For those of you who do not follow soccer as exuberantly as some of us, basically
those of you who have a real life, the USMNT U-23 team has been attempting to qualify for the Olympics. As was the case with the U-20 team in their World Cup Qualifying tournament, the U-23’s managed to shock everyone by failing to qualify in what can only be described as a vortex of screwball comedies and inept defending.
After throwing Cuba into the wood chipper with a score of 6-0, the squad lost to the Canadians 2-0, and set up a “win or go home” situation last night against El Salvador. The Amercians promptly decided to check out of their hotel for the match, and catch the red-eye to their respective homes this morning, drawing 3-3 against the El Salvadorians after conceding with about 10 seconds left in stoppage time, and here are some of our thoughts about this failed qualifying attempt, as well as what it means for the future.
The U.S. Defense Needs Speed
This problem has reared its ugly head over since Onyewu went down with a knee injury against Costa Rica, but at the top two levels of the national team, the U.S. does not have the ability to contain speedy forwards. El Salvador trashed the U.S. backline by just playing through balls and letting their forwards or outside midfielders run onto them. Most fans are familiar with this problem at a senior level, and it is troubling to see the U-23’s, even though it is a 1B squad, having the same problem.
It Also Needs Better Organization
Although Sean Johnson made a meal of the final goal the U.S. allowed, the Americans looked shaky in defense all night, especially when trying to close down players in 20-25 yards from goal. The second and third goals came as a result of giving to much space to El Salvador around the outside of the box, and teams will punish you for doing it. It needs to be better, and now everyone understands why TIMMAY! always has that throbbing vein in his forhead.
Freddy Adu Can Step Up
In yet another game, Freddy Adu stepped up to deliver the quality a U.S. team needed to be competitive in a CONCACAF tournament. After delivering in last year’s Gold Cup, it will be interesting to see how he figures into Jurgen’s plans going forward. I still think Freddy can offer something to the senior side, and the only question he now has to answer is if he can consistently turn in performances like last night. Oh and please please please develop a right foot.
This Was Not Our Best Squad
The biggest thing to keep in mind after this loss is just how many players were missing from the squad. Had the U.S. qualified for the Olympics, maybe half of these players would even make the roster for London, and except for maybe three or four of them, none would see significant playing team. Thanks to CONCACAF screwing the U.S. over a rusty iron barrel, teams are not required to release players for the qualifying tournament. Any analysis you see of this squad needs to be focused on the players at hand and their future, rather than any sweeping claims about the state of upcoming prospects.
Let the Terrence Boyd Hype Begin
Good news from this tournament though, we now have the future international star in our sights. He will certainly score 20 goals a season for some Champion’s League club, and he won’t end up playing for Italy or some other God-Foresaken European country, hopefully. The German-American spends most of his time playing for the Borussia Dortmund reserves with 14 goals in 23 appearances, but has gotten into the senior squad a few times. Oh and did we mention he got his senior USMNT debut against the Italians? Hope on board the hype train boys and girls, I give this one thru the Gold Cup next year before we start bitching about him.
And Let Our Previous Last, Best Hope at Striker Slide Down a Few Rungs
Juan Agudelo suffered a torn meniscus injury to his knee, and will now miss 6 weeks after having surgery. After the disappointing season he had with the Red Bulls last year, it is a shame Agudelo is going to have to put this season on hold. While the dearth of quality strikers means Agudelo will still be in the mix, the longer he sits on the bench for any reason means there are more chances for one of the other forwards to capitalize. Agudelo could still turn out to be the talent his potential indicates, but that would mean defying the odds of USMNT strikers, and that just isn’t allowed to happen by the soccer gods.
Central American Refs Blow Big Chunks
While he certainly didn’t lose us the game, the Mexican ref for this one was unable to spot illegal things like swinging elbows, diving, or general shenanigans that El Salvador loved to do. Terrence Boyd caught an elbow to the face that drew blood, and somehow no one saw it. While it probably wasn’t a red card, I need a way to vent my anger from last night and the ref is always a good target. Unfortunately this is the type of crap that will always happen.