SCOTT PETERSON - Saturday, June 22, 2013
The U-20 USMNT fell in its opener of the U-20 World Cup in Turkey to Spain on Friday, as the Americans were undone by a five-minute spell late in the first half.
Despite knowing that the Spanish opposition they were up against in Friday's opener had pedigree, potential and pace, the US U-20 squad will still be disappointed by the manner in which they lost: missed opportunities, poor marking and too many turnovers.
Head coach Tab Ramos elected to field a 4-5-1 to disrupt Spanish possession by packing the midfield with bodies and keeping a high backline. The ploy, however, backfired early as the US were caught out with too many men forward after just five minutes had gone.
After losing possession in midfield, Spain quickly countered down the right flank. Barcelona reserves starlet Gerald Deulofeu outpaced defender Javen Torre - a theme that repeated itself - to get behind the defense and pick out Real Madrid striker Jesé, who slotted home with his right for the opener.
While the Spanish were at their flashy best, the US displayed some of its trademark grit by grabbing the match by the proverbial scruff of the neck and proving a real threat in front of the Spanish goal.
The best of the bunch - the US had 11 in total - came in the 12th minute. Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil dinked a chipped pass between two Spanish defenders to C.F. Monterrey striker Alonso Hernandez, but the striker could not get his angles right and the clear-cut shot at an equalizer went begging.
As the first half progressed the US astonishingly managed to wrest away the lead in possession from the highly-decorated Spanish, only to see it all unravel in the final five minutes.
Torres' indecisive headed clearance was one by Saul, who outmuscled his marker to get the ball to Deulofeu on the right wing. Deulofeu then skirted past US captain Caleb Stanko to retain possession, before curling home a spectacular shot from the edge of the area in the 40th minute.
It was three just two minutes later as Javier Manquillo got behind Torre and made a driving run into the box, before beating Stanko to the ball to pick out Jesé, who coolly slotted home past Cody Cropper for his second tally of the evening.
Cropper had an unwilling hand in Spain's fourth, as the American netminder came way off his line to try and dispossess Deulofeu, but the diminutive Spanish trequartista rounded Cropper and found the back of an empty net in the 61st minute.
The Americans did manage to strike a goal in the 77th minute and did so in style. Luis Gil, one of the bright spots in US dress, collected the ball at the top of the box, went left, then right and then back to his left, before finding the upper 90 with his left on an early contender for goal of the tournament.
For the Americans to have a chance at progressing to the knockout stages, the deficiencies in the back will have to be addressed. Fortunately for the Red, White and Blue, Colorado Rapids defender Shane O'Neill will be available after sitting out due to suspension.
After one match the US sits in last place on goal difference in group A. The US will look to right the ship on Monday as they do battle with the Equipe Tricolor of France, who are in second place after beating Ghana 3-1 in their opener.