Under-17 World Cup is slightly brighter for USA after second game

A 0-0 tie, how the USA's game with Japan ended at the Under-17 Men's World Cup in Brazil on Wednesday, sounds a lot better if you consider how the Americans started the tournament. That was a 4-1 loss to Senegal.

By getting a point against Japan, the USA knows it should advance to the knockout stage with a win over the Netherlands on Saturday. Since 2007, when the U-17 World Cup expanded to a 24-team format --  which sends four third-place group finishers to the second round -- four points have always been enough to reach the round of 16.

The prospect of needing to beat the Netherlands looked a lot more daunting before the tournament, which the Dutch entered as 2018 and 2019 U-17 European champions. But they arrived without their top striker, Jong Ajax's Brian Brobbey, because of injury, and followed up the Japan loss with a 3-1 loss to Senegal.

That by no means makes the USA the favorite against the Dutch, who did better against Senegal than the USA did. Both took an early lead, had more possession, and held the Africans at 1-1 up to the midway point before foundering. But the Dutch stayed even until the 87th minute while the USA was down 3-1 by the 76th and gave up a fourth in the 88th. But perhaps most concerning is how unpolished the USA looked against Japanese.

Stark differences. There was something delightful about watching how crisply the Japanese passed the ball, how they delivered it so precisely to each other. Quite often, what looked like a clearance landed perfectly at a teammate's feet. Even when they intercepted with headers, they usually directed the ball successfully to teammates. When the Japanese seemed exceedingly patient -- stroking passes to each other while the Americans chased and raced around to close gaps -- they exuded the confidence of a team in control.

The USA, although not awful, sent significantly more passes out of bounds or to the opponent. That contributed to the another stark difference between the two teams.

The Japanese frequently won the ball back right after an unsuccessful attack. Not only because of U.S. errors, but also by snatching the ball in one-on-ones. They looked the more efficient tacklers, while committing nine fouls to the 14 called on the USA, which reached nine by halftime.

The Americans sustained attack to some degree early in the game and for the first 15 minutes of the second half. For the last half hour, the Japanese owned the ball most of the time while the USA retreated. That cannot be attributed solely the tactic of playing for a tie -- although the USA aborted a stoppage-time attack in the midfield and passed all the way back to goalkeeper Chituru Odunze -- but also to inferior technique and the inability to link up. On a couple of occasions, with the ball at his feet, left back George Bello held his arms out beckoning teammates to make themselves available. Not that Bello was guiltless. He mis-trapped an easy ball so that it trickled out of bounds and sent passes to the foes -- like he did in the 80th minute after one of his gestures, as if he'd given up on finding teammates.

Bello at least created some danger going forward, without much help from midfielder Andres Jasson, whom Coach Raphael Wicky didn't sub until the 78th minute despite him providing some of the team's sloppiest play. On the other side of midfield, Ethan Dobbelaere also looked out of his depth and became more of a liability as the game progressed his misguided passes. (Wicky used only two subs.) Adam Saldana toiled defensively but failed to bring cohesion to a midfield whose standout player was Daniel Leyva, a defensive force and at times impressive on the ball, sparking some counterattacks.

Jasson and Dobbelaere were two of the five changes Wicky made from the first game, in addition to Odunze, central defender Nicolas Carrera and Bello.

Odunze's stop on Yamato Wakatsuki's header in the 74th minute was acrobatic and a game-saver. And tipping Wakatsuki's rocket over the bar two minutes into stoppage time is another reason why the 6-foot-7 keeper should remain the starter. The header he saved was the only close-range chance the Japanese had, which is a credit much to the play of central defenders Carrera and Kobe Hernandez-Foster, as well as Leyva.

Reyna's impact. Striker Ricardo Pepi saw little service and it was surprising that he didn't know how offside he was when he knocked home a rebound after keeper Zion Suzuki bobbled Jasson's shot. When Pepi turned his ankle in the 55th minute, Wicky finally inserted Gio Reyna. Unless Reyna had a fitness issue not revealed -- he certainly looked 100 percent -- it was a bewildering move to keep him on the bench that long. (Japan coach Yoshiro Moriyama also waited until the second half to bring in his No. 10, Jun Nishikawa, who's reportedly being courted by Barcelona.) Reyna may have had a poor game against Senegal, but surely his history indicates that was most likely an aberration.

Upon entering, Reyna immediately made an impact. He was certainly the player Japan struggled most to contain. His sly long-range free kick was a brief sign of innovation from the USA, even if it flew too high. With five minutes left, Reyna dribbled from the halfway line and by the time he squeezed through Japan's last defenders, found himself in the goal area, where Suzuki thwarted the best U.S. scoring chance.

In contrast to the self-assured Japanese players, the Americans often looked nervous, which perhaps contributed to the misplays. Nerves can't be an excuse come the third game, when the players and coach will have had two matches to find their bearings.

While so far not much indicates Wicky's team will impress at this tournament, recovering from a horrible first game for a decent chance to advance was a requisite first step.

TRIVIA. The USA has played to only one scoreless tie in its previous 61 games at the U-17 World Cup: the 0-0 against New Zealand at the Mexico-hosted 2011 tournament.

Oct. 30 Cariacica
USA 0 Japan 0.
USA -- Odunze; Scally, Carrera, Hernandez-Foster, Bello; Dobbelaere (Yow, 78), Leyva, Saldana, Jasson; Busio, Pepi (Reyna, 55).
Japan -- Suzuki; Hata, Suzuki, Handa, Nakano; Mito (Nakano, 74), Fujita, Naruoka, Tamura (Sumi, 88); Wakatsuki, Toyama (Nishikawa, 57).
Yellow cards: USA -- Carrera 83. Japan -- none.
Referee: Guillermo Guerrero (Ecuador)
Att.: 3,878

Stats: USA/Japan
Shots: 7/10
Shots on Goal: 2/4
Saves: 4/2
Corner Kicks: 3/9
Fouls: 14/9
Offside: 1/0
Possession: 44%/56%

25 comments about "Under-17 World Cup is slightly brighter for USA after second game".
  1. Bob Ashpole, October 31, 2019 at 6:10 a.m.

    Check your possession stats.

  2. frank schoon, October 31, 2019 at 10:11 a.m.

    What can I say. It is just mindboggling to me to see how bad the US players are; and realize this is suppose to be our cream of the crop. We're touting are DA development  program, saying how good it is...YEAH RIGHT!! Well, what I see out there is that DA needs to be looked at ,studied, as far what are they really teaching or rather emphasizing for one thing and the other, WHO are these licensed coaches teaching these kids, WHAT ARE THERE CAPABILITIES, technically speaking. Bottom line, the parents, to me, are being cheated and not getting their money's worth. The DA program is getting away with their lousy development of players because the parents are not educated enough to understand it.

    As far as teaching these kids, I want to know the technical capabities of thEse so-called licensed coaches. How well can they demonstrate skills. At Ajax, for example, a youth who plays wing will get to work with a former Ajax player who was winger. He can teach, demonstrate different moves related different situations, game savviness. Teach how to cross the ball, head high, waste high, to the first or second post, bending away, straight line cross, how to create space for yourself before the getting ball, and other inside details. The Ajax youth get to work with someone who played for Ajax commensurate with the youth's position.

    For example,just a simple procedure as creating space for yourself on the wing,is non-existent, when watching our boys play. And don't forget, 10 of 14 of our youth are so-called "professional"...REALLY? You have to ask who teaches our players to important elements of the game... Oh, yeah,we have Joe Blow who played for Pizza Hut United, and has a Coaching License.
    Let's face Technically dexterity and technical know-how is not a must when obtaining official coaching license. And this is where so much of yout fail in their development, especially when it comes to individual development. NEXT POST.

  3. John Polis, October 31, 2019 at 11:02 a.m.

    To me, watching the difference between the way Japan plays and the way the Americans were playing, similar to watching how the Japanese women play and how the American women play. The big difference is the American women compare much favorably to their Japanese counterparts and are superior in key positions. Yesterday, Japan knew how it wanted to play and has an idea of how it needs to play to win. The Americans, disjointed, flailing about, failing to string passes together, looked adrift and ill-equipped to win games in this tournament. A win against Holland might get them through, but unless some sort of switch is flipped, I don't see this team doing anything in this tournament.

  4. frank schoon, October 31, 2019 at 11:11 a.m.

    Our boys get to work with coaches, who are stronger in theoretical part of the game than the technical part of the game. Any idiot can learn the theoretical, the tactics the blackboard part of the game. But when you see our boys out there feeling "lost" not able to handle ball under pressure, in small spaces, trying to pass to teammate, tells you they are being coached/developed improperly. Did you see how often we lose 1v1 duels against the Japanese players, idem ditto, Senegalese. That tells you we lack a strength on the ball, we lack a presence on the ball, and without that you can talk all you want to talk about tactics, but it's futile.

      Passing the ball back to the centerbacks who have no pressure, pass it to the other centerback, and a long ball follows ;then we expect usually a long ball downfield. In the first few minutes, our whole team except one was in the Japanese half, from the midline we passed back to the goalie...UNREAL, 60 meters backwards ,WOW , talk about taking chances. If you're that bad off as far as passing options go than pass it into the opponent's penalty, AT LEAST.  We so often pass back to our centerbacks  that I'm willing to bet they touched the ball more than our midfielders combined or our front line combined.

    Many long balls go downfield means bad positioning off the ball.  Somehow the coaches since they all copy each other,  lack any ingenuity or independence of thought, are placing the centerbacks in penalty box to receive the ball from the goalie. Who came up with this BRILLIANT strategy. Who are those idiot instructors at the coaching school telling coaching to do this. What happens as a result of the centerbacks receiving the ball in the penalty box so close to their own goal is that it INVITES not only the opponents all the way into your own half , but also gives space away to the opponents, which usually result  in blasting the ball long to get out of the pressure in your own half.
    Or the #6 comes at the edge of the penalty box asking for the ball ball with back facing downfield...JUST STUPID. Or the centerbacks in the penalty area under pressur quickly pass to the  back, receive with their back facing downfield , likewise will pass long upfield or pass back to goalie   who will kick it long. NEXT POST

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, October 31, 2019 at 3:11 p.m.

    That is the coaching, not the players. The conventional wisdom for team tactics in the US has been exactly the opposite of what I consider good soccer for over a decade now. Dutch Style principles is Cruyff and the like expressed the principles, but the principles of good soccer are universal. 

    Instead of staying compact and controlling the center of the field, conventional wisdom has the team expand into a 60+yard circle with 3 midfielder in the middle. Jill Ellis used to expand the shape too, but she did it to dominate the game by advantageous 1v1 matchups, essentially forcing the opponents to defend man to man instead of zone. Against most opponents, the US women are far superior so it works for them, but how many teams can dominate in every position that way? For the last 10 years, the convention is coach controlled pattern passing for "playing out of the back". Ugh! They should describe the covention as "playing in the back" rather than "out of".

    Not all coaches follow conventional wisdom. I have seen a group of US 10 year olds that are technically and tactically better than adults. They were every bit as good as the Barca 10 year olds. I forget their coaches name, but he showed what happens when young players in the fundamental stage have an excellent coach. Good soccer isn't about physical maturity, age or size. The average person can learn to play good soccer. It is just that there is very little opportunity for children to play good soccer.  

  6. frank schoon replied, October 31, 2019 at 3:39 p.m.

    Bob, playing out of the back is fine, but it doesn't begin with the backline but with the midline or frontline. The initial pass should be further upfield means 2 things, one, you have plenty of players behind the ball if you lose it unlike with if you the build up beginning with the backline, and two, by skipping a station to one further upfield you can employ the 3rd off the ball who is facing downfield and can receive the ball on the run as well thus creating a fast tempo attack.
    But what is happening here is that these coaches are allowing their centerbacks in the penalty to receive the ball so close to the goal, forcing the outside backs to drop back further, thus giving more space away to the opponents; and then the #6 comes back as well with his back facing downfield. So picture this their 5 players who are positioned near the penalty area, meaning the team is now split in two pieces for the rest of the team is somewhere further downfield with no back support. Why Do  you need 5 players in such a little piece of real estate to bring the ball up, for it is so inefficient.  You're making it easy for the opponents to contain half your team in front of their own goal....It's crazy to see this happening..

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, October 31, 2019 at 6:11 p.m.

    My lament is that some coaches, due to conventional wisdom, are training their players to play this way.

  8. frank schoon replied, October 31, 2019 at 6:32 p.m.

    Bob , I’m seeing this Trent everywhere, especially on the pro level where youth and college coaches are so influenceable .

  9. Arnold Ramirez replied, November 2, 2019 at 9:44 p.m.

    We need to bring Marco Antonio Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno to teach the technical aspects of the game to our youth. All these academies with A+ coaching licenses but no real technical players. What a disaster with the coaches of the U17 National Team. Bring former MLS players like the two I have mentioned to teach our young players. 



  10. frank schoon replied, November 2, 2019 at 10:46 p.m.

    Arnold, ofcourse, These are the types of players who played for the MLS I would trust to teach our youth . Furthermore these are the types that should run the National Coaching school when getting a license , instead you get “technically challenged” instructors.....

  11. Mike Woitalla, October 31, 2019 at 11:14 a.m.

    Thanks Bob Ashpole! Fixed it.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, October 31, 2019 at 3:14 p.m.

    What a relief to see it was 56/44 instead of 66/34. LOL.

  13. frank schoon replied, October 31, 2019 at 3:19 p.m.

    Bob, you're getting too cynical at your age, ;)

  14. frank schoon, October 31, 2019 at 11:24 a.m.

    Of course the build up from the back doesn't work because they are so far back that the ball passed to the back is always stationary and not in an attacking, running mode. The moment the outside back receives the ball your team is outnumbered 10v7 because the opposite flank can't be involved ,it's too far away. The build up from the back is nullified becuase of two aspects, one, centerbacks are positioned in their own penalty ,so far back, which the causes the outside back to drop and receive the ball standing stationary and therefore locked themselves in. 

    They allow Jasson to chase 3 japanese defenders after the ball, which is such a waste of energy. His line behind him are positioned defensively and not help out, there is no coordination on the front line. We have difficulty stringing 2 passes together. We as a whole are not developing good players, we are so weak with the ball, we have totally no "presence" on the ball. You have to ask ,why is that.   The japanese were at times passing circles around us even in our own half.

    We have everything else as far as playing mentality, fight ,hustle, willing to sacrifice, but game savviness, the thinking part, the technical part and the positioning part we TOTALLY lack. I'm afriad that thinking we have a USL ,DA program, paid youth, means we are really learning the game is really a misapprehension....

  15. Goal Goal, October 31, 2019 at 11:48 a.m.

    I didn't see any bright spots in this game for the US nor did I see any player and that includes subs who made an impact on this game or the last game or any player from the first game that earned starting rights for this game against Japan.  Sometime when you have lemons, the theory that you can make lemonade out of it is false.

    To critisize the coach for not starting certain players is a little arrogant as I see it and as I see it not politically correct as it pertains to picking players for US soccer.  Would be very hard to decide who starts and who doesn't in this group at this time.  Sometimes players show great in practice but in the heat of a stressful game all is lost.  

    Wicky is in a tough spot because in most cases he did not pick these players.  These players were handed down to him from reviews by other coaches in this system.  The credentials of this team that were sold going into this is they were pro players with pro experience.  

    After the first game I commented that our team looked exhausted about 60 minutes into the game.  This time they had more energy but all was lost because they didn't know what to do with it when pressured.  

  16. R2 Dad, October 31, 2019 at 12:23 p.m.

    Thanks for the report, Mike, and not sugar-coating the result.

  17. frank schoon, October 31, 2019 at 1:05 p.m.

    Mike , I took what you said about Reyna. I began to watch the 2nd half since all my comments were made watching only the first half. I watched Reyna from min.55 to min.80 but I don't see anywhere  the impact you mentioned Reyna supposedly made in the game. He look just like the player he replaced up front and did the same thing, wasting energy chasing the ball up front when he's outnumbered 3v1. He plays in one tempo, slow, and there is no acceleration in his game when passing the ball....Big Snooze

  18. Philip Carragher, October 31, 2019 at 2:21 p.m.

    Maybe the biggest hurdle we face in trying to train proper technique and tactics into our youth is our dearth of great coaches. Even if a player is lucky enough to have a coach who knows that player's position and how to teach the tactical and technical skills necessary for higher level play (elements of a great coach), those teachings need reinforcing, however, more than likely, the player will get passed to the next coach who doesn't know this stuff. Without reinforcement those teachings dissipate and disappear. FS is spot-on that we need great coaches inundating these players with technique and thinking and I'll add that we need lots of them throughout an entire intelligent curriculum.

  19. frank schoon replied, October 31, 2019 at 4 p.m.

    Philip, there is nothing more educational impressive to a youth than a player who can demonstrate what he is talking about. The great Ernst Happel would always kick a couple coke bottles off the cross bar when he introduces himself to the team. That in itself brings about respect from the players....You players that can tell the youth and demonstrate to perfection how to do it. This is  why we need to hire former greats to help further develop our youth...

  20. Frans Vischer, October 31, 2019 at 2:46 p.m.

    Dead on, Frank! I do believe this country will become a soccer country over time, where kids play pick up games and learn trial by error, experiment with moves, without adult supervision.              But there is a propensity for over-protection in this country- actually a subject that goes well beyond soccer. College dorms that pamper kids with luxuries, ill-preparing them for the real world. Helicopter parents that guide and decide everything for their kids. All well-intended, but a generation is growing up with expectations for results to fall in their laps.                                      In soccer, that means they don't learn to fend for themselves, solve problems, get out of difficult situations. In other countries, kids thrive on these situations. 

  21. frank schoon replied, October 31, 2019 at 3:16 p.m.

    Frans ,so True. 3 years ago I had an experience with a U10teams(s). I found that helicopter parents were really represented by mothers not the fathers, although there are exceptions ofcourse. I dont know many times I had to explain useless , unimportant things with the mothers, unbelievable.   Kids in my street soccer days playing on the street didn't have a doting mothers around worrying about 'my baby'. 
    I had one mother complain after a pregame warmup that so and so actually pushed my Johnny. Just a push, you know how kids are,  mind you, no hit in the face with a bloody nose. I wanted to reply , "good" that will put some hair on chest."...
    One mother complained that my pregame warm up was not very intricate. I told her if I knew that It would win the games ,I would make my warm up routine like 3-ring circus. I grew up with loosening up kicking or passing the ball around ,etc., but today 'warmups have become  a full blown Broadway Opera  Musical ,with dancing bears, and orchestra. It's unbelievable and when you watch them play they have difficulty stringing two passes together; but man we have the best "pre game warmups". This is why van Hanegem ,a dutch great, stated we're beginning to lose the essentials of the game, because of all the meaningless accoutrements added to the game. 

  22. Goal Goal, October 31, 2019 at 11:27 p.m.

    I am curious as to why on a corner kick which presents a valuable opportunity to score that on the US team one of the tallest players on the team is the one taking the corner kick instead of being a target in front of the goal where the action is?

  23. frank schoon replied, November 1, 2019 at 7:33 a.m.

    RW, get with the program...it’s called New Age Tactics. By placing the tallest player by the corner flag instead of in front of the goal will seriously confuse the opponents. And perhaps the opponents will all move to the corner post to guard the tallest player and thereby leave the goal unprotected ...

  24. Goal Goal, November 1, 2019 at 11:54 a.m.

    Darn Frank I knew I missed something.  I thought new age was when we got colored television.


  25. Bob Ashpole replied, November 1, 2019 at 6:57 p.m.

    LOL. Colored television and DVRs!

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