Commentary

USA avoids debacle in U-17 World Cup qualifying

By Mike Woitalla

Ultimately, the USA's quest to qualify for the 2015 Under-17 World Cup hinged on shots from the penalty spot in its sixth game of the Concacaf U-17 Championship after a scoreless tie with Jamaica.

Two Jamaicans missed high and wide. The Americans hit the net on each of their shots after their first by Christian Pulisic was saved by Jamaican keeper Jahmali Waite.

So, mission accomplished. A debacle avoided for U.S. Soccer.

It stuck with Coach Richie Williams when in 2013 he became the first U-17 coach to fail after the USA had been the only nation to qualify for all previous 14 U-17 World Cups since the tournament’s inception in 1985.

It has kept its U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., going for 16 years although the USA hasn’t won a knockout-round U-17 World Cup game since 1999.

Of course, it shouldn’t have come down to a shootout. This was a highly touted collection of young American talent.

They started off well -- with wins over Cuba (5-0), Trinidad & Tobago (2-0) and Guatemala (4-1) -- yet qualifying turned out to be a struggle.

They could have clinched with a win over Honduras but tied, 2-2. A respectable result against the home team, one thought. But Mexico, in the final, cruised past the Catrachos, 3-0.

The Americans could have clinched with tie or win over Jamaica in their final group game, but fell, 1-0, setting up the Sunday’s playoff. When again, Williams’ team played without rhythm and failed to cope with the Jamaica’s crude, defensive soccer.

For sure, the USA deserved a spot at the World Cup more than Jamaica. But the Americans finished the tournament getting shut out in their last two games -- plus the last 58 minutes against Honduras.

The stats on Sunday -- eight U.S. shots on goal to one from Jamaica and a 9-1 corner-kick count – favored the USA, but it didn’t manage much of a highlight reel or really test Waite. Instead of improving as the tournament progressed and becoming a more cohesive squad, Williams' team regressed.

This was arguably the most experienced group of youngsters the USA has ever brought to a U-17 Concacaf Championship, so excuses for this unimpressive tournament performance -- winless in its final three games -- will be hard to come by. Williams has had the core of this team together since 2013. Several players have already signed with or have been courted foreign clubs. It played seven games in the previous three months to prepare, traveled to tournaments in Mexico, Turkey and Bosnia in 2014, and got daily training in Bradenton.

One thing Williams won’t have to worry about: high expectations at the World Cup in Chile in October.

March 15 in San Pedro Sula
USA 0 Jamaica 0. (USA wins on PKs, 5-4: Pulisic (saved), Gallardo (goal), Barbir (goal), Zendejas (goal), Nelson (goal), Velela (goal); Nelson (goal), Hinds (missed), Hammond (goal), Senior (goal), Talbott (goal), Marshall (missed).
USA -- M.Pulisic, Olosunde, Velela, Barbir, Nelson; Adams, Zendejas, C.Pulisic, Wright Gallardo, Perez (de la Torre, 83).
Jamaica -- Waite, Brown (Hammond, 88), Senior, Hinds, Grant, Vassell (Dawkins, 59), Brown, Nelson, Bartley, Talbott, Adamolekun.

Concacaf 2015 U-17 World Cup Qualifiers
Mexico
Honduras
USA
Costa Rica

34 comments about "USA avoids debacle in U-17 World Cup qualifying".
  1. Miguel Dedo, March 16, 2015 at 2 p.m.

    We tried to play the beautiful game but fared poorly against teams that put big, fast people on the pitch and employed minimal soccer strategy. (Honduras, Jamaica) Hardly an endorsement of CONCACAF soccer.

  2. Andrew Kear, March 16, 2015 at 2:09 p.m.

    Under Klinsmann its seems even American youth soccer is in decline. Remember, he said he was going to work on America youth development programs. Remember, in 2012 for the first time the US did not qualify for the Olympics.

    It is really hard to find anything positive to say about Klinsmann.

  3. VIC Aguilera, March 16, 2015 at 2:34 p.m.

    I'm going to have nightmares after watching 'HAJI'

  4. Santiago 1314, March 16, 2015 at 2:51 p.m.

    Maybe time to Bring in Hugo Perez...After All, he was the one that Started this "most experienced group"... Let's find out if he can coach or Not... Expectations being so low... What's to Lose??.

  5. John Bishop, March 16, 2015 at 3:15 p.m.

    Santiago, I am not sure that bringing in Hugo Perez would be much different. Look at his chosen U16's who have played 6 tournament games and have only managed to beat Romania. He also favored the dribbling mids at every position including striker. That team is performing even worse losing to Republic of Ireland, Sceck Republic, Norway, etc. Sure, one could say USA deserved more to go to World Cup than Jamaica but can you say they were better than Canada who tied Mexico 2-2???

  6. Lou vulovich, March 16, 2015 at 3:21 p.m.

    I got in a lot of trouble for saying Jamaica technically looked like a recreational team a after the first game. So after watching the second game I would say if their skill level was anywhere near their fighting spirit they would win Concaff easy. As for the USA very disappointed at their performance.

  7. ROBERT BOND, March 16, 2015 at 3:26 p.m.

    amazing, considering where fifa ranks Canada, John....let's give credit, the Jamaicans were big, strong, fast & athletic, the BPL scouts should be heading there, & their coach knows that long ball, tho' much derided now,can work against a team far superior in posssesssion, but not used to playing against it....

  8. Santiago 1314, March 16, 2015 at 3:42 p.m.

    @ John, agreed, Can't say that Hugo is a Good Coach... We have NO clue...He has never been Tested... But these are his Style and Selections coming thru the system, so He obviously thinks he can get the winning results with them...For Sure, Richie CAN'T. ..Time for Sunil to send a message to Jk...et al...Produce or Perish...Richie got to go.. So why not Hugo.. We gonna pick Barca tiki-taca players, got to have a Coach, who believes in it...

  9. David Crowther, March 16, 2015 at 3:54 p.m.

    Should it be a surprise that both the US and Canada wilted as the tournament went on? They were bound to be affected by heat and humidity much more than their opponents.

  10. John Bishop, March 16, 2015 at 4:07 p.m.

    Santiago, Hugo did coach USA's now U16 group. Same thing you saw with U17's yesterday. Posession with no purpose. Hugo played against a similar style team, ODP 97's, who played physical and long balls. I think I heard that ODP had the better chances of the game. Hugo's 99's scored in the last minute of that game to win. The problem is we want to play Tiki-Taca because of Spain 5 years ago. Barca has evolved into a more attacking team. Germany took the Tiki and also turned it into a more attacking style. Our USA teams have gone to a bunch of small tecnical players completely ignoring even the big strong tecnicnal ones we do have to prove what?? We adopted Spain style but with defenders that punt the ball vs Jamaica?? I dont think JK has any power over the youth system. If he did I think we would have noticed by now. Certainly more than one on Youth Staff would have been fired on day One of JK's contract.

  11. John Bishop, March 16, 2015 at 4:10 p.m.

    David, hahahahaha. Thats all I can say about your post. Lame excuse. Thats something we dont need in US Soccer and has to stop. Better tell Germany that after killing in Brazil along with Netherlands. Haahahahahaha.

  12. John Bishop, March 16, 2015 at 4:11 p.m.

    Santiago, whats more we are not picking Barca style players who know "when" to dribble and "when not" to dribble.

  13. Raymond Weigand, March 16, 2015 at 5:20 p.m.

    Puh-Leeze ... these boys should not be expected to win ... this is our nursery for what is to come - the focus is on technique - not on tactics. These same boys will be successful ... and it will be a lesson in being patient with our high school kids. The word 'debacle' in the title could be better ... and our high school kids could be better ... and they are on their way.
    More playing time - in meaningful games - is a victory for the program.

  14. Lou vulovich, March 16, 2015 at 5:25 p.m.

    Jamaica is exactly the team you should be able to play a very successful short passing game against, if you have the players you should be able move the ball quickly, rotate and beat players 1-1. US ball movement was poor with only 2 players involved and 1 on 1 they were not very committed. The problem is not tiki taka it is the lack of an effective system. Those boys don't look like they played together before. No single player to grab the game. No striker. No killer instinct. All of that should be taught.

  15. John Bishop, March 16, 2015 at 5:39 p.m.

    Raymond, what did this USA team do vs Jamaica or Honduras that was meaningful?? What did they learn?? Will 7-10 years have to go by so you can admit you are wrong? We displayed zero cohesion as a unit and very little individually vs freakin Jamaica!!! Victory??

  16. Lou vulovich, March 16, 2015 at 6:12 p.m.

    Those are great comments John. No plan, no system in place. No leadership and inexperienced coaches who learn on the job at the expense of young players. They hope something will eventually work out. That has been the plan for the last 30 years. Why not try the same thing for 30 more.

  17. BJ Genovese, March 16, 2015 at 9 p.m.

    We have some good players on this team. I think Haji Wright was awful and a display of what happens when you pick a kid that has already fully grown at 12. His one v one is amazing. But he could not creat with the likes of Perez, Zendejas, and Pulisic and Williams allowing him to shift all over the front seemed like a wrong move. These kids are really good players but some of them just dont seem to have a great first touch. The ball was flying up 4 feet in the air time after time from the first touch. I liked the Defense alot. But our number 6 has to be more creative. Adams is a great athletic player. I just wish US soccer would not bring kids in at 12-13 and keep the same general group. They have to be more proactive and have b or even c teams.

  18. R2 Dad, March 16, 2015 at 11:37 p.m.

    Sounds like everyone here watched the match--where? I can't find it online. Anyone with a link?

  19. BJ Genovese, March 17, 2015 at 1:08 a.m.

    R2 it was on Foxs2.

  20. ROBERT BOND, March 17, 2015 at 9:26 a.m.

    and unidep

  21. Raymond Weigand, March 17, 2015 at 11:35 a.m.

    John, expectations lead to frustrations. If you are looking for meaningful ... there is enough to find ... one only has to be open to seeing it. The end of game fitness and technique required to be successful in the Penaltys is tangible. One only has to remember Baggio's attempt in the '94 finals against Brazil ... this was one of the best players in the world ... a player who could make any team better ... however, he sent his shot into the sky and had an exhausted look of disbelief.
    Recently I saw Messi miss ... not once but twice ... once with his left and then the rebound with his head ... if this was not Lionel - the clip could have been mistaken for many youngsters.
    The kids are alright ... they get to play some more and will no doubt benefit from the opportunity.

  22. Santiago 1314, March 17, 2015 at 12:51 p.m.

    @John, Sorry, I guess I missed that u-16 World Cup team that Hugo Coached...Oops there is no u16 World Cup...Playing a bunch of "Friendlies" vs Playing "TO WIN" is very different...I still say Hugo would be the best Candidate to take THIS Group to the WC...Might not be the answer, but I think he is the Only answer at THIS time for THIS team...I agree with you about Speeding up Tiki-Taka... I'm more of Madrid or Bayern style...

  23. John Bishop, March 17, 2015 at 1:40 p.m.

    Santaigo, those games were played to win. But if thats not enough. He coached his 99 team last year in a tournament playing a year up vs teams that were all preparing for this year U17 World Cup. They got killed in all their games. Best game they had was vs Japan team that played mostly 99's as well against USA. Those type of decisions to play up like that with a 99 team that wasnt going to compete in this U17 World Cup is what is concerning to me. That was a wasted tournament for those boys. Meanwhile during those same days, our 98/U17 team was playing lesser competition their same age. That 99 group that he put together mostly has currently only managed to beat Romania in 6 games. They lost to Norway, Czeck Rep., Rep. Of Ireland, etc. in Shutouts mostly. If he is our best option, no wonder.

  24. John Bishop, March 17, 2015 at 1:48 p.m.

    Raymond, so tying a game vs St. Lucia or Puerto Rico is meaningful as long as you show fitness to execute PK's?? Do you think this USA U17 team would have faired as well in PK's vs Brazil?? PK Shootout vs Jamaica is quite different pressure wise than vs Brazil. Thats what I mkean Standards. Our Standards should never allow us to be in that position vs a team like Jamaica no matter what the age group. Those are Pk's that should never happen. NEVER. ANy kid is alright. By your standards any player that age can go represent our USA and gain something valuable from it. Any coach too!! Any fan!! From the wat the game was played by USA vs Jamaica there was nothing much to take as positive. That should never happen from our best sv little Jamaica. So maybe we need to not call it National team?? Who cares right?? Its the learning proccess that is valuable, right?? Not the fact that they represent USA, right?? Come on man.

  25. Tommy T, March 17, 2015 at 6:14 p.m.

    Not sure if any of you have boys playing in these age groups but I do. I just had to chime in about the comments above regarding the fact that by and large the same group of players have been in the US system for many, many cycles. I can only speak from our own experience. My son is a GK in the USSDA and was part of US Club's PDP/id2 program for a few years. He was dismissed at age 13 because he was told that at 5'4" he was too small. He was also told that he was technically one of the most gifted in the local program. Fast forward to today - he is 17 and 6'2" - plays over 80% of the games for his academy team. Has he been given another shot at the next level?? Nope. Maybe he isn't good enough or maybe he is - but we wouldn't know - we haven't seen our local USYNT scout at a game or training since last year. The same GKs have been in the program almost from inception - not one new GK has been invited to a camp in the past several cycles. I have a feeling it isn't much different for the field players either but I don't really pay that much attention to the other positions. And, unless you play for a high profile USSDA club your chances of getting scouted are slim. US Soccer needs to stop blindly promoting the same group from age group to age group. Kids grow and develop and are much different players at age 12 then they are at age 17 or age 23. And, as a side note, I feel sorry for any GK that is a 99 age group. Two of the three GKs in that age group pool play their academy ball for the coaches of the U16YNT. Who at US Soccer let that slide?

  26. Kerry Solomon, March 17, 2015 at 8:22 p.m.

    Very simple everyone. Poor ball control, long ball garbage, poor build-up, crosses from the wing with no one to win it and did I say poor ball control.
    i realize they are young but Jamaica had much better ball skills and tactically they were much more aware.
    Richie, surely you can do better than this!!!

  27. Rick Estupinan, March 17, 2015 at 9:40 p.m.

    All I can say is pay this man,(Klinsmann) what ever he is owed and sand him away in shame.While this man is the US,Football (Soccer) will never make it here.

  28. John Bishop, March 17, 2015 at 9:43 p.m.

    Rick this problem has existed well before Klins regarding our youth.

  29. John DiFiore, March 17, 2015 at 11:53 p.m.

    No excuses anymore - we should've finished atop the group. Aren't our youth resources (and facilities-i.e. IMG) greater in the USA than they are in our fellow CONCACAF nations??

  30. John Bishop, March 18, 2015 at 12:10 a.m.

    John, yes and resources are also a very important factor in deciding USSDA status and therefore priority of National Team selection.

  31. Raymond Weigand, March 18, 2015 at 5:05 p.m.

    "Having the U-17s being in Honduras trying to qualify for the World Cup and go through that stuff is priceless. It’s so important for them to deal with different conditions, to deal with emotions, to deal with difficult moments in a game where they have to solve it, to deal with fatigue and climate. It is only making them better." Jurgen K.
    Of course, high school kids need time and support if they are going to grow. Perhaps Jurgen is expressing that these little guys haven't found their rhythm, however, they are close. Of course, the parents and the coaches - will know it when they see it. And become frustrated when they don't.

  32. Dennis Mueller, March 18, 2015 at 6:02 p.m.

    The USA men's youth teams failed to qualify in recent history (last 25 years)
    U-23 in 2004 and 2012
    U-20 in 1991, 1995 and 2011
    U-17 in 2013
    In all others they qualified for their "World Cup" or the Olympics.

  33. BJ Genovese, March 18, 2015 at 6:34 p.m.

    Tommy T.... I absolutely echo your sentiments. My Son as well was ID2/PDP and NTC, at 12-13. But was small, tecnical field player. I understood at the time he was not dominating. But I though for sure they would bring him back for another look two years later when he was bigger and 16YRS... negative.

  34. BJ Genovese, March 20, 2015 at 8:15 p.m.

    Here is a ling to a recent USSDA vs PDP. USSDA is Blue.

    http://share.yesvideo.com/s/YE260ykdaOLaO2ca

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