U-23s: Work Left to Be Done
Peter Nowak is getting what he bargained for at the Toulon Invitational: A good look at his side and who has the grit and mettle to make an impact in this summer’s Beijing Olympics. Having selected what amounts to an experimental squad for the competition, Nowak seemed to be playing less for results and more for substance.
The competition started badly for the Americans. Not only did Turkey race out to a 2-0 lead, but the Americans looked decidedly disinterested and outclassed. Turkey keep in mind failed to qualify for the Olympics from UEFA and thus the US first half performance must be classified as a bit of an embarrassment.Turkey’s team, essentially a U-21 side absolutely hammered the Americans and had team USA looking completely shell shocked. In the first half I would count only left wide midfielder Corey Ashe as player who came to compete with the Turks.
Two tactical adjustments for the second half by Nowak seemed to breathe life into the US team. Kamani Hill a player who has been tried at just about every position for both the U-23s and the Senior National Team came on and was inserted in the center of midfield with Benny Feilhaber replacing Lee Nguyen on the right side. Feilhaber who struggled in the middle seemed more lively down the flank, and Hill began dictating play from his position.
The US scored two second half goals including a highlight reel worthy 20 yard blast by Sammy Ochoa. Brek Shea the teenager who came on late for Feilhaber looked lively and dangerous as well. Shea in fact drew a foul in the box that should have drawn a pk that could have equalized the match at 3-3 but it was not to be. Despite this the US looked more organized and dangerous in the 2nd half of the 3-2 loss.
So where does the loss leave Nowak’s team? Quite honestly in a better place than before the match. Answers as to Kamani Hill’s value, the emergence of Brek Shea and the US’ fight were provided after a lackluster CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament. With so few options in the attack for the USA, Sammy Ochoa emerges as a viable option to pair with Jozy Altidore up top or to come off the bench to provide a spark off the bench.
The US faces a stern test in one of the pre-Olympic favorites, Ivory Coast on Friday. The improvement of the US team will be squarely tested in that match.