The US U-20 team crashed and burned before the semifinals once again in the FIFA Under 20 World Cup. (Formerly the FIFA World Youth Championship). For the sixth straight time this event was held, the United States has advanced to the knock out stage of the event but once again lacked the quality or technical ability to break down a more seasoned opponent before the semi-finals. Even though US Soccer has made great strides, today’s loss to Austria still showed that the high energy game the US plays needs to be enhanced by greater technical skills among our young players.
I am not here to knock Major League Soccer, and I recognize that much of success of the National Team has to do with the domestic league. However when in MLS or the American College ranks our promising youngsters seem to not get the coaching on technique and development of their technical skills that many European and South American players receive. With the very notable exception of Freddy Adu who has loads of god given ability, today’s match showed the limit to what is acquired in MLS or American colleges by players who are based domestically.
As excited as this Under 20 run was for all of us, this team was only slightly more successful than the teams that played the last five times this event has been held. Those teams featured such hyped youngsters as Santino Quaranta, Eddie Gaven, Jason Moore and Kyle Martino. Each of the previously mentioned players were highly touted players before the age of 20, and yet each of them failed to develop in MLS to the levels expected of them. Let’s hope some of the revelations of this tournament like Danny Szetela, Sal Zizzo, and Dax McCarty do not go the same route. Robbie Rogers who had a poor game today however showed throughout this tournament that his short stint in Holland has improved his game immeasurably.
US Soccer, MLS and USL need to be much more creative and innovative in how we develop young players in this country. Otherwise, the entire U-20 squad would be well served to try and sign professional contracts with any club in a nation like Holland or Germany where their talents can be honed. The excitement generated by this year’s version of the U-20 should provide the impetus for the USSF to make a change domestically so that at some point in the near future we can realistically compete to win major international events.