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US Beat Brazil; Win Group D @ U-20 World Cup

Friday night’s victory for the United States over Brazil in the U-20 World Cup was one of the great moments of the past several years for US Soccer. Brazil’s squad features the incomparable Alexandre Pato, but tonight Freddy Adu made a strong case that at this level he is as effective as Pato. Adu’s excellent ball skills and confidence were on full display with a world class run and shot in minute 81 led to Jozy Altidore’s game winning goal. Adu was dominant but in truth the US defense was quite worrying. After a sold first two matches Nathan Sturgis and Tony Beltran both seemed to have their hands more than full with Brazil’s attack. Chris Seitz despite losing control of the ball on Brazil’s goal, was perfectly positioned all night long and quite frankly bailed out his defense on several occasions after breakdowns in the defensive third.

Freddy Adu’s work rate and composure were amazing in the match. His poor form in MLS seems to not be representative of the type of player he is in big matches: he’s proven time and time again when he’s played at the international level or in a club friendly versus top level European competition he raises his game to a very high level. Around minute 60, it seemed to legs of all the US players excepting Adu and Michael Bradley were dying or were already dead. Runs were being mistimed, and the ball work and passing was becoming sloppier and sloppier. Quite frankly, at this point I felt Coach Thomas Rongen should have substituted holding midfielder Dax McCarty, a scrappy ball winner for Altidore whose passes and runs were becoming more and more erratic.

Unfortunately, when Brazil scored in the 64th minute, it was necessary to keep Altidore on the pitch. The devastating pre-tournament injuries to Quavas Kirk (a midfielder who pushes often into the attack) and Johann Smith have forced Altidore to work alone up top and have clearly worn him down. From minutes 65 until he scored the game winning goal thanks to being positioned properly for a rebound, Altidore was completely ineffective and appeared to be completely spent. The same can be said for Robbie Rogers, another valuable attacking player for the US, who Rongen did pull out in the 82nd minute after Altidore’s game winning goal. During the same period Sal Zizzo, who has been the US’ second best player in the group stage (behind Adu) also looked like the outstanding runs he had made in the first two and a half matches of the tournament were a thing of the past as his energy level looked very low. In addition, Zizzo failed to track back on defense twice and left Tony Beltran totally exposed on the right side, and this almost led to two Brazilian goals. But Freddy Adu kept on trucking so to speak, and his amazing, high energy play during this period of the match won the US Team the group. Altidore has to be given credit however for toiling through his obvious fatigue and positioning himself in a textbook manner at the far post for a rebound that won the group for the United States.

After the US reclaimed the lead at 2-1 it seemed everyone on the squad dug a little deeper and found whatever energy they had left. But Brazil, considered the top U-20 team in the world before this tournament began created a relentless assault on the US goal in the last ten minutes. By this time, South Korea had drawn level with Poland in the other group match and it appeared that the US could still win the group with a draw. But thanks to Chris Seitz, who was noticeably spent at the end of the match the South Korea-Poland result did not matter and the US won the group with three points to spare.

Tonight’s victory spoke to the character of the U-20 team, a character that has rarely been exhibited in big matches outside the United States by the Senior National Team. Certainly the draw in the 2006 World Cup against Italy, the 1999 Confederations Cup win versus Germany and the 1995 Copa America win against Argentina belong high in any category, but through the years it seems when the Senior National Team has had an opportunity like this on the international stage, they have often times wilted. Despite facing a constant assault from a desperate team that was favored to win this tournament our boys held strong. I guess we learned tonight, to quote the Who, the kids are alright! (Even if we are still fretting over the Senior National Team’s Copa America performance).

The US will next play on Wednesday against the third place team from either Group B,E, or F. The possible teams the US will face are Zambia, Jordan, Scotland, North Korea or Costa Rica.

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  1. Anonymous

    July 7, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    USA! USA! USA!

  2. DC United Fan

    July 7, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Freddy has shown in these last two matches the level of talent we all knew he had, but his lack of discipline and his desire to be a #10 type midfielder has retarted his development on the MLS level.

    Regarding Mexico, we know how strong traditionally both the US and Mexico are in these event. It’s a pity we could never seriously discuss playing in the semifinals of a senior event at the world level.

  3. El Tri

    July 7, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Just wait until you meet up with Vela and our Mexican boys. We’ll get our revenge for Gold Cup, perhaps in the semifinals. Adu doesn’t scare me. He’s thin as a rail and can be knocked off the ball easily by a Marquez type.

  4. Josiah of Footy Fame

    July 7, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    To put it lightly, I think Adu has worlds of potential. Perhaps MLS used him too much as a marketing tool and destroyed his confidence. Also he hasn’t had proper coaching and teaching here and should go to Europe to get that. His performance in thisU-20 WC is miles ahead of his lackluster show two years ago when we bowed out in the 2nd round largely because he didn’t properly support Feilhaber and Nguyen in the midfield. He is growing up right in front of our eyes.

  5. Anonymous

    July 7, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Is the game being shown again anywhere?

  6. Sams Army

    July 7, 2007 at 11:11 am

    By any standard this was one of the greatest nights in US Soccer history since the “shot heard round the world” but Paul Caliguri in 1989.

    USA! USA ! USA!

  7. wilablog

    July 7, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Made the trip to Ottawa to watch this game and it was incredible. The US team definitely had its share of shaky moments in the back. The stadium buzzed every time Adu got the ball as well as every time Jo got the ball – that guy was deadly up top. One thing that surprised me was how much certain pockets of the stadium boo’d Freddy whenever he took corners. Did that come through on ESPN? I am excited to get back to the states to see the game on DVR – there were a few moves that Freddy pulled that I would like to see again.

    While I was there I took some photos. I’m still posting these piecemeal at the moment but there are some good ones. You can check them out at Blades of Blue.

  8. Eplnfl

    July 7, 2007 at 6:40 am

    A great achievement. Even bigger when you think that this match could be seen by the whole country on ESPN.

    The win and earlier games against Korea and Poland answer two big questions for the US, do we have strikers who can finish and do we have a back up to Tim Howard. The answer is clearly we do.

    Michael Bradley seems to be the midfield presence we need to control the ball. He is at the U-20 after the Gold Cup. What a time for him.

    I think the really future question for US Soccer is do we have defenders that can hold up against the best strikers in the world.

  9. MJ

    July 7, 2007 at 6:38 am

    Wow. I still am in tears over this game, I can’t believe the US won! So happy with the way we showed ourselves last night, proved to the world we’re to be taken seriously.

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