The 2009 U-20 World Cup began with high expectations for Team USA. With twelve professional players, and withdrawals and extenuating circumstances elsewhere the US looked a sure bet to make noise.
Now, the US must count on other results to continue in the competition. The US has advanced to the knock out stages of six consecutive U-20 World Cups, but making a seventh is now in severe doubt. Finishing third in the group with a minus 3 GD, means two other third place teams must finish with worse than a -3 GD for the Americans to continue playing.
Today’s 3-0 loss to South Korea was appalling, not just because the Americans were terribly outplayed, but more noticeably the lack of discipline and composure the side showed in the second half. Four second half yellow cards, and a sending off also combined with sloppy tackling and a lack of interest in the match. What’s worse is ESPN’s decision to broadcast all the matches of the tournament on various platforms, including the US games on ESPN2 exposed this program as not being ready for prime time. But given the hype myself and others gave this particular U-20 side, who can blame ESPN for hyping the tournament?
Once behind this evening, the Americans stopped playing except for brief spells. While Thomas Rongen is sure to be blamed for not getting more out of one of the most talented sides the US has brought to the U-20s. But the players ultimately bear some responsibility for the performances, and the general lack of passion, composure and fight they showed in the second half today.
Perhaps, commentators such as myself, deserve a round of scorn as well. We after all built up this U-20 team as a side that could go deep in this tournament. We failed to account for the quality of the opposition (I actually believed Cameroon and Korea would be stronger than Germany who lost a number of big players before the tournament) , and the criticisms I make of US fans not properly evaluating and respecting the opposition at the senior level, applied to me and others in this tournament.
For me personally, I have gotten to the point of expecting the US U-20 and U-17 teams to be among the best in the world. I personally don’t expect much from our current crop of senior players, which I have articulated time and time again at this site. That makes this tournament’s ultimate outcome, should the US not advance, a bitter pill to swallow.
As far as Rongen’s tactics today, I didn’t understand the move at halftime to pull off Tony Taylor for Per Marosevic. Taylor had run his socks off all tournament long, keeping the defense on its toes, and as Ignacio Rodriguez mentioned on the most recent MLS Talk Podcast, Taylor looked exceptional against much older players regularly at Miami FC’s training sessions.
The other move that made little sense was not inserting Kyle Davies back into the starting XI today. Jorge Flores played well versus Cameroon, but Davies leadership was badly missing when things went bad, early in this match.
If anything, the US was fortunate the scoreline wasn’t worse. Korea was wasteful with countless opportunities, and of course hit the crossbar on a chance early, that Brian Perk got a toe to.
The US will know its fate tomorrow.