U.S. U-23 Olympic qualifying

Dotson, Yueill, & Mihailovic lead the U-23s past the Dominican Republic 4-0

The United States U-23 team lacked fireworks in the first half, but was methodical and patient and the floodgates opened in the second half for a 4-0 win. This result, combined with a Mexico win, clinched a spot in the semifinal and the team is 90 minutes from Tokyo. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks the game down with his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 21, 2021
7:00 PM

THE UNITED STATES U-23 team trounced the Dominican Republic 4-0 on Sunday night in Mexico to book a spot in the all-important semifinal game that will solely determine its qualifying fate. The U.S. team controlled the game throughout and broke through in the second half where it scored all four goals

The U.S. team dominate possession from the start but lacked dynamic offensive play in the first half but came in with a defensive approach. In a 4-3-3 formation, it’s midfield trio of Jackson Yueill, Johnny Cardoso, and Andres Perea are all mostly withdrawn or defensive players with their clubs.

The approach saw the U.S. team struggle to create dangerous chances. On the positive note, the team cut out the near catastrophic mistakes it made multiple times against Costa Rica. The possession was there in droves and the Dominican Republic never really threatened. By halftime, the question was whether or not the Dominican Republic’s bunker would hold up and if the U.S. team could muster the breakthrough.

The second half saw the U.S. team open the scoresheet, make key substitutions, and put through complete and satisfactory 45 minutes. The only change at the half saw Sebastian Soto replace Jesus Ferrreira.

The first goal in the 60th minute was sheer determination. Cardoso hit a rocket off the bar, Perea took the rebound and headed it out wide to Sebastian Saucedo. The Pumas attacker hit a pass into the middle of the box and Yueill hit a really slick touch to guide it into the goal.

The goal almost reflected a U.S. team playing with a bit of anger for barely scrapping by Costa Rica and held scoreless in the first half.


Following that goal, Jason Kreis went to his bench and brought in Hassani Dotson, Djordje Mihailovic, and later Benji Michel. That opened the floodgates and it was Hassani Dotson who would score the next two with very nice efforts.

In the 73rd minute, Sam Vines brought the ball down the left side. Mihailovic took a pass and moved centrally. He hit a short pass to set up Dotson for a finish from the edge of the box.


In the 78th minute, it was a similar case involved in the play. Vines brought it down the left side. He found Sebastian Soto in the middle of the box. The Norwich City forward played it back to Mihailovic who swung back into the box for Dotson. The Minnesota United midfielder finished from the right side for a 3-0 lead.


The scoring was rounded out in the 90th minute when Dotson played the ball into Orlando City attacker Benji Michel. Michel made a nice individual effort to beat his defender, send in a short cross for Mihailovic for a tap in.


The win combined with Mexico’s win over Costa Rica ensured that the United States and Mexico have qualified for the semifinals of the tournament. The United States and Mexico will face off on Wednesday night although the game is crucial for neither team. The United States will need to win to clinch Group A while Mexico needs just a draw.

Here are my thoughts on the U.S. team’s performance


Sluggish start


The United States was disjointed offensively in the first half, but it was not all bad. More important than going for an aggressive offensive approach to start this game, Jason Kreis seemed determine to protect the backline and cut back on the mistakes that plagued the team against Costa Rica.

While more offensive would have been preferred, the Dominican Republic never truly threatened with dangerous chances. The U.S team had all huge percentage of possession and the Dominican Republic was left chasing the game. The U.S. team still had its chances, but its finishing let it down. Cardoso had a header in the 27th minute that forced a big save. Jonthan Lewis and Sebastian Saucedo both were in dangerous positions on multiple times but were let down on their final ball 

The big take away is that the U.S. was disjointed, but it never played down to the level of its weak opponent.

In the second half, Kreis had more options to step up the offense and attack the Dominican Republic. Before the midfield substitutions came in, the U.S. fullbacks in Vines and Julian Araujo moved higher up the field. Even before the first goal, the U.S. was creating more chances than it did in the first half.

It might have taken the U.S. team too long to fire on all cylinders, but stabilizing the defense and defensive midfield was important.


Game-changings subs


Bringing in Hassani Dotson and Djordje Mihailovic just after the goal helped turn the game into a rout. Dotson was strong in the first half against Costa Rica before fading but in this game he was able to run at a tired backline. Coming into this tournament, Kreis seemed inclined to have him in an attacking position and it paid off. Dotson was very important offensively in this one and his finishing was on the money.

Dotson is no stranger to offense as he has scored some spectacular goals for Minnesota. In this game, he looked very comfortable up attacking and his touches looked polished.

Mihailovic also struggled against Costa Rica but in this one, running at a tired defense, he was effective in how he helped set up chances before scoring an easy tap in to conclude the scoring.

The same with Benji Michel who was also aggressive and tough for the tired Dominican Republic’s defense.

Much will made of the U.S. team’s disjointed attack but it still wore down the Dominican Republic and it made things easier for the subs.


Who played well?


In this game, the usual suspects in Sam Vines and Jackson Yueill both were pretty good. Vines continues to impress for both club and country whenever given the chance and Yueill completed a higher percentage of his passing in this game compared with Costa Rica – which tried to shut him down.

Andres Perea needs to improve his offensive play this year in Orlando but he has an impressive ability to cover a lot of ground and his defensive and physical foundation is solid. In this game he played the No. 6 with Yueill and Cardoso placed further up the field. Perea helped in the build-up to Yueill’s opener when he headed the rebound of Cardoso’s shot wide to Saucedo for the assist. For the final 30 minutes, after the subs came in, Perea looked very good at the No. 6.

Justen Glad wasn’t tested much but his distribution out of the back was solid and the few times he was called into helping make a stop, he was successful.

Finally, as mentioned, Mihailovic and Dotson completely changed the game. Soto did not score or assist but was much sharper than Ferreira in this one.

Looking ahead


It bears repeating that this is a team in very early preseason form. Many of these players have not played since November and this team did not have a single warm-up friendly. In the group stage, Kreis and the players are learning lessons that they should have learned in the preparation they did not have.

Everything should be about the semifinal right now and these group stage games are about getting into form and rhythm while finding out combinations of what works and what doesn’t work.

There is a temptation towards wanting to do whatever is possible to beat Mexico but that shouldn’t be the case. Justen Glad is on a yellow card and is critical to that semifinal game and avoid starting the inexperienced central defense duo of Maruicio Pineda and Henry Kessler. It becomes an unnecessary risk to play Glad against Mexico.

The team has nearly a week to prepare for the semifinal, and if it continues to improve, it should be a much-improved team.

This team isn’t exciting but, at best, it’s pragmatic. It has a solid defensive midfield that should make it tough to breakdown so long as the central defenders are playing well. It seems built almost not to lose rather than to win. But given the timing of this tournament in preseason, the lack of preparation, the sale of players to Europe, and the release issues, it might be the best approach to take. It still has a lot to work on in the week ahead, but it’s 90 minutes from Tokyo. The Mexico game is just a tune-up.

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