Collapse against Croatia doesn't bode well for USA at U-17 World Cup

By Mike Woitalla

It's difficult to imagine the USA going far at the U-17 World Cup based on their second-half performance on Tuesday against Croatia, which overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit for a 2-2 final score that flattered the Americans. But, despite opening with a 2-0 loss to Nigeria, the USA has a clear path to the second round -- beating host Chile on Friday.

Since the biennial U-17 World Cup expanded from 16 to 24 teams in 2007, the top two finishers of the six groups qualify for the second round along with the best four third-place finishers, and never has a team failed to advance to the knockout stage with four points. A win over the Chileans would give the USA four points. A loss and Coach Richie Williams' team will be the first U.S. squad to exit in the group play since 2001. (Williams failed to qualify the USA for the 2013 U-17 World Cup.)

How lucky was the USA to escape with a tie on Tuesday? Croatia hit the post three times, including twice in stoppage time, after Luka Ivanusec scored the 2-2 equalizer in the 77th minute.


In a first half, Croatia threatened mainly with long-range shots handled by U.S. goalkeeper William Pulisic, and the Americans went ahead on goals in the 20th and 40th minutes. Christian Pulisic was instrumental in both.

After Josh Perez delivered the ball to Luca de la Torre streaking through the middle, three Croatians converged on de la Torre as he stroked the ball into Pulisic’s path. His low shot from 12 yards beat the diving keeper Adrian Semper for the USA’s first goal of the tournament.

Pulisic, who had been attacking mainly from the left, appeared on the right wing five minutes before halftime and drove in a cross that Brandon Vazquez headed hard into the net from seven yards out. Vazquez had missed an open-net sitter from five yards four minutes earlier.

While the USA managed a slight edge (53%-47%) in first-half possession, the second half was stunningly lop-sided in Croatia’s favor.

The Croatians out-shot the USA 18-1 in the final 45 minutes after an 11-5 edge in the first half. The full game possession stats favored Croatia 57%-43%. (The Croatians had 14 corner kicks to the USA's 4).

"I can't explain what happened in the second half," Williams said in the postgame press conference. "In the first we scored twice and had some other chances, but above all we were able to keep control of the ball. I don't think my players were overconfident at 2-0, but they lost their composure: you can't defend a whole match against a team as good as that and who put that much pressure on you like Croatia. At the end, not everything is bad, we have one point and we can still advance."

Desperate goalmouth clearances and saves by William Pulisic kept the Croatians at bay until the 65th minute when Ivanusec beat left back John Nelson to Borna Sosa’s high cross. The deflection landed conveniently for Karlo Majic to slam home from six yards.

Croatia continued to its torment of the U.S. defense, especially on right back Tyler Adams’ side, from where Josip Brekalo broke through to lay on a ball that Ivanusec struck into the net from 19 yards.

Can this U.S. team beat the Chileans? The hosts tied Croatia, 1-1, in their opener, but weren't outplayed like the Americans. Chile matched the Croatians in scoring chances and had more possession. The Chileans will have 20,000 home fans behind them. But also lots of pressure. After falling 5-1 to Nigeria on Tuesday, Chile too needs a win to avoid ouster.

Oct. 20 in Vina del Mar
USA 2 Croatia 2. Goals: C.Pulisic (de la Torre) 20, Vasquez (C.Pulisic) 40; Majic 65, Ivanusec (Brekalo) 77.
USA – W. Pulisic; Adams, Arellano, Barbir, Nelson; McCabe, de la Torre (Wright, 83), C. Pulisic, Zendejas; Vasquez (Gallardo 75), Perez (Calvillo, 68).
Croatia -- Semper, Sosa, Erlic (Dira, 44), Kalaica, Soldo, Brekalo, Durasek (Ivanusec, 44), Majic (Babic, 83), Moro, Lovren, Sverko.

Croatia coach Dario Basic: "If you offered the draw at halftime, I would have taken it. But after how we played the second half, we deserved the victory. In the first half we defended poorly and they scored two goals out of three shoots, but we had our chances. Then we asked for the heart of our players and they responded with personality and also with talent. Either you believe or not in luck, today it was not on our side." --

U-17 World Cup: TV Schedule & Results
Brazil, the second most successful nation at the U-17 World Cup with three titles to Nigeria's four, recovered from its 1-0 opening loss to South Korea with a 1-0 win over England, which started with a 1-1 tie with Guinea. ... Two-time U-17 World Cup champion Mexico, which opened with a 2-0 win over Argentina, faces Australia on Wednesday (3:30 pm ET, Telemundo, FS2).

13 comments about "Collapse against Croatia doesn't bode well for USA at U-17 World Cup".
  1. Santiago 1314, October 20, 2015 at 9:37 p.m.

    I can Explain it to you Richie.!!!...Coaching 101...The WORST Score to have at Half-Time IS.???..???...???..2-0.!!!...When they Countered with 2 Wide Wings and Crosses; You should have Countered with 5-3-2...You left Your Outside Backs TOOooo Far Inside, and they were always LATE in getting Out to Cut Off the Crosses...Pissed Away a Good 1st Half...Good choice with Vasquez at Hi-Forward and Pulisic at the Lo-Forward...7 for all the Players; Much more Passion and Play...2 for Coaching

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, October 21, 2015 at 11:20 p.m.

    Oh, and Coach Richie, Don't Ever make a Comment like this again; ""I can't explain what happened in the second half," Williams said"... We already knew that you didn't have a Clue, but it would be better if you Players didn't know you were CLUELESS...

  3. Miguel Dedo, October 21, 2015 at 9:16 a.m.

    Croatia was the notably better team. Their front runners had no trouble creating their own shots, Nelson was our only defender who could stay in front of the player he was marking. 53 - 47 possession? It looked like 80 - 20. We often did not even get the first touch on our own throw-ins. Our guys did a courageous job to hang on against a superior team.

  4. cisco martinez, October 21, 2015 at 1:04 p.m.

    Klinsmann, is this the development you were paid for? 2/3 Olympics we've not participated in, U-17 might get knocked out in the First round, U-20 not doing well, where is the funnel for development into the senior squad.

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 21, 2015 at 3:59 p.m.

    Fair enough, although the U-20s did pretty well this year.

  6. Paul Estrada replied, October 21, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    All the US failure (and even the illusion of some success, e.g. U20) is up to the fact that the USA has not and continues to not produce enough players with even basic technical skills and ability to make decisions on the field. I am not sure how much Klinsmann is at fault for this. At the A level, its obvious the players coming in all lack abilities that even Honduran players showed when they burst the bubble of US progress earlier this month in olympic qualifying.

    Te USA-Costa Rica game was a perfect example of for everyone to see. And leave it to that dumbass Taylor Twellman to make an inane comment. Paraphrasing, "Costa Rica don't have great players, they just have a tactical plan." Excuse me but executing a tactical plan is far easier when you have technical players who can think quickly. Please fire that idiot.

  7. cisco martinez, October 21, 2015 at 5:41 p.m.

    Klinsmann is the technical director/Men's national coach, a technical director is responsible for the development of our youth national teams, which is supposed to be the funnel to the national team.

  8. David Mont, October 22, 2015 at 8:07 a.m.

    It's not like in the late 90's and 2000's the US had a better youth system, yet the various US youth teams did reasonably well in the Olympics, U-20 and U-17 WC. Over the last few years, with Klinsmann in charge, it's been one embarassment after another.

  9. cisco martinez, October 22, 2015 at 11:34 a.m.

    If anyone looked at the Bradenton Academy and its player development that occurred from 1999-2002, we produced Donovan, Convey, Beasley, Oneywu, Beckerman, Johnson, Davis, these players were the core of the U-17 success that made it to the U-17 semi-finals.

  10. BJ Genovese, October 23, 2015 at 9:23 a.m.

    I just watched this last night. The first half had its very few brief moments. They were very very lucky to have a 2-0 going into half and should have realized that. Or maybe they did and panicked.

  11. Soccer Madness replied, October 23, 2015 at 10:34 a.m.

    Thats exactly what happened. The coach felt they were very fortunate and decided that the best tactic was to hold on for dear life and bunker. Chile got whooped by Nigeria but kept going at them and missed quite a few chances. That game could have easily finished 5-4. Argentina got whooped by Germany but also missed a few very good chances. That game could have finsihed 4-2 at least. In both cases the better teams won but the losing teams impressed at least with a few players showing skill and grit. Who did we impress?

  12. Santiago 1314 replied, October 23, 2015 at 2:50 p.m.

    NOBODY...But we can Put Chile to Sleep, with some "Sterile Possesion"...They have to Win...We can actually Tie and Advance as 2nd, If Croatia Losses by 3 goals..Wouldn't that be a Miracle

  13. Soccer Madness, October 24, 2015 at 9:05 p.m.

    Well looks like we only put our own fans to sleep with another heartless effort. Where is accountability in all this?? Is Richie getting fired enough?? How about firing person who left him on after missing previous U17 World Cup? Can it be more obvious we need a complete overhaul ??

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