U.S. train wreck at Under-17 World Cup

The USA opened play at the Under-17 Men's World Cup in Brazil with a 4-1 loss to Senegal. You have to go all the way back to 1997 and a 4-0 loss to Oman (!) to find a heavier U.S. defeat in the group stage of the U-17 World Cup.

As bad as the result was, the manner in which the USA lost was the most disturbing. The U-17s lacked imagination in attack and with only a few exceptions looked ordinary on the ball. The lack of commitment in midfield left the backline repeatedly exposed against Les Lionceaux, who were making their U-17 World Cup debut.

Despite fielding its most experienced team ever at the U-17 level -- 10 of the 14 players who played on Sunday are pros and five have already played in MLS -- the USA crumbled under the pressure.

The defeat is a huge setback for the U-17 program, which has been in flux for the last two years since the end of the residency program in Florida, and for its head coach, former Swiss international Raphael Wicky, who was hired in March as the fourth coach of the current cycle and is now the only full-time coach left on the men's side of the youth program.

The USA got off to a dream start when Gianluca Busio opened the scoring with a header off a cross from Joe Scally in the 3rd minute, but the game soon turned in favor of Senegal, which shredded the U.S. defense, creating numerous opportunities for itself.

The USA held the Senegalese at bay until stoppage time at the end of the first half when defender Tayvon Gray failed to clear a goal kick flicked on into the U.S. penalty area and Souleymane Faye equalized.

Invisible attack. The USA had a huge edge in possession and did well to control the tempo for portions of the game, but its players rarely took on Senegalese defenders. Center forward Ricardo Pepi and Busio were mostly invisible, and Gio Reyna, one of Borussia Dortmund's most promising youth players, rarely got into dangerous positions.

The USA started the second half better than it finished the first half and almost scored in the 55th minute when Gray's volley and rebound were both cleared off the line by Senegalese defender Birame Diaw. The USA faded badly in the last 25 minutes, however, and conceded three goals.

The first came off a U.S. corner kick of all things. Senegalese keeper Ousmane Ba grabbed the corner kick and quickly punted the ball into the U.S. half, where Souleymane Faye was all alone. U.S. keeper Damian Las did well to stop Faye's initial shot, but no U.S. defender was on hand to clear the ball away, allowing sub Aliou Balde to bury the rebound.

Four minutes later, the Senegalese again broke through. Souleymane Faye moved in from the left wing and fired a centering pass Las failed to hold on to, allowing Amete Faye to tap the ball into the empty net.

Gray's rough outing ended with a red card in the 87th minute when he failed to control a long ball and then hauled down Souleymane Faye from behind. On the ensuing free kick, Pape Sarr completed the scoring for Senegal with a brilliant shot into the top corner of the goal.

Late replacement. With group matches coming up against Asian champion Japan and European champion Netherlands, Senegal was supposed to be the easy game.

Senegal was a late U-17 World Cup entrant, replacing Guinea when the latter was kicked out of the tournament for using overage players at the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations. Senegal, which did not win a game in qualifying, dropped eighth players this summer amid rumors that they too were overage.

Despite its lack of experience, Senegal has a long history of sending players to European clubs from academies like Diambars FC, founded by Patrick Vieira, and Generation Foot, which produced the majority of the players for the Senegalese U-17s.

Oct. 27 in Cariacica
USA 1 Senegal 4. Goal: Busio 3; S.Faye 45+3, Balde 72, A.Faye 76, Sarr 88.
USA -- Las, Scally, Gray, Hernandez-Foster, Armour; Saldana (Jasson, 81), Leyva, Busio; Yow (Dobbelaere, 62), Pepi (Ocampo-Chavez, 81), Reyna.
Senegal -- Ba; Diouf, Ndiaye, M.Faye, B.Diaw; Kane, Sy (A. Faye, 59), Sarr, Boye (Balde, 59); S.Diallo (M.Diaw, 81), S.Faye.
Att.: 4,266.
37 comments about "U.S. train wreck at Under-17 World Cup".
  1. David Gee, October 28, 2019 at 7:28 a.m.

    Disgusting performance. Wicky appears to have adopted Berhalter's strategic approach -- confusion. Who said USA teams couldn't play the same system across age groups. U23's anyone. USSF needs a total clean-out, top to bottom. Or maybe just two Berhalters and one Wicky.

  2. Wallace Wade, October 28, 2019 at 7:50 a.m.

    What do you expect when you have an enormous player pool that is never scouted? We aren't fielding our best team. 

  3. Harry Hutcheson, October 28, 2019 at 8:11 a.m.

    Just goes to show that the DA program is not providing the best we have.  Plenty of players out there with no ties to MLS.
    Time for a total restructuring of the US Soccer program.  There is no need for all Head Coaches to be living in Chicago.  Many good coaches have turned down the job because of this requirement.
    Carlos needs to do his job and get rid of the old guard and bring in people who can do the job their given.  Firing Earnie and Greg would be a start.  Yes, it is ok to say the last administration got it wrong.

  4. Peter Bechtold replied, October 28, 2019 at 11:11 p.m.

    Yes and no to WW and HH. Undoubtedly, there are talented boys who fall between the cracks. (In every country probably). Yet there are the Dempseys who commuted for many hours from East Texas to get to FC Dallas and others.
    The team that lost to Senegal had some perfectly skilled players and they controlled the possession stats. What was wrong was visible from the beginning: the GK tossed the ball to his back who waited ,then played to the other back,etc.etc. A carbon copy of GB's scheme. Clearly Ralph Wicky was under instruction to "institute a system". What I don't like is not having a system, but making the players play scared lest they deviate from GB's approach. IMHO that is a recipee for failure. It is not about the (16 years old) players; it is the coaching.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 6:55 a.m.

    Well said, Peter. I was looking at the individual players and it seemed to me that on an individual basis they were better on fundamentals than the senior team. I think Frank made an important point which I would describe as generally poor matchups 1v1 against the Senegal players. I think the explanation that the difference is street soccer is a pretty good one.

    If Wicky made no adjustments to his game plan during halftime, that is a bad sign and also a GB approach. It indicates too high a priority on the pre-game plan and too low a priority over coaching the reality.

  6. frank schoon, October 28, 2019 at 10:09 a.m.

    To blame, GB, Wicky or whatever coach seems to be shortsighted to say the least, it goes much deeper than that.  Just look at the how the Senegalese players man for man handle the ball and compared that to how American players handle the ball, than you will come to the conclusion that it's not about Wicky or GB. Do you actually think that the skills of the Senegalese players is due their coach? You have to ask yourself where do the Senegalese players, who come from a poor country, who basically hone their skills in their developmental years , who are not afraid to take players on, who go right at you with the ball using quick foot movements and are quicker at getting to secondary balls than we are, develop themselves. You think it's because they have excellent playing accommodations, rich parents who can  afford Pay for Play, wear expensive soccer shoes, go to fancy Soccer Camps and attent prestigeous soccer tournaments and travel all over. Well if you believe that we'll continue seeing American players deficient in skills lacking any individuality on the ball.

    So what is the secret of the Senegalese players who skills are better than ours...PICKUP SOCCER.
    We will never improve if PICKUP SOCCER is not a part of our player development. All we produce are nothing but Robots out there who lack individuality on the ball. Just look at how our team plays. It is very sterile because the coaches who taught these players over the years are themselves stiffs in their approach of teaching soccer. They are all licensed, all programmed, following a certain structure in manner of teaching and coaching ,they all employ the same robotic soccer "jargon", they all visit the same soccer conventions for the same info  and if you see one operate ,you've seen them all. This is why all these teams play the same and all so alike. Just follow the ball movements of these and these ars SO PREDICTABLE...

    These coaches are all weak in the technical department but man are they fantastic when it comes to the "theoretical department of soccer. They got more stats, theories , usage of flip charts, GPS systems, laptop computers, than one can count. Ofcourse this is so evident when you watch the U17 or any of these U teams play. It is easy to teach telling them 'spread out', position yourself, come to the ball, create space, switch field, etc...It is the kind of stuff that can be put on a black board anddiagrammed,etc. It is the part of soccer that is easy to teach than to demonstrate a 40meter cross pass on the dribble accurately to a breaking player without losing his stride or tempo,for example. NEXT POST

  7. Philip Carragher replied, October 28, 2019 at 10:46 a.m.

    Pickup soccer is key. Unfortunately, it ain't gonna happen in the lilly-white suburban communities of Chicago.  Maybe the hope lies in the latino/diverse communities with kids who get outside with their dads/moms in their neighborhoods and play until they can't see the ball. And maybe these are the kids that grow up within families that love to watch international soccer and play. Only one or two of the 22 5th-8th graders I coached here in the suburbs actually watched international soccer and it was apparent they did so by how they approached the game. We used to lament that US kids need to be overcoached and, especially around my neighborhood, that's true. So what is a possible successful formula for getting pickup soccer to take root soon? My guess is to find neighborhoods/communites with kids that watch good soccer and play until they get yelled to come inside and do their homework.

  8. frank schoon replied, October 28, 2019 at 11:21 a.m.

    Philip ,it is not about color or being from a lilly white suburban community. Pickup soccer is played by those who love the game of soccer, regardless of where you live....

  9. Wayne Colasinski replied, October 28, 2019 at 12:04 p.m.

    I agree 100 percent. At 63 years old and away from playing the game for 15 years, I recently had the pleasure of assisting in coaching my brother's under 10 boys' team for a couple of seasons. I'm no longer involved except for watching the occasional game. I've been around this team for about a year and a half. After all that time, most of the boys can barely kick or pass the ball over 10 or 15 yards, many still kicking with the toe. They seem to have little sense of the flow of the game and playing with each other. Sometimes it's hard to believe that some of these kids have played organized soccer for 2 1/2 or 3 years. But it seems apparent to me that for the majority of these boys, soccer is a 3 hour a week organized activity (2 one hour practices during the week and a game on Saturday). I don't believe they touch a ball outside of those 3 hours. And it shows. Until American kids enjoy the game enough to put down their phones and video games, we will continue to see results like this. Maybe this game was a fluke because I know there are some good players on this U17 team. But in my opinion, the fact remains that if our kids don't take up the game with more passion, we will always be a second rate soccer nation.

  10. Sean Mara replied, October 28, 2019 at 1:01 p.m.

    And if most of the 7 FC Dallas players that just made the u15 team were playing in the Dallas Cup last April I would fear for the next group coming thru.  The FC Dallas team lost in the final (rain soaked field though affected quality of match) to Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 0r 3-2 but our average DA 05 team, TSF, tied Frankfurt in the group stage.  Results don't tell the whole story but you would think a team with 6 or 7 national team players would crush Einthracht Frankfurt if we tied them.  

    Havning said that I understand there are some quality players that have made it.

    By the way, the 78 that made the top East Coast ID camp included some real headscratchers but maybe they already have the top ones in mind and aren't that meticulous about assessing the rest....but they should be.  ( I have games on tape with players that were selected and I found a couple selections baffling).  

  11. Frans Vischer replied, October 28, 2019 at 3:28 p.m.

    Amen, Frank!

  12. cony konstin replied, October 28, 2019 at 4:26 p.m.

    We need a soccer Revolution in the USA. We need 600,000 futsal courts so kids can play king of the court, /365, for free and with no adult i24/7nterference. We need to create a Rucker  park version of soccer. We need to create Courts of Dreams. You build them. They will come



  13. frank schoon replied, October 28, 2019 at 4:40 p.m.

    Frans, I'm surprised your last name isn't spelled Visser . Your ancestors were former fisherman....

  14. David Ruder replied, October 28, 2019 at 8:54 p.m.

    African players don't have soccer moms to take them to practice. They just go out on any field or street in the morning, mostly barefooted and play all day long with anything that looks like a ball against each other and develop these skills at an early age. Their heroes are not rock stars but national and international players who play all over the world. They want to be just like them because there isn't much of a future where they live now. 

  15. David Ruder replied, October 28, 2019 at 8:54 p.m.

    African players don't have soccer moms to take them to practice. They just go out on any field or street in the morning, mostly barefooted and play all day long with anything that looks like a ball against each other and develop these skills at an early age. Their heroes are not rock stars but national and international players who play all over the world. They want to be just like them because there isn't much of a future where they live now. 

  16. Peter Bechtold replied, October 28, 2019 at 11:01 p.m.

    Frank, you are correct about one thing. Pickup soccer is the way to develop touch and feel for the game. When I was 10 years old in Occupied Germany we played in a street with very little traffic. We had no ball,but my mother sowed some socks together and we kicked them around for hours.( I learned later that the GREAT PELE played with a grapefruit on the beach in Santos.)
    But here in the US this will be very difficult to replicate. There is plenty of green space and inexpensive balls available.
    What you are calling for exists mainly in one sport: Inner city basketball where boys from the 'hood play on concrete courts until well after dark. Look at the results: College coaches import BB players from these downtown hoods, and the white suburban boys who practice foul shots and 3-pointers at home no longer make their HS teams, much less college.

  17. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 6:48 a.m.

    Peter, that is right pick basketball up exists in the inner city and that is why I say we need to establish a culture of pick up soccer.  If you read what Sean Mara says, he states there is pickup soccer where he lives. Pick up is perhaps only in small pockets here and there in the US , but it will come about in time as a culture...remember everything has a beginning, it takes time.

  18. Wallace Wade, October 28, 2019 at 10:14 a.m.

    spot on Frank!!! I have been saying this for years!! This is the largest developmental blind spot in the US

  19. frank schoon, October 28, 2019 at 10:37 a.m.

    10-14 players are pros.....You've got to be kidding. Seriously?? These DAs are a joke. You have to ask yourself Who are these coaches? who teaches the American players? Oh, you say, Valderama, Cubillas, Zlatan, Hugo Sanchez, van Persie, Gullit, David Silva, or other greats. I WISH!!!  Actually these are the types of coaches we need for our boys to develop, who can sense better  how the individual player needs to develop in relation to how they play in a system, whereas these current group of coaches about form and how the team is structured, the theoretical, in other words....

    I hope, SA would do an interview with the Senegalese coach and ask him how his players learn in their free time, or how they develop as far as PICKUP soccer goes, when they were young. It is this type of info which to me is important to know that can improve our player development , not another coaching license or some other theoretical BS coaching course...

  20. Goal Goal, October 28, 2019 at 11:08 a.m.

    I said it when US Soccer started blowing it's whistle that this was the most experienced team ever because many played in the pro's and had so much experience.  The pro's right.  This is MLS and USL sub teams of MLS.  Some of the players chosen played occasionally the majority rode the bench as occasional subs.  How you gauge this as professional experience is a mystery to me.  Yes we had some players playing in Germany and England but those players did zero during this game.  The basics were slaughered by this team.  Errant passing, poor ball handling, no creativity. no one moveing off the ball, the only attack we had was the long ball.  Strikers back playing defense, we were beat to the ball on the ground and in the air.  To me after about 15 minutes into the game we looked very tired.

    Coach has to take some of the blame but I don't think all of it.  This coach was handed players by the previous coaches who identified these players as the best we have.  Sure Coach Wicky picked a few players but never had the chance to view the talent that had been previously turned away by previous coaches.  Players were turned away who were being succesful all over Europe in Spain, England Dutch, Mexico.  Players who are starting everyday and playing everyday for their respective clubs who are very well recongnized.  US Soccer failed this team and this coach.  You have to put players in their who are game savvy, playing daily against top competition day in and day out.  MLS and USL come on give us all a break.  US Soccer is a political football where relationships is the driving force vs identifying and going after the best talent.  We have it we just have a hard time finding it.

  21. frank schoon, October 28, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    Breaking news......Dest has chosen to play for the US..

  22. Sean Mara, October 28, 2019 at 1:43 p.m.

    MLS DA coaches should keep tabs more on players that aren't able to commit to the DA...and should release some of their rosters (26 on a roster) to be the main player elsewhere but bring them in periodically to monitor their progress as players.  Why travel 4 hours to not play or play 2 minutes (literally) or not even be rostered but you are no allowed to play for decent team locally.

    My kids played in the DA 2005 for last two years.  Some players are commuting 90 minutes to get to training at RBull or nycfc....or PDA.  Get out of the car and play pick up or play locally...bring them in on the weekends for informal games to keep tabs on them.

  23. frank schoon replied, October 28, 2019 at 2:57 p.m.

    Sean , I would suggest instead of driving so much, stay around your area ,look where there are Pickup soccer games are being held after school perhaps in Hispanic communities. 
     I would suggest maybe to start a website for pickup soccer  telling where people are playing or could play.
    Instead of driving all this time, let your kid practice shooting ,dribbling, passing strictly  with the leftfoot or weakfoot, once a week. I can guarantee you that it will benefit his development then some licensed goofball telling your son what to do , where to go, create space, look up, count how many toes you have....etc. Or pay someone an older player(s) to play pick up, one on or two on two or whatever, on concrete with a rubber ball,small and/or big...Perhaps advertise or use website to make it known....Garrincha would practice his dribbling by taking on 3 or 4 players as an exercise,do that for 30min. There is so much you can on your own that DA doesn't do. 
    Hang a hulahoop on the fence of a baseball diamond and start aiming for it on the dribble or stationary ,either foot.... 

  24. Sean Mara replied, October 28, 2019 at 4:50 p.m.

    I agree Frank! I live in Kearny, NJ. Plenty of pick soccer here.  Next door, in Harrison a local player was just signed by Red Bull II, Omar Sowe.  Played 4 years at Harrison high and more importantly played pick up at The Courts.

  25. frank schoon replied, October 28, 2019 at 4:54 p.m.

    Sean, once "pickup soccer " becomes part of our culture, you can kiss "pay for play" goodbye for you don't need it. This is how parents can safe money via pick up soccer and it's so much better...

  26. Sean Mara, October 28, 2019 at 2:07 p.m.

    DA teams seem more preoccupied with imposing a style of play rather than teaching how to take a free kick for example.  More on tactics and style than individual technique.

    By the way, #13 on the 2nd goal shows no desire to get ahead of Balde who got to the rebound despite having 10 yards on him initially.  

  27. R2 Dad replied, October 29, 2019 at 9:43 a.m.

    Sean, this is what club soccer coaches do. There is very little technique training, mostly because those coaches know so little of it! I just reffed a U12 team that is supposedly playing at a "high" level--norcal Gold used to mean something, anyway--and the team could barely string together 3 passes. Their keeper was allowed to punt long (on a 9v9 1/2 pitch), players knew only to kick the ball 1 way (some sidefooting, some on the laces, whatever was their default), heads down while on the ball, passing to noone to relieve pressure--it was painful to watch. This coach was unhappy because his team almost got a result (via 2 own-goals), not that his kids were playing so poorly. 2 or 3 years down the road, when pay-to-play dumps them at 15 when their crappy club can no longer field a team (or it blows up), these kids will still be playing to same kickball their idiot coaches allowed them to play all along. It's still the case that american parents know nothing about the game, and their kids don't watch professional matches. Until they do, these bad clubs will continue harvesting parent's wallets, unable to develop players at all.

  28. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    Guys, can you imagine all the money being wasted on Pay to Play for you're not getting the right product.

  29. Seth Vieux replied, October 29, 2019 at 4:50 p.m.

    R2 I think you're right about a lot of club coaches, but certainly not all. I'm seeing generally positive progress at U10-14 levels, though certainly in an 8-10 team league most of the games will not see two teams against each other that both possess some level of technical quality. 

    I think we're starting to see far more coaches in their 30s and 40s with some level of playing experience than when I was a kid, but still squarely in the minority. Of course 'some level of playing experience' when talking about coaches in their 30s and 40s who only remember the '4-4-2 stopper/sweeper direct long balls to the strikers' is possibly detrimental.

  30. David Ruder, October 28, 2019 at 9:01 p.m.

    African kids don't have soccer moms take them to practice. They play often barefooted on any kind of a rough field or dirt village street with anything that looks like a ball. They play against each other for many hours developing these great skills. They don't have rock stars to look up to, but to many African soccer players all over the world and they want to be just like them, because there is no future for them where they live now. 

  31. Peter Bechtold replied, October 28, 2019 at 10:52 p.m.

    Correct, David. I coached in Africa a long time ago and your description is correct. But we are not there, we are over here. I have observed over the decades that Nigeria and Ghana win disproportianately more than Europeans at the U-17 and U-19 levels, but their senior teams do not. Is this a question of peaking early ?
    The barefoot playing with less than a proper soccer ball can not be replicated here, no matter how often Frank S. writes about it.

  32. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 9:40 a.m.

    Peter, your statement <the barefoot playing with less than a proper soccer ball can not be replicated here, no matter how often Frank S. writes about it> Is totally ludicrous! Where have I stated that we need to play barefooted with less than a soccerball? I have stated we need to play pickup soccer and we need to establish a culture of pickup soccer which will take time for ,after all, we are a little behind other countries who have been playing much longer than we have...we're still new add it...
    We are in a fortunate position in this country taht we can play pickup in the grass on concrete on gravel and you don't have to live in the inner city...that's the beauty of it... And as far as playing with less than a soccer ball, what do you call a Futsall ball. It doesn't matter the size of the ball.

    Yes, African youth teams at U17 and U19 tend to win more and beat European teams but their senior teams don't. That has nothing to do with peaking but  with European senior teams play a more sophisticated soccer, more efficient and smarter game. African players who play in Europe in interviews will explain the difference between African and European style soccer. They say the African players are less educated about the tactical part of the game , are less disciplined in their play, and prefer ball handling skills, technical display. This is why African players are more technical than European players. Because the African game lack the tactical sophistication and senior European  teams play smarter and efficiently without superfluous use of technical skills which the African player rely on, the European senior teams win more...

  33. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 2:38 p.m.

    Frank, I know you have talked about the advantage of playing in the street with flat sole shoes and I am also pretty sure you have talked about playing with tennis and other types of balls. Barefoot is the equivilent of street shoes in some economies. I have a friend from a depressed part of the US and he went barefoot when he was a kid, like all the kids there. Shoes were only worn to school and church. It isn't just Africa that has economically depressed areas.

  34. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 3:31 p.m.

    Bob, I agree totally what you say, but the comment right above goes to what Peter stated<the barefoot playing with less than a proper soccer ball can not be replicated here, no matter how often Frank S. writes about it.> Replicated here ??? infers that I suggest that we should play pickup barefooted here. He states something that I have never suggested and proceeds to make a strawman out of this and says this can't be done or replcated here.  Who knows , I have no idea where he came up with this....

  35. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 3:36 p.m.

    Bob, BTW, you know what is also a good exercise is to play soccer on grass wearing flats. It makes you think about the movements you make with the ball or running to the ball or defensively, switching directions...Kids who continually slide and fall begin to learn about what you're planning to do ahead of time

  36. Seth Vieux replied, October 29, 2019 at 5:42 p.m.

    This Summer I was fortunate enough to have some time available to get a pick up game going in our small town. Now yes I know the fact that an adult coach is even setting up the pick up game is in itself contradictory, but just trying to encourage the kids from the teams I coahc to set one up themselves the summer before did not materialize at all. So this Summer two mornings a week (all my schedule would allow) I drug out a bag of balls, pinnies and pug nets and let the kids organize their own teams (only stepping in when they insisted on boys v girls resulting in 4 v 10), build their own size fields, etc. I even did a better than expected job of minding my own business off to the side and not coaching them unless they asked for it :-)

    In all I think there were usually 15 or so boys and girls between the ages of 10-12 most days, occasionally getting around 20. Unfortunately my urging them to invite friends who didn't play with the club to come out didn't yield any new players, but for a first year of trying to get it going I'd call it a modest success. Will definitely be doing it again this Summer and hope to get even more particpation, including more older and younger kids. 

    I'd encourage coaches to do whatever you can to get pick up games and uncoached time going in your communities. Of course it's best if we're not even involved, but we can give it a nudge in the right direction my at least providing some cones/nets/pinnies/etc. 

  37. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 5:59 p.m.

    Wish we had more coaches like you, Seth.

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