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The Dallas Cup

River Plate Defeats U.S. U20 Team to Take Dallas Cup

Tab Ramos' under-20 side fought valiantly to make it to the Dallas Cup final, but River Plate dominated the rematch under stormy conditions to claim the coveted Ball and Boot trophy.

BY Josh Deaver Posted
April 21, 2014
7:45 AM
DALLAS—After a four-match run of wins at the 35th annual Dallas Cup youth tournament—including a 3-2 win over Fluminense in the semifinals on Friday—the U.S. under-20 men’s national team lost to River Plate 2-0 in the championship match. The loss marks the sixth time an American national squad has failed to emerge victorious at the prestigious youth competition.

In a match marred by multiple weather delays, a brace from River Plate's Lucas Boye was enough to secure the win for the Argentine side. In the end, the Americans, clearly on heavy legs from Friday’s extra time marathon, just couldn’t keep pace.

“To be honest we were out of gas,” head coach Tab Ramos said after the match. “I think for the most part, we aren’t used to playing this many competitive games and our players aren’t in the environments where they get lots of games like this. And especially against South American teams who play all the time.”

In a rematch of the tournament opener—the U.S. won 3-2—between what looked to be the two best sides of the Super Group, River Plate continued its string of dominance, wrapping up the tournament title with four consecutive clean sheets, including a +11 goal differential over the final three matches.

“It was a good challenge for us, they put us under a lot of pressure,” said second-half substitute Kellyn Acosta—who played 90 minutes for FC Dallas over the weekend. “They came out stronger than us. They got an early goal, so it was tough for us to get back into it the second half.”

As the storm clouds hung precariously low above the Cotton Bowl, River Plate attacked with reckless abandon. The intense midfield pressure forced the Americans to take countless poor touches and dangerous giveaways. Unable to establish any sort of the rhythm, Ramos’ side was forced to absorb the onslaught, rarely pushing forward to attack in the first half.

Two early substitutions didn’t help matters, either.

A 29th-minute injury to centerback Michael Amick proved to be the turning point in the match. After falling to the ground in what looked to be considerable pain, Amick stayed on the field and tried to fight through the injury. It was a moment Ramos would come to regret.

With Amick laboring, diminutive River Plate midfielder Juan Kaprof—who had a spectacular showing all week—took the former UCLA defender head on. With some magic moves inside the box, Kaprof easily posted the wounded centerback before turning on goal and feeding Boye, who fired a low, near-post shot past Zack Steffen to open the scoring.

“It became chaos after a little while. We took the Amick injury and he stayed on the field … (RSL’s Jordan) Allen came off and we had to make another substitution. It obviously throws off what your preparing for,” Ramos said.

The best U.S. opportunities all night came down the right flank with Shaq Moore and Rubio Rubin, clearly the U.S. MVP over the past week, working the overlap and whipping in a handful of balls in the box with varying degrees of danger. Despite some positive movement, however, the U.S. failed to register a shot on goal in the opening half.

“We were completely flat in the first half. I was disappointed in the way we came out,” Ramos admitted post-game.

All things considered, an extra 30 minutes of rest courtesy of a half-time lightning delay was the best the Americans could ask for after a disappointing start.

As the clouds parted, the game took on a decidedly different complexion. Switching to a 4-4-2 formation with Romain Gall playing much higher up the field and buzzing into the empty space created by target man Ben Spencer, the Americans finally began to create some chances.

After another weather delay, the Americans nearly picked up the equalizer. In a wild sequence, Moore delivered yet another quality cross, only to see Zack Pfeffer whiff on a volley and Rubin hit the crossbar. The ball then fell to Ben Spencer, who turned his effort home, but the line judge whistled him offside.

Despite the near miss, Ramos’ men kept pushing in a desperate attempt to equalize. After some decent chances, River put the game out of reach with Boye notching his second of the night in the 83rd minute.

In defeat, Ramos remained positive about the entire tournament and hopes to draw from the experience when World Cup qualification begins in 2015.

“It was great for us. What we wanted to do was to get five competitive games and we did that. [Now] I have a pretty good idea of what our roster is going to look like for January.”

"There's no excuses from our end," Ramos added. "I think our boys did what we could and I think this is what we had left today. I'm happy, overall the performance of 5 games, evaluate the whole thing. Its been a great week for us."

ASN Contributing Editor Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter already.

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