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U.S. U-20 scouting report -- what makes Freddy and the boys go
by Ridge Mahoney, July 11th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  mls, under-20 world cup


The U.S. under-20s have made only two changes in the starting lineup after opening with an unimpressive 1-1 tie with South Korea. It recovered in its next two games to hammer Poland, 6-1, and stun Brazil, 2-1. Coach Thomas Rongen has used 14 field players but has yet to summon forwards Gabriel Ferrari and Andre Akpan, thanks to the excellent play of wingers Robbie Rogers and Sal Zizzo, and striker Jozy Altidore. Midfielder Dax McCarty and defender Amaechi Igwe have been used as subs. Tim Ward started the first game and has also come on as a sub. Barring any unforeseen changes, this is a rundown on the expected starters who face Uruguay Wednesday (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPNU, Galavision) ...

Jozy Altidore - Powerful, fast, hard to knock off the ball, good finisher, "the prototype of the modern forward," is what U.S. under-20 coach Thomas Rongen calls the 17-year-old Red Bull striker. In every game, communication between the three front-runners and the rest of the team has improved, and Altidore's movement has helped open up space in the penalty area. Freddy Adu is being talked up as a likely transfer target but this is the type of scorer every team is on the lookout for.

Sal Zizzo - Some of the bounces he exploits to squeeze past and through defenders seem borne of sheer luck, but he's skilled enough and bold enough to take the ball very close to a tackler before giving the ball a nudge or nick. He's not a burner by any means, but can cover 20 or 30 yards quickly, can lure in tacklers and skip past them, and serves a good ball on the run.

Robbie Rogers - Like many of his teammates, he struggled to find his rhythm in the opener against South Korea, but he's been among the best performers the past two games with scything dribbles and dangerous crosses driven into the six-yard box. Earned assists on the last two goals against Poland and with opponents eyeing his teammates he might get into the goal column himself. His 25-yard blast forced a good save from Brazilian keeper Cassio.

Freddy Adu - Scored a brilliant hat trick against Poland and has assisted on three other goals to emerge as a leading candidate for Golden Ball (MVP) honors, but just as important has been his consistent effort and willingness to work. He's covering a lot of ground both with the ball and without it. A hard tackle that might have been a foul preceded his pass to Altidore for the first goal against Brazil.

Danny Szetela - Has stormed forward from central midfield to score three goals, the first two with his head, so his well-known attacking prowess has come to the fore. By coming late behind Adu, he's often unmarked. In the knockout stages, he'll be asked to hold the middle and win balls, and also link up with the attackers if opponents sit back.

Michael Bradley - Uses his good instincts to sniff out situations yet hasn't always been fast enough to snuff out attacks, especially with dribblers running at him. He's a good target on set pieces, although he also will hang back to collect clearances to restart the play. His ability to hit a variety of passes over different distances is a key facet of the U.S. transition game.

Tony Beltran - A patient defender who rarely dives in and is very adept at pushing forward to serve balls into the box. The right back out of UCLA thwarted several Brazilian attacks with strong tackles and assisted on the first goal against Poland with a nice cross Szetela headed home.

Nathan Sturgis - Usually plays a tough and tidy game but occasionally has given balls away in bad situations, and has been muscled off the ball as well. Quick feet are an asset during hectic goalmouth situations, and his organizational skills will be critical in the knockout games.

Ofori Sarkodie - Came on as a sub against Poland after defender Julian Valentin suffered a facial gash. A bit short for a central defender at 5-foot-9, he's rugged and smart, and uses anticipation and instincts to compensate against taller attackers.

Anthony Wallace - Replaced left back Tim Ward after the first game and has a good feel for playing on the outside, looks for opportunities to overlap and is very hard to get past because of his speed and strength. Hasn't played a minute this year for FC Dallas as a rookie yet Rongen didn't hesitate to use him.

Chris Seitz - He's been as good as advertised and without his sharp saves against Brazil, the U.S. could have tied or even lost. He thwarted Alexandre Pato from close range, turned aside an Augusto free kick, and preserved the win with a double save in the final minutes. His calm, commanding presence and size (6-foot-4, 205) are vital elements for a team whose back line is capable but hardly dominant and often must rely on him to deal with crosses.


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