The Volatility Streak Continues for U-20

I’m going to preface this post by commenting that I don’t have enough history to truly evaluate the players and coach of the USMNT U-20.

I’m going to keep my commentary brief and ask for more for your thoughts.

More volatility than Wall St.

More volatility than Wall St.

So now I’ve watched all three US U-20 games. 0-3, 4-1, 0-3. Wow, more highs and lows than a U.S. team in Confed Cup play. Thanks, I have a show at 11pm as well.

Today’s match was frustrating, mostly for fans, but not unexpected if you saw the other two games of the group stage. You just don’t know what to expect from US team. This is not an insult, but Yanks-Abroad’s and ESPN writer Brett Latham, who follows the team religiously it appears, predicted a win over Germany and today’s opponent South Korea, while questioning the U.S. going into the Cameroon game.

That comment is not to impune Latham, it’s more representative of a young squad that has potential, but appears to have no game plan to line-ups and strategy and thus is a coin-flip when forecasting results.

For my part, I won’t focus on line-up. As commented above, I don’t know the players well enough. I’ll talk about today’s strategy with an analogy to ultimate frisbee play.

In 2006, I played ultimate for a U.S. squad at the world championships in Perth, Australia. Our team was more veteran, had height and “hucks” (the equivalent of “deep throws”) and was generally disciplined. We knew our strengths, specifically machine-like, low turnover offense and the ability to throw in the wind.

In group play, we came up against a Japanese side. As a defender and one of the faster players on the team, I was assigned to disrupt what would be considered the “point guard” of the other team. Let’s put it this way, we was able to take about 39 steps before I took one. He was that much faster. But, you know what, I and our team knew that going in. So what did we do? We changed out strategy (without getting too technical we shaded the offender toward his non-throwing hand to slow him a bit) and we adapted in-game.

We ended up winning that game by focusing on deep throws to our tall receives and huddling back on defense and expending all out effort closer to our goal line (since it wouldn’t be in our best interest to press up the field).

Perth, 2006.

Perth, 2006.

I point out that game because the U.S. faced a challenge in parallel today and they were neither prepared for it, nor adapted during the game.

Poor positioning, ill-timed tackles due to not realizing South Korea’s quickness, and an offensive game that didn’t play to the U.S’s strengths–in my opinion (just like in our game) we needed to see a lot more aerial play specifically to Brek Shea who towered over others up the pitch. On defense we got beat around the ends and on throw balls–again in my mind–because he didn’t aggressively funnel toward the middle.

Now, TSG and I would like your thoughts. Like I said, this is a topic we have not spent as much time on. So let it rip. What do you think? Help us learn.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by MG3 on 2009/10/02 at 2:10 PM

    I was at work and was only able to sporadically watch the game so I’m not going to be able to provide the best insight. We looked like we had most of the possession, but we couldn’t do anything in the attacking third. It didn’t help that our defense looked very unimpressive, poor marking on the first 2 goals (and I’m too sure the PK should have been awarded.)

    I’m not sure what changes could have been made to fix the ineptitude on defense and lack of creativity on offense. It was just a poor performance overall, hopefully we can sneak into the knockout stage like the senior squad at the Confederations Cup and work some magic.

    I wonder if there are any players that get a sniff for the roster in SA. Arguez?


  2. Posted by Berg on 2009/10/02 at 2:13 PM

    It sounds weird but the best way to describe the US team in these games is that they looked like a bunch of guys in a pick up game. I mean to say that this squad has talent individually, but as a team lacked any sort of cohesion or real feel for each other. I lost track of how many times I saw too many US players in the same space, limiting options and really forcing the US to play tight passes that honestly, they lacked the finesse to control.

    Defense was a problem. With such large centre backs, getting beat on set pieces should be inexcusable. On the outside, Williams got rounded continually for the 2nd game in a row.

    I try not to be rough on these players because they still are growing and developing. What is disconcerting though, is the lack of direction that this team seemed to lack. To me, that is a problem that starts at the top.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/02 at 2:23 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. Just like in business, you can’t continue to make the same mistakes.

      I was amazed at how effortlessly the Koreans took the flanks way above the 18. In my mind, you have two options if you are the U.S. huddle in closer together and closer to the goal or play wide across the back and have the middies help out as you push underneath.

      However, the US got “broken” (that’s a frisbee term) high and wide, so the sk winger had the ability to go right to goal. The central defense, not as fleet of feet, had to chase them down leaving the middle open.

      And SK knew it, they kept pushing the ball the same ways.


  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/02 at 2:25 PM

    One more thing, the frustration tackles and yellows towards the end of the game by Davies and Shea is by a team that knows they are getting “out quicked.”

    You have to have a game plan for it.


  4. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/10/02 at 5:38 PM

    Quick hits: Flores & Williams were a little short of gruesome at fullback

    -the only guys that would even have an outside chance of making SA ’10 would be Duka, Arguez, & Shea but we all know that wont happen so lets leave their names alone for a while.

    -responding to Shea’s inactivity in the air. I don’t think Rongen really had much of a choice because Shea probably provided the best service into the box from the wing than anyone else on our side. you saw Flores get up the pitch multiple times in the 2nd hald . . with Shea in the box plenty of times, but the service just wasnt good enough. He started to get more and more active in the box as the 2nd half progressed, but again with the service. Dilly Duka could’ve provided some decent service but he was too busy running the show in the attack down the center, kind of like a flashy Donovan & “Feilhaberian” in a way.

    – you have to feel for Opara. he got ripped off twice. He shouldve ended the game with a clean shee to be honest. the 1st foul was clearly on Flores (did i mention he was terible) but i guess the ref had the wrong angle. And the penalty was a total flop on the SK captains part.

    -the backline aparently didnt know when to listen to Perk. Perk would yell his arse off at Flores, Opara & the crew time to time(especially Flores) and instead of letting it go they would try to clear the ball about 5 cm away from Perk’s face

    -Tony Taylor looked pretty lazy for the most part , which is why he only played one half.

    -and is it me or did we start out with a 4-5-1. because throughout the 1st i saw taylor out oon an island chasing(hyperbole: he crawled) around the SK backline. im guessing Shea was our other forward but he obviously prefers the wing.


  5. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/10/02 at 7:45 PM

    surpringly enough the younguns still have a chance to advance. As it stands now we are the 3rd best 3rd place team, still awaiting results from the last two groups.

    We can advance if: Costa Rica loses to Czech by 1 or more goals


    Hungary loses to UAE by 4 or more goals

    So basically if CR wins, we’re done


  6. Maybe this is just a random, no real thought put to it, but looking at the lack of adaptability of this game and the lack of adaptability in the senior side’s game against El Salvador and T&T does the US system have a problem with in-game changes.

    I mean dozen of prominent desk jockey bloggers and the like have criticized most of our past and current coaches for not being able to see what is quite obvious to us (Deuce off at half during T&T, never Ching, etc). I feel like the Nats head in with a game plan and mostly just plug along hoping what was started with eventually works.

    The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect different results. Bob and co may be master tacticians, breaking down every bit of a game (see ESPN the Mag’s article on their Sept. game prep.. lot of smoke being blown up Bradley’s ass there), but what if the vision is just wrong and making changes would be an admission of failure. I want my coaches to be tactical geniuses, but what if they’re smart, but just wrong? And then never change from the wrong-ness? Smart guys at the helm of a lot of great things, but then poof….


    • Amen. I don’t know how many times my friend Dan and I have recited the definition of insanity with respect to the senior side…

      As for calling any of our coaches tactical geniuses, that’s a stretch that US Soccer seems to want everyone to make so we can justify having Bobbo, Rongen, et al on the payroll. I haven’t followed Rongen or his side that much, but he was pretty much a failure in the MLS and now appears to be a failure with the U-20’s. A quick example to bring this point home: in the cold-war era the USSR teams we faced in the Olympics were all the same, we knew what we were getting into when we came up against them. By the same token, the Japanese and South Koreans are that same way. They’re quick, technically proficient on the ball, and they work hard together for the common good of the team. See World Cup 2002 for good examples of this at the highest level, and pretty much every game they’ve played since. How did Rongen not know what his team was getting into with this game and plan accordingly. I may not have been able to come up with a better game plan as I am definitely an armchair punter, but I would’ve at least been able to spot the personnel issues that we were bound to face given our defenders are big and slower.


  7. Posted by Dylan on 2009/10/05 at 12:53 PM

    Big news today with Clint Deuce out with a shoulder sprain! Wow, that opens up some pretty exiciting possibilities. What are the thoughts?


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