Friday night I posted here that there is a bright future ahead of US Soccer based on the U-20 team that is attempting to qualify for its World Cup, and that still stands. The talent on that team is miles above any U-20 team in recent memory, and that’s without some amazing talent left at home. But why then do they have only one point from two games, and scored only one goal from a set piece? If the talent is there, why is that happening? To find out, you have to look up.
The problems with the full national team have been well documented, especially Jurgen Klinsmann putting players in bizarre positions that are not their strongest. When the Baby Yanks are purveyed, are we seeing the same thing? Lynden Gooch is a talented forward, but in the first game he was shunted out wide where his effectiveness was restricted. Tommy Thompson can play in many positions, but playing out wide in Tab Ramos’ 4-3-3 has put his talents to the side. And even though the fullback position isn’t this team’s strongest, John Requejo and Shaq Moore have struggled somewhat, yet there’s been no hint of changes coming.
One of the hallmarks of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as USMNT boss (and technical director) is stubbornness. He continues to stick to a formation that doesn’t work, and stubbornness to a style that doesn’t necessarily suit the players he has. In the World Cup he ditched the pie in the sky dreams of building from the back out of necessity, but as soon as the plane left Brazil the lofty dreams of building from the back like Barca are back – the results haven’t been pretty. For this U-20 team, they can certainly build from the back fine, but the impetus gets derailed once the three in midfield have nowhere to go against 10 men behind the ball. The 4-3-3 (which like the diamond 4-4-2) isn’t working, and yet Tab Ramos seems married to it because Jurgen is married to it.
Normally, a complete and total ideal of how to play from U-10’s all the way up is a very good thing. And if you want to take a positive from this, seeing how the U-20’s are playing a very similar style to the big boys, that’s a good sign. Problem is, the way the senior team has played has many causes for concern, and the same causes are emerging at youth level. There are too many talented players up and down the system to be wasted like this, and not qualifying for another major tournament on Klinsmann’s watch at youth level has to be a big worry.
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice shame on you. This would be the second time the U-20’s have missed out on the U-20 World Cup since 2011, and it would be the third major youth tournament that the Baby Yanks have missed out on since Klinsmann took over, when qualifying for those tournaments used to be a given.
The U-20’s can still qualify, and here’s hoping they do. But after their first loss ever in qualifying group play, alarm bells are going off. And to find out why, all you have to do is look up.
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