had the temerity to fire The Genius. As you say, directing at Klinsmann doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to be directing them at Porter, who was leaving the Olympic job regardless of result. So it’s my guess the AP journalist who wrote this is a soccer novice…the follow up question there needed to be asked and reported upon.

      Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/03/27 at 7:26 PM

      What about Wynalda’s comments on Sunday? He was basically saying that the USSF should have hired somebody who has experience with football at this level. Not hire someone who will gain experience. He also implied that Porter was out of his depth. All this was said when qualification was still in your own hands, albeit after the Canada defeat.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/28 at 7:10 AM

      Arena just loves to make comments about how there needs to be change in US Soccer yet he was more than happy to overstay and stagnate when he was in charge. He was terrible in his second term and is an average coach in MLS now. He’s done less with more in MLS since coming back to the league.

      As for Wynalda, he will never be happy but he is frequently right. Unfortunately, he’s also an idiot because he refuses to ever couch his language or criticism which will and has prevented him from playing a role in the development of the game other than the guy you go to if you want someone to rant.

      His comments also come in hindsight as I think most people (myself included) were excited to see what an up and coming coach who played a good style in college could do at this level. Porter then proceeded to show he was out of his depth. Wynalda also thinks that he deserves to be a head coach in MLS yet I don’t think he has any real coaching experience to deserve that but it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to his resume.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:25 PM

        Wynalda may be frequently right because when you rant as much as he does you are bound to to get a few things right. If you take a close look at the totality of his ranting there is not a lot of insightful commentary.

        I expect more from a guy with his experience. Instead what you get mostly is bomb throwing for effect, unlike the earnesrt vapidity we get from his intellectual soulmate and fellow cretin, Lalas.

        Porter inexperienced and possibly in over his head? Well get in line with that thoughtful insight, Eric. When Wynalda show he can actually do something besides try to draw attention to himself then maybe he can be considered for a manager’s job. But does he have even as much experience as Porter does?

        Reply

  12. I had such high hopes for this team after watching them absolutely dominate Mexico. I sat on the couch dumbfounded by the team I was watching then (in a good way, of course). What the hell happened? No Gyau? No Morales? Such a disappointment.

    Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:27 PM

      They started playing teams who actually cared enough to show up and fight for points.
      Mexico showed up only briefly and then quit. They do not take friendlies seriously. US fans apparently do.

      Reply

      • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 10:17 AM

        Martin, you know a lot about soccer, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes you mistake opinion for fact. Mexico takes friendlies against the US seriously. They did not like being manhandled by U-23s. Also, most players take friendlies seriously, because most fans take them seriously. And even if the fans DON’T take it seriously, the media does. Exhibit A – The Italy vs US game. I mean come on.

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        • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/29 at 4:25 PM

          The italy game was far more important to the US than to the Italians. That game mattered because we had never beaten Italy under any circumstances friendly or otherwise in their house.So that game mattered,

          The US has played Mexico at many different levels a lot of times. At the moment the Mexicans are a shade better and are more confident but that can change anytime.

          The Mexican press did not exactly get suicidal when their Under 23′s lost that game to their hated rival. They knew the real score. After all they have massacred the US in the last two Gold Cup finals. They are going to the Olympics and they are going to the Confederations Cup and we are not. They aren’t sweating a minor exhibition loss by their Under 23 scrubeenies.

          Mexicans did not exactly get as despondent about the loss as US fans got upbeat about the win.

          “Mexico takes friendlies against the US seriously. ”

          I would point out that your statement is your opinion not necessarily a fact. It may be a fact but we don’t know do we? I mean you didn’t interview all the Mexican players just before the game and get them admit what was truly in their hearts did you? And even if you could have done that would they really tell you what they thought?

          And I’m sure the Mexican players take the friendly games seriously but that does not mean they are going to kill themselves and go all out once they got a few goals down.

          And if you are a inclined to conspiracy theories it might have been a good time to give Porter and his guys a false sense of security. If that was the case you got to admit it worked nicely. Ali called it the rope-a-dope.

          Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/29 at 4:42 PM

          Union,

          Here’s what I really know about the game. When your opponent is fighting for their football lives, so to speak, and the Canadians and teh Salvadorians were certainly doing that, superior talent is not enough.

          In the Mexico US exhibition Cory saw, no one was fighting for their soccer lives.

          The other night with El Salvador and Canada, it was different. Those guys were ruthless, vicious and finally, desperate. Strangely enough we did not seem to be.

          Soccer is exceedingly cruel in that it is possible to dominate and even humiliate the other side for 99.9% of the game. However if you do not turn that domination into a significant goal differential ( and that is often the case) then you may be vulnerable for only one tenth of a percent of the game but that might be enough for the other side to score and kill you. And so it was the other night

          What happened to the Under 23′s the other night, I have seen happen to other teams so many times I have stopped counting.

          It is always cruel, always brutal and always the same.

          Reply

          • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 6:34 PM

            I’m with you there. I’m just saying, any game between Mexico v US is taken seriously by the player. Now, will the blood, sweat and tears pour more for a game with meaning than a friendly? Of course. But the assertion that Mexico just didn’t care and gave up, I just don’t think there is any evidence to back that up. (speaking of that game, no one should under estimate the role Morales and his composure on the ball played in keeping things calm in the defensive third).

            Reply

            • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/29 at 6:51 PM

              Let me put it this way, one needed to be verycareful about what they took away from that game, just like people needed to be very careful about what they took away from the Cuba game.

              But you know what? if Johnson goes for that shot just a fraction earlier and gets just a little bit more on the ball, this all goes away and we are talking about our semifinal opponent.

              A few seconds and a few inches, that’s all it is.

            • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 10:51 PM

              True. Man. Billy Buckner moment if there ever was one.

  13. Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/03/27 at 7:33 PM

    Sorry for the long post but I have finally gathered my thoughts… in no particular order:

    1) Horrible loss. Not necessarily because they didnt qualify for the Olympics (that hurts) but the way they came from behind only to lose at the last minute. The circumstances made it worse.

    2) I loved Boyd. Only really saw him for one game really but good lord I am a fan. I am more than happy to discuss him as right there with Buddle as the back-up to Altidore. Not saying he is #2 but he should be in the discussion,

    3) I keep seeing that Adu should have been in the center of the field. I see why people are saying that but I can’t help but think that the US looked their best in offense when Adu was working in crosses.

    4) Not sure how I feel about Mix. He looked great against Mexico and Cuba and pretty blah against Canada and El Salvador. Part of me thinks that he is just not cut out to be #8. Doesn’t really have the two way game to do that. Maybe he will grow into it but he seems to be more of a #10.

    5) Our defense was horrible. The outside backs got beaten by speed, the CBs were weak in transition D. I don’t see any one of the 5 that played D ever getting a full team call-up.

    6) I am clearly higher than other on Gyau. I just think he has a world class skill. Yes he needs to develop the rest of his game but he is young.

    7) Shea needs to move on from an MLS. He is good but not great. Clearly needs to learn some new things along the way to get those last pieces.

    8) Despite how good he played Adu doesn’t have a shot at a senior team spot in my opinion. Don’t see him above Benny or the Stache for Clint’s back-up role.

    9) The non-immediate sub on the Hamid injury confused me. Also I am down on Hamid and Johnson at the moment. Starting to watch more MLS so maybe that will change but…

    Reply

  14. Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 8:20 PM

    If you don’t see Adu above Benny you are insane.

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    • Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 8:22 PM

      Meant to say that I agree with the rest. Especially comments on Boyd/Gyau. I’m telling you, Gyau needed more minutes.

      Also–re: Shea, I hope everyone is ready for Fabian Johnson to have Shea’s spot on the left wing. Yea, I could see him at left back, but I but you anything he takes Shea’s spot until Shea earns it back.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 8:37 PM

        Then who plays at LB? Not exactly a wealth of options there. Why unsolve a problem we’ve solved already?

        I prefer Shea to Gyau. He’s better, and he’s likely to remain better for the rest of their respective careers.

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:36 PM

          Chandler, who is the best left back currently in the US pool.

          In case no one noticed Dolo is back in form and playing well for Hannover. Chandler is a better defender than Johnson anyway.

          And in case this last series of game did not convince you, qualifying for these tournaments is never a slam dunk no matter how “weak” the opponents.. Defensive solidity is very important.

          JK cannot afford to develop players for 2014 before he knows if he will even be there. Johnson is more valuable in midfield for the US particularly if Donovan keeps crapping out of games.

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          • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 10:20 AM

            +1. Also, quite simply, Johnson is better in the MF than he is at left back. He has said numerous times that he’ll play wherever Jurgen wants him to play, but he is most comfortable in the midfield. I agree, when he plays left back the US is more balanced bc Chandler is better on the right and it allows Shea or another attacking player into the game, but I don’t think you can take ‘Dolo out of the starting lineup just yet.

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  15. Posted by Union on 2012/03/27 at 10:38 PM

    I don’t know where you get that DTH. We’ve had this argument a few times and its purely subjective. But what do you base this on? And don’t give me the one trick pony stuff. No one on this board has had a chance to see Gyau play enough to make that type of judgment. We just don’t know where he’ll end up, but in the limited sample, he clearly has a lot of talent. I don’t understand how you are so positive on the trajectory of a 19 year old’s career. He’s getting first team minutes at Hoffenheim. Yes Hoffenheim is a mess. But that is no easy feat for a 19 year old. He deserves credit.

    As for who plays LB, well, Chandler is going to be at LB like it or not, at least until ‘Dolo bids his farewell. I could be wrong, I just have a feeling Jurgen sees Fabian as the better player. One of these 4 will have to sit if they are on the roster – ‘Dolo, Johnson, Chandler, or Shea. And Shea is clearly the odd man out IMO. At least for now.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 10:52 PM

      Nah, I sit Cherundolo. It’s not a question of how you rank the players, but how you see them fitting into their respective roles. For me, if you put Chandler and Johnson at the fullback positions, you’ve got a pretty good set of matching fullbacks.

      My judgment is pretty simple: what I’ve seen of Gyau has shown a limited player with little vision, iffy ball-striking skills, and almost no defense. In addition, he’s gotten nearly no playing time* at a first-team level at an age creative players ought to be making their mark, for a team that’s undergoing a cost streamlining and a youth movement, in a league that’s one of the most friendly to youth worldwide. It’s suspicious, basically, that he hasn’t played much yet. To be fair, the season hasn’t ended yet, but the clock is ticking and we should be seeing production.

      * (i.e. one appearance in the DFB Pokal in garbage time)

      People don’t like Shea because they’ve actually seen him play. They know what the warts are, and they prefer the excitement of the unknown. Nevertheless, Shea actually has produced, to an impressive level–he was one of the best eleven players in his league. He can probably get a big money transfer whenever he wants. So Shea has a huge headstart on Gyau, and he appears to have a good work ethic. Not saying Shea will be a national team fixture–I think that honor will become increasingly difficult to attain–but he’s one of a very few players we can say have the production prerequisites to become an important national team player.*

      * (That is, producing really early in your professional career. However you arrange the list of top players in the world, you’ll notice the overwhelming majority started playing very early and started producing on a notable level relative to their competition before 21 or so. There are very few exceptions–Drogba, off of the top of my head. By this standard, your only attacking players who might become highly important national team players, i.e. possible Donovan/Dempsey replacements: Altidore, Shea, Gil. That’s it. Maybe Josh Gatt joins them this year.)

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2012/03/27 at 10:59 PM

        Joe Corona is also on that list as someone with potential, come to think of it. He won Rookie of the Year (or whatever it’s called) for the Mexican Primera, so assuming they can accurately assess value, he fits my criteria.

        But, like I said, very few late bloomers in the rankings of top players.

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      • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/28 at 7:30 AM

        Has Shea really produced that much in his career? He’s 22 and really only had one good year in MLS. Not to mention that until last season there was still talk of him moving to center back. If he does move abroad in a big money move to a top Euro league he will disappear unless his basic skills increase dramatically. He struggles with short passing and trapping the ball, two key skills for Europe or top level soccer anywhere.

        I think the thing you are ignoring with Gyau is that he is only 19. That doesn’t mean I think he’s going to be a top player but a lot of development happens between 19 and 21-22 at that level. Just take a look at say Chandler’s development in that same time going from a guy that made zero first team appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt to being a regular starter for Nurnberg. Joe Corona is another guy that was not playing regularly at 19. Even Shea has developed dramatically in that same time frame. You’re doing Gyau a disservice by comparing him to guys that are 2 to 3 years older.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 10:14 AM

          Best XI and MVP candidate implies…yes, he has produced.

          Like I said, Gyau has time to reverse trend, but the fact that he hasn’t received playing time in what should be ideal circumstances ought to be concerning to anyone following his career. (In addition, his lack of production at the Regionalliga level ought to be highly concerning: according to Kicker, in 15 appearances Gyau has 1 goal and 0 assists. Again, these are not reassuring signs.)

          Reply

          • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/28 at 10:33 AM

            He’s produced for one year in MLS. That’s not a good indicator that he will be productive for the national team as Eddie Johnson, Twellman, Wondo any other number of the large amount of MLS guys that couldn’t hack it at any other level. I don’t consider MLS play as a prerequisite for anything other than Camp Cupcake play.

            I don’t consider a 19 year old being unable to break into the first team of a Bundesliga club to be an indicator that his career is stagnating.

            I also love how now you’re bringing in stats from the Regionalliga to knock a guy down but when people were pointing to all the goals scored by Boyd for Dortmund II you stated that it shouldn’t matter because of the level. Which one is it?

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            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 10:40 AM

              I don’t consider great stats to be indicative of guaranteed future success. Bad stats at the Regionalliga level are concerning (assuming you’re at a position which is expected to produce statistically). It’s a filtering process–you have to be exceptional at a level in order to get a chance to produce at the next one. Again, as I’ve said multiple times, Gyau has time to make good at an elite/near-elite level, but the margin for error is very low indeed–and much lower than I’d say most fans are giving him credit for.

              Re: Shea. I should be clear: I don’t view Shea as guaranteed or even particularly likely. If he doesn’t produce this year, then that would be very concerning in the same way that I consider Gyau a concerning prospect. My criteria is only used to establish those who have a shot–and almost everyone who doesn’t meet those criteria don’t have a shot (to be a significant, elite or near-elite player in the manner of a Donovan or Dempsey for the U.S.). But, given that criteria, Shea looks like a much better bet than Gyau at this particular moment.

            • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 9:50 PM

              “I don’t consider a 19 year old being unable to break into the first team of a Bundesliga club to be an indicator that his career is stagnating.

              I also love how now you’re bringing in stats from the Regionalliga to knock a guy down but when people were pointing to all the goals scored by Boyd for Dortmund II you stated that it shouldn’t matter because of the level. Which one is it?”

              There is always the eye test.

              We all know how good Boyd looked, especially when we needed him.

              Gyau looked good against an already demoralized 10 man Cuba and then did not do much the rest of the time. He has lots of potential but does not seem as threatening as Shea. He may yet develop into something special but right now if I’m a technical director of a club in Europe I’m looking at taking Shea rather than Gyau.

              Of course at one time Thierry Henry was a mediocre winger for Monaco, then Wenger took him, moved him inside and the rest is history.

            • Posted by Union on 2012/03/29 at 12:41 PM

              Speaking of prosects: does anyone know what club Junior Flores signed with?http://www2.insidenova.com/sports/2012/feb/29/junior-flores-signs-four-year-contract-pro-soccer–ar-1730811/

              He tweeted that got the call for the U-17s against France (which is no surprise).

            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/29 at 2:11 PM

              Speculation is a Nike team given the Nike deal. In addition, can’t be a team in England due to work permit problems.

          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/03/28 at 1:04 PM

            Would be interesting to see what Gyau would do in the MLS? It is really hard to compare MLS stats to other leagues/countries. Would Shea be making an impact for Hoffenheim? How will Gyau look in 2 more years?

            Lots of difficulty and subjectivity in projecting players.

            Reply

        • Posted by Union on 2012/03/28 at 10:50 AM

          Yea DTH, I mean. Your points are valid, I’m not trying to say that you’re dead wrong in your assessment of development in general. I just think you’re off in your assessment of Gyau. I mean, Boyd is 21, not getting first team minutes yet, does that mean he’s a lost cause bc he isn’t dominating before he turns 23? Also, I don’t think Gyau compares to any past US prospects. And lets get into it. What 19 year olds are regular starters for their clubs? I look at guys who broke in around 19 and I think of Phil Jones, Neymar, Rooney, Messi, Oxlaid-Chamberlain, Walcott (who has yet to meet his potential), Goetze, Hazard, Shaqiri, Wilshere, Fabregas. I mean, with all do respect to Gyau, I don’t think anyone puts him in that caliber of player. I certainly am not. But even then, there are plenty of U-20 players, who are very well regarded, and are not getting first team minutes consistently, and more importantly, are not making huge impacts for their squad. I’m thinking of Lukaku, Erik Lamela, Raheem Sterling (I know he’s only 17, but still), Macheda (who is 20), Florian Trinks (who is 20, just broke into Bremen at the age of 20..up until then was with reserves), Nils Peterson (who is 22). Is Gyau the caliber of the above? No, probably a notch below. But my point is, at 19, playing for the Hoffenheim reserve team and pushing for a 1st team spot for 2012-2013, that aint bad.

          As for Shea, Gyau is the more technical player. Is his vision iffy? Probably. Is the vision of most 19 year olds iffy, yes. I agree about his defense. That needs improvement, especially bc he is on the smaller side for a singer. And I don’t know enough about his ball striking skills bc I haven’t seen him shoot. Obviously Shea has a rocket. And Shea dominated the MLS at 21. Not at 19. So I think its tough to compare the two.

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 11:08 AM

            Boyd’s not a development failure, but I think it’s safe to rule out the kind of high-level, elite career I’m interested in. You don’t have to be a starter, but you do have to be playing, and productive. And while you list a lot of elite players who have done it, fact is that it’s the same for the merely really good players. Ashley Young scored 15 goals in the Championship when he was 20, to take one example. Again, as I’ve said a few separate times now, it’s not impossible for Gyau to have that sort of career, it just looks highly unlikely in a way it doesn’t for Shea.

            And let’s break down some of these examples, by the way. Lukaku dominated the Belgian League at a preposterously young age. Lamela was a very good player for River Plate. I think some of your examples prove my point rather than yours–the elite and really good players generally make a mark early. It doesn’t mean the progression of their career is a straight line upwards, but it does mean they start off with a bang and are a significant player for whatever team in whatever league they happen to find themselves in.

            Reply

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/03/28 at 4:14 PM

              DTH, you are obsessed with which youth player has a “higher ceiling” – why is that? Teams invest a lot of resources scouting the world for young talent, with “qualified scouts” and dedicated teams, and they still get it wrong. But here’s you with your laptop and Internet access, and you’ve nailed it. You can identify potential better than the professionals, and with a lower carbon footprint! Care to share your secrets????

            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 4:52 PM

              My little rule of thumb actually outsources all the judgment to the teams, so you’d best ask them.

              It’s also not a way of telling you which people will succeed at being an elite/near-elite player, but which people definitely won’t be.

              So I’m saying a lot less than you think I am.

  16. Posted by Union on 2012/03/28 at 10:52 AM

    Damn. Can’t edit posts. I meant smaller side for a winger. Don’t think Gyau sings.

    Reply

  17. Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 12:40 PM

    By the way, I’m reminded of something that probably didn’t make the difference, but probably wasn’t helpful: why, exactly, were Brek Shea and Terrence Boyd in Italy again? Klinsmann promised to give Porter every available method of support, and it looked odd at the time. It looks a little worse now.

    Reply

    • Posted by Ufficio on 2012/03/28 at 12:47 PM

      Yeah, I remember we mentioned that at the time. Also, was it really not possible to secure Boyd’s release more than a day in advance of the first match? We could have avoided the need to play Bunbury (although Porter might have used him in the first two matches anyway).

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2012/03/28 at 12:49 PM

      I don’t think that had any effect at all. Both were among the best players in the tournament. Them showing up for camp a month ago wasn’t going to keep the defense from being soft and leaking goals.

      Was Boyd ever even going to be in that camp? I thought he was only released from his club for the tournament itself and was only in Italy because it was an international date that wasn’t long so they weren’t going to fly him across the Atlantic.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 1:02 PM

        Nope, the plan was for Boyd to go to the camp for like a week or something. The day he was scheduled to fly to Dallas he flew over to Italy instead because of the call-up.

        While Boyd and Shea were among the best players in the tournament, maybe the extra practice and gelling makes their best even better than it would’ve otherwise been. As Ufficio speculates, maybe Porter comes to the realization that Boyd is in better form/better player than Bunbury more quickly if he has that camp.

        While I doubt it had or should have had a huge negative effect, certainly there are no positives for the u-23s from that situation.

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/28 at 10:05 PM

          The various UNDER teams exist to benefit the senior team. And in the near future WC qualifying is job one.

          The only value to doing well in the Olympics would have been the popular boost to the game in this country and the chance for some of our young guys to get more high profile experience.

          Oh and to crown Porter as the US manager heir apparent.

          Otherwise the Olympics are irrelevant.

          Besides the USSF was not that serious about the Olympics. If they were they would have scheduled more serious opponents for the warmup games and more of them.

          Either that or they were arrogant enough to think we could just put together what amounted to a pickup team and beat on what most experts considered a lame group except for the US.

          Seriously, how many of you thought Canada would beat the US 2-0?

          Reply

          • Posted by dth on 2012/03/28 at 10:17 PM

            I’d say the U.S. was very serious about the Olympics, rhetorically speaking. In terms of the warmup games and camps–they were about as intensive as they could be without pissing clubs off. U.S. preparation for the Olympics was greater than it was in 2008 and was pretty similar to Mexico’s preparation; both nation’s preparations were far greater than any of its CONCACAF competitors–Canada only had one camp, a week before the competition started.

            The Olympics are important in terms of preparing talent in a somewhat high-stakes situation. It’s why the rest of the world sans Great Britain takes youth tournaments seriously.* In fact, U.S. performance in the World Cup has been nicely foreshadowed by the performance of the preceding World Cup. In 2000, the U.S. finished fourth–2002, naturally, was the U.S.’s best-ever performance in a modern World Cup. In 2004, the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympics. In 2008, the U.S. had a decent showing in the Olympics–followed by a decent showing in the World Cup. Three times the trend, they say.

            * (It’s true! It’s why Leo Messi competed in the Olympics; it’s why Spain sent Juan Mata–already a World Cup winner!–to the European u-21 Championships in 2011. Winning as a youth gives you the confidence and the knowledge of what must be done to win as an adult.)

            Reply

            • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/29 at 4:02 PM

              I see the correlation you are trying to point out between Olympic performance and WC performance for the US .

              However, that does not mean there is any significant causation in that relationship.

              In the same time period Mexico’s soccer team did not qualify for the Olympics in 2000, qualified but did not get out of their group in 2004 and did not qualify in 2008.

              Yet in the 2002. 2006 and 2010 World Cups Mexico did exactly the same thing all three times. They got out of their group and lost the first game in the group stage.

              Separate tournaments.dth Feel free to see a link there but it’s pretty thin.

              After all, despite the US failure, they will still go into this Qualifiyng campaign with as deep and talented a player pool as I have seen in a very long time. Which means the players will be getting their high level experience not from international tournaments but from their club teams.

              In terms of World Cup prep, missing the Olympics pales in comparison to missing the Confederations Cup. The 2009 success in that tournament did much more to boost our 2010 campaign than the Olympics did.

              Messi and Mata take Olympic soccer seriously but my understanding was it was less about the soccer and more about the Olympics. Most world class athletes would jump at the chance to attend the Olympics because ..well it’s the Olympics, a once in a lifetime experience for most. Maybe the greatest party for an athlete ever. Why do you think all these senior players want to play in the Olympics? Beckham can turn the media exposure into mucho dinero but he certainly doesn’t need the soccer development.

              The soccer part of that is pretty secondary, unless you are talking the Women’s game. Messi had to take Barca to court to get released to play and made a lot of people very unhappy. They felt he was putting himself unnecessarily at risk and wasting his time playing.

              Mata doesn’t need the development, he just wants to go to the Olympics.

              Mata and Messi ( when he went) are/were already developed beyond any US player currently on the books. That’s not why they are going/went.

            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/29 at 4:05 PM

              Mata didn’t go to the Olympics–he went to the u-21 European championships, as I said in my previous post. Not for the prestige–but because he thought it’d be a good thing for his career. And why not? Iniesta won a u-17 World Cup and a u-20 World Cup, Xavi won a u-20 World Cup, Iker Casillas won a u-20 World Cup…

              As far as I can tell the only country that regularly keeps its best players out of youth championships of whatever level is England.

            • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/30 at 3:34 PM

              dth,

              Yes I know but given the discussion , Mata’s Olympic desires seem quite relevant.

              http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2098984/Chelseas-Juan-Mata-exclusive-Two-degrees-backpacking.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

              Developmentally speaking, what these guys do with their clubs is far more important than what they do with their national under whatever teams. The main benefit of those is that they serve as a showcase for young talent.

            • Posted by dth on 2012/03/30 at 3:51 PM

              More important != not important at all. Excellent strawman, though.

              And Juan Mata needed zero showcasing (because of that club play)–the same for all the rest of the Spanish prospects (who were with Real and Barca).

            • Posted by Martin on 2012/03/30 at 5:00 PM

              “And Juan Mata needed zero showcasing (because of that club play)–the same for all the rest of the Spanish prospects (who were with Real and Barca).”

              Well , dth, I was not referring to Mata or his Spanish teamates. Mata has his big club contract and his Spanish teamates will soon get theirs. Like I wrote earlier they want to go to the Olympics because it’s the Olympics.

              However, guys like Shea, Corona, Mix, et. al. could have used the exposure from the Olympics to drum up interest. That door is now closed to them, more’s the pity.

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