Analysis and Ratings

Young Yanks Hang on for Key Draw Against Colombia

Against all odds, the U.S. under-23 men's national team jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in Colombia and fought its way to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of a do-or-die Olympic qualifying playoff. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 25, 2016
9:30 PM

THE U.S. UNDER-23 TEAM arrived in Colombia as a heavy underdog but walked out of Barranquilla with a very acceptable 1-1 draw. While Colombia was by far the more dangerous team, the Americans will now return to the United States with a real chance at advancing to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Luis Gil gave the Americans a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute on a pass from Mario Rodriguez. In the second half, the Yanks fought valiantly to hang on for a win but Kellyn Acosta was called for a penalty, and Colombia converted.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

Look for changes in the second leg

The bad news for Andi Herzog's men is that Colombia dominated both possession and shots. The good news is that the U.S. limited the number of dangerous chances and neither Cody Cropper nor Ethan Horvath had to make too many difficult saves. The U.S. defense contained the home team fairly well.

The U.S. created a few chances in addition to the goal. Gil nearly scored a second and Jordan Morris delivered an impressively powerful shot from outside the box with the outside of his foot. It clanged off the cross bar and kept the Yanks from taking a two-goal lead.

The U.S. will need to establish more effective play from its fullbacks in the return leg, and the midfielders will need to find a way to maintain possession.

Possible changes: Desevio Payne coming in at right back or the dangerous and attack-minded Paul Arriola at right mid.

The U.S. team will be in much friendlier conditions in Dallas and no doubt buoyed by a positive result in Colombia.

Gil continues to shine for U.S.

Over the past 12 months Luis Gil saw his playing time decrease at Real Salt Lake, and then he moved to Liga MX—where he now plays for one of the worst teams in the league. And yet he remains a very talented player and, as American fans will probably notice, raises his game whenever representing the Stars and Stripes.

It wasn’t just the goal he scored—Gil looked dangerous in the midfield and even when Colombia controlled possession, his passing opened up doors for the U.S. attackers. Expect the 22-year-old Garden Grove, Calif., native to be one of the key players in the second leg.

Rough night for Acosta

One American who did not have a good outing is Kellyn Acosta who earned the start at right back. Acosta was singled out by Jurgen Klinsmann for his showing at January camp but on Friday the FC Dallas product just did not have it.

To be fair, Acosta is a midfielder who was asked to play fullback. He flirted with the position early in his career but has been playing in a box-to-box role since the 2015 season. He’s been very good at that position but he struggled at left back at the U-20 World Cup where, like tonight, he conceded a penalty to Colombia. (Unlike the last time, Colombia converted the penalty.)

Perhaps sensing his discomfort, Colombia seemed to attack Acosta all game long. Matt Miazga could have done more to help his backline colleague, but for now Acosta is the goat and Herzog will have to consider other options. 

Parker shines in U-23 debut

While Gil, Morris, and Mario Rodriguez all had strong games, Tim Parker was the best American player on the field. The U.S defense was under pressure all game long and Parker was the rock in the backline.

Parker looked at ease absorbing incredible amounts of pressure and didn’t seem to tire when Colombia spent an enormous amount of time around the U.S. box. Parker was physically strong, his positioning was outstanding, and he kept his nerves in check.

What’s even more impressive is that Parker has limited time on the international stage. He made a few camps at the U-18 level but was never a part of a youth World Cup or any other major international competition. He participated in January camp but did not play in either friendly.

Match ratings—Starters

Ethan Horvath: Only made one mistake when he got caught in no man's land but made a few nice saves. He left the game injured on a play where he wisely came out of his area to head the ball out of a dangerous situation. Rating: 6.5

Kellyn Acosta: It was a rough game for the FC Dallas homegrown product who was playing out of position at right back. Colombia attacked him nonstop and he conceded a penalty in the second half. Yes, the backline did not get much help from the midfield but Acosta was too vulnerable on the night. Rating: 4

Matt Miazga: The new Chelsea FC defender was part of a backline that was asked to do a lot. Miazga had positive moments but was also shaky at times. He foolishly picked up a yellow card for punting the ball away and he was partially at fault on the play that led to the penalty. Still, being part of a defense that concedes just one goal in Barranquilla is not bad either. Rating: 6

Tim Parker: The Vancouver Whitecaps central defender earned Man of the Match honors for his showing Friday night. He stood tall, confidently won his duels, and dealt with Colombia's powerful forwards. He was a beast. Rating: 7.5

Eric Miller: The Colorado Rapids fullback earned the start of the left side and gave a serviceable defensive effort. He was beaten a few times but also came up with some nice interceptions and turnovers. Going forward, though, he offered nothing. Rating: 5

Wil Trapp: The Columbus Crew midfielder made some mistakes with costly turnovers and he did little to alleviate the massive possession disadvantage. His passing was simply off despite a nice pass leading up to Gil's goal. Defensively he worked hard but he will need a much better outing in Texas. Rating: 4.5

Matt Polster: The Chicago Fire midfielder worked hard but overall struggled mightily to hold the ball and his touch let him down. He covered a lot of ground, made some nice defensive plays, and added a physical presence but the U.S. needed to hold the ball a lot better than it did. Polster, unfortunately, did not have a good game in that regard. Rating: 4

Emerson Hyndman: The Fulham midfielder drew some nice fouls and was also solid in his distribution. Despite his small frame, he was also a menace defensively. Rating: 6.5

Luis Gil: The Queretaro central midfielder was a key player for the U.S. teams at the U-17, U-20, and now the U-23 levels. He seems to raise his game at all the right times while playing for the United States. He scored a well-taken goal in the fifth minute and nearly scored a second first-half goal. Whenever he was on the field, he seemed to be part of every dangerous U.S. possession. Rating: 7.5

Mario Rodriguez: The Monchengladbach reserve forward made several well-timed runs and his assist on Gil's goal was terrific. In the second half, he was doing what he could to get behind Colombia's defense as it was pressing for a winning goal. Rating: 6.5

Jordan Morris: He enjoyed a very strong game and created dangerous chances in both halves. His best came in the second half when his powerful side-footed shot from 25 yards hit the crossbar. He ran a ton and it was often a thankless job as the rest of the U.S. side was out of gas. Rating: 7 


Cody Cropper: It's never easy for a goalkeeper to come in as a substitute but Cropper did a solid job. Soon after he entered late in the first half, he had to make a few quick stops. In the second half, he continued to do his job and was not at fault for the goal from the penalty spot. Rating: 6.5

Fatai Alashe: The San Jose midfielder came into the game in the 66th minute and added physicality but was not able to match Gil's touch or creativity. Rating: 5

Jerome Kiesewetter: The Stuttgart reserve winger entered in the 72nd and tried to open the game up with his aggressive play. He had some success, drawing some fouls and moving the ball on several occasions in the final third. Despite some turnovers, the U.S. team needed someone like Kiesewetter to generate an attack. Rating: 5.5

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