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U-20 Update

U.S. U-20s Lose to Colombia in Toulon Tournament

Forced to play without Luis Gil, Jose Villarreal, and DeAndre Yedlin, the United States Under-20 squad is struggling to keep pace with the tough competition in Toulon.
BY Josh Deaver Posted
May 31, 2013
8:03 AM
The United States under-20 men’s national team lost to Colombia, 2-1, dropping to last place in Group A of the 2013 Toulon Tournament in France. The team took an early lead in Thursday's match, but defensive lapses and squandered possession resulted in the team's second loss in three days.

After a resounding defeat at the hands of a dominant French side on Tuesday, head coach Tab Ramos made several lineup changes in the hopes of picking up the three points. Colorado Rapids fullback Dillon Serna replaced Juan Pablo Ocegueda at left back while captain Caleb Stanko mercifully slid into to the center of defense to help steady the backline. Both University of North Carolina’s Danny Garcia and Seattle Sounders academy star Jordan Morris broke into the starting XI after delivering strong second-half substitute performances against France. FC Dallas product Kellyn Acosta also played central midfield, earning his first start with the U-20s.

Contrasting with its limp effort against the host nation, the U.S. was kept pace with the South American champions. And thanks to a goalkeeping blunder, the Americans got on the board first when a Danny Garcia corner kick found the head of Wil Trapp, who deflected it in to the back of the net in the seventh minute. The remainder of the first half saw the two teams exchange less-than-meaningful bouts of possession, with very few scoring chances.

Facing a 1-0 deficit after halftime, Colombia quickly turned up the intensity, making it difficult for the American squad to retain its advantage. Thanks to some poor defensive effort, the Colombians quickly took the lead only nine minutes into the second half. The equalizer came in the 44th minute—the tournament employs two 40 minute halves—when AC Milan-bound defender Jherson Vergara directed a set piece opportunity past goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, who had a difficult outing in place of regular no.1 Cody Cropper. Four minutes later, Los Cafeteros took the lead on a headed goal from Felipe Aguilar that caught the U.S. defense sleeping again.

The Americans had their chances, but couldn't find the target. Morris nearly scored twice; once on a clever side-footed chip that skimmed the cross bar early in the second half and then again with a downward header that just skipped wide of the goal. Applying some late pressure, the U.S. forced Colombian keeper Cristian Bonilla into some crucial saves. The best chance came when Monterrey forward Alonso Hernandez, who showed better in this match, hit the post only to have the danger cleared on the subsequent rebound.

Trapp, Stanko, and Morris all played well for the Americans. Stanko’s calming presence in the back would have been very useful against France. Trapp, in addition to scoring the goal, was tidy with his passes and helped the U.S. midfield move the ball and recycle possession. Morris was once again a menace on the wing and was able to get forward and swing in a cross on several occasions.

The loss put the Americans in a nearly insurmountable hole. The squad will need to defeat South Korea and DR Congo, as well as some help from its Group A opponents, if they hope to advance to the third-place match. The U.S. faces DR Congo on Saturday.

  • Without a doubt reinforcements are needed along the U.S. backline. Some crucial mistakes from Jeffrey Payeras, who replaced an ineffective Jevan Torre at halftime, led to both of Colombia’s second-half goals. The addition of Colorado Rapids center back Shane O’Neill will no doubt buoy the side when he joins the team prior to the match with DR Congo on Saturday. However, looking forward, with the glaring absence of Will Packwood and a non-committal John Anthony Brooks, Tab Ramos will need the shore up the defense if the squad hopes to contend at the U-20 World Cup in July. With any luck, FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman can put some nagging injuries behind him in order to be ready for a trip to Turkey.

  • The final U.S roster seems to be taking shape. Several players (Torre and Payeras, most notably) have put in middling, ineffectual performances and will need to prove to Ramos that they will not wilt under the bright lights of international competition. Otherwise they risk being left off the team. Others, including the aforementioned Morris, have risen swiftly up the depth chart, putting significant pressure on the current attacking corps hoping to punch a ticket to the World Cup.

  • Alfred Koroma, after putting in a solid outing against France, regressed against Colombia. He seemed right at home battling with the athletically superior (and older) Les Blues, but was largely anonymous on Thursday.

  • Tab Ramos’ side is badly missing its professionals. Without Luis Gil, Jose Villarreal, DeAndre Yedlin, and others, the team’s technical deficiency is on full display. Also, several players who do not even start for their collegiate teams—Danny Garcia, Kendall McIntosh, and Jevan Torre—all got significant playing time against a wholly professional Colombian side. This gap must be bridged.

  • The jury is still out on Alonso Hernandez. He was shut down against France, but he has shown some flashes of quality, including a couple of prime scoring chances against Colombia.

    Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter, @USFootballGuy.
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