U.S. U-20s Tie Australia Friday, Win NTC Tourney
With Jurgen Klinsmann looking on, the United States under-20 national team earned a tie with Australia to claim the NTC Invitational trophy. ASN's Josh Deaver has more on the match.
BY Josh Deaver PostedAFTER DISPATCHING CHILE by a 2-1 count and dominating Bermuda 4-0 earlier in the week, the U.S under-20 men’s national team battled a talented Australian side to a scoreless draw on Friday night to emerge victorious at the NTC Invitation Tournament. Needing only a draw to secure the trophy, the Americans controlled large stretches of the match and were unlucky not to score after forcing several crucial saves and clanging the woodwork four times over the course of 90 minutes. The tournament caps off a successful week for the Americans at the National Training Center in Carson, Calif., where coach Tab Ramos is in the midst of fine-tuning his roster for World Cup qualification, which begins in January. Earlier in the week, Ramos stressed that result are largely unimportant, focusing instead on building consensus toward the final training camps of 2014—to be held in Argentina in September and Spain in November, respectively. “We want to give everyone an opportunity and see what they can do,” Ramos said. “When you coach a team, there is not a game you don’t want to win, but at the same time I have to see the big picture down the road. So what’s most important to me is to see the players on the field and the combination of different players. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work, but I have to go through that process.” Lining up Friday against the plucky Aussies, who defeated in Chile in a 5-4 thriller on Wednesday night, the opening quarter hour played out in a familiar feeling-out process in which the two sides exchanged less-than-biting spells of possession. A few chances did present themselves, with the young Socceroos forcing Maryland keeper Zack Steffen into a quick reaction or three in the opening quarter hour. Without a foothold in possession, the U.S struggled initially to combat the Australians high-pressing tactics and were consistently pushed out wide, where Paul Arriola and Romain Gall—who replaced an injured Zack Pfeffer in the opening 10 minutes—were forced the create opportunities, mostly by whipping in less-than-dangerous crosses. The bright spot of the opening half, however, was U.S. debutant Fernando Arce Jr. Despite a few out-of-sync moments with midfield partner Russell Canouse, Arce, son of the Mexican international, easily found open pockets in the attack, putting more than few efforts on the Australian frame. In the 7th minute, Arce nearly opened his account for the Americans in style, only to have his volley cleared off the goal line by defender Riley Woodcock, after Australian keeper Thurtell was caught in no man’s land following a failed clearance. The play remained relatively open for the next stretch, with both sides finding scoring opportunities. Australian midfielder Daniel De Silva, who recently broke the A-League transfer record after signing for Roma, was a menace all night long, picking out dangerous passes and looking slippery in his off-ball movement. In the 32nd minute De Silva provided the best Australian chance on the night, forcing an excellent diving save from Steffen, who had to use every inch of his six-foot-two frame to palm the effort wide. As the half drew to a close the American began to find the majority of the scoring chances. Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch—lining up as the lone forward for the first-time under Ramos—provided some of the brighter moments for the Americans. Able to utilize his overt physical advantages, specifically, a low center of gravity, to put in a competent first half shift; he largely failed to overpower a hearty Aussie defensive block. Despite some slight positional difficulty, Gooch produced the best chance of the first half, smacking the right post with a 25 yard, left-footed rocket from the top of the box in the 37th minute. A few minutes later it was Arce again who nearly opened the scoring. After a penetrating run from Arriola, the Tijuana winger got around the Australian defense before delivering a superb cutback pass to his Xolos teammate, who blasted his effort straight to the Australian keeper to close out the first half. The Americans continued to hold serve after the break. Off a midfield giveaway, Gooch who once again rattled the post, this time with a low, rolling shot that bounced off the keeper's back and out for a U.S. corner. Australia, which needed a win to take the tournament, showed a bit more urgency as the second half progressed, continuing to disrupt the U.S. midfield and moving forward in numbers off some careless blunders. Attacking primarily down the right hand side, left back John Requejo found plenty of action but successfully cut out the Socceroo attack on multiple 1v1 opportunities. On the opposite side, Chris Odoi-Atsem, receiving his first competitive minutes for Tab Ramos, also put in a steady but unassuming performance. San Jose Earthquakes homegrown product, Tommy Thompson, also showed well. Buoyed by his first national team goal against Bermuda on Wednesday night, the dynamic midfielder showed flashes of brilliance on and off the ball. With pace and superb control in tight spaces, Thompson became the crux of the U.S. attack as legs grew weary. In the 77th minute, the 18-year-old easily split two defenders on a jaw-dropping run, only to have his own 1v1 stopped by the Australian keeper. Truly, Thurtell’s net led a charmed life all night long. Less than a minute after Thompson’s slaloming run, Gooch—who has a penchant for the spectacular—hit the woodwork for the third and final time on another attempt from distance, leaving him exasperated and looking to the sky for answers. While the second half took a decidedly more reserved approach, the final 10 minutes provided a furious finish at the StubHub Center. With the American Outlaws—in an impressive voice—bellowing out the now-familiar, “I Believe that We Will Win,” the young Yanks showed admirable grit and pressed hard for a game-winner that they didn’t even need to secure the tournament crown. Though the score line won’t show it, the Americans deserved the victory on Friday night. Throughout the week the team looked dynamic and strong, an excellent follow up to the runner-up finish at the Dallas Cup in April. But Ramos and his squad know it’s only a small step on the path to New Zealand and the 2015 under-20 World Cup. ASN Contributing Editor Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter already.
July 19, 2014
July 19, 2014