Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Unkindest Cut -- The U.S.A.'s U-20s blew an early lead, and fell to Austria 2-1, in the U-20 World Cup quarterfinal match. The U.S. opened the scoring with a brilliant cross from Freddy Addu that was nailed into the net with a sharp header by Jozy Altidore. After looking strong early on, the U.S. team began to sit on their lead, and the Austrians took control of the match, tying it up before halftime. In the second half, things got worse, but somehow the U.S. survived to take the game into overtime. Chris Seitz' sharp goalkeeping kept the game tied, although at least once the goalpost saved the U.S.. Seitz also had some spectacular help from Nathan Sturgis, who kept one shot out of the goal, when Steitz was beaten. keeping the score tied. In the first half, a misplay by Seitz, in not holding on to a long shot, did lead to the first goal. However, he played brilliantly thereafter.

In the first overtime period, the U.S. did start to play stronger, as they had done against Uruguay, but defender Anthony Wallace was ejected with his second yellow card of the game, in the 15th minute. Wallace's first card may not have been merited, but the second clearly was. Austria brought on their super-sub Erwin Hoffer. About a minute later after Wallace's ejection, there was a mad scramble in the box. One Austrian got off a shot which a diving Chris Seitz may have touched just wide of a goal. The ball bounced into the goalpost. It's hard to know whether the ball would have gone in anyway, but Hoffer was there to carry it over the goal line.

Though down a man, the U.S. had some chances, and were still in the game, because the Austrians missed on two breakaways. The U.S. players just couldn't manage the tying goal, and the favorites were eliminated. The loss is an especially hard blow, because this was the very first U.S. men's team that had a legitimate chance of winning a world championship. There's no knowing when such a chance may come again.

There were some good takeaways from this tournament. Most obviously was the play of Adu and Altidore who must have attracted the notice of some of the wealthier clubs out there, especially in Europe. Robbie Rogers and Danny Szetela had breakout performances -- not by scoring goals, but in opening up the offense, though not so much today. Ditto for Sal Zizzo. Michael Bradley, who scored the game-winner on Wednesday, turned in the game of his life today. If he'd had more help from his mates, the U.S. would have come out on top.

Overall, I was not impresed by the U.S. defenders, however, I was impressed by the play of Nathan Sturgis. He's a midfielder in MLS, but I think we've seen his future role in defense with the national team. Tony Beltran was the weakest link in the defense, except for his replacement. Tim Ward looked absolutely horrible in this game.

Though both goalkeepers gave up goals by allowing rebounds they could have prevented, neither were truly "soft" goals. Seitz and Perk look like good options for the U.S. down the road.

There are some players we will need to see more of in the future to make any assesment. Most notably is Johann Smith, who missed this tournament because of an injury. Andre Akpan and Gabe Ferrari could be good forwards down the road, but didn't have the chance to shine in Canada. I guess all these guys will get another chance at glory in the U-23 championships, the next time around, or in the Olympics.

Ah well. I'm off to see D.C. United.

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