Saturday, June 30, 2007

U-20 WC: US 1-1 KOR

What a real disappointment. I was watching glimpses of the Poland-Brazil upset and I was really encouraged by what I saw: Poland showed real talent and tenacity in keeping Brazil at bay. I wanted the same kind of character to apply to the US game: I wanted to see the US play to their strengths and really possess the game. They didn't, but I'm not laying the fault entirely at the squad. The US was constantly being kept in check by ignorant refereeing. It was really unfortunate to see.

The US lined up with a 4-3-3, playing to Adu, Bradley, and Altidore in the center of the field, but for some reason the US squad found better momentum on the wings. I'll say this: the US didn't have the touch, or curry enough favor with the referee, to confront the Koreans head on down the center. With Johann Smith gone, the increased amount of wing play never produced and the result was a lot of hopeful (sometimes even blind) crosses into the box for someone to get a touch on. Happened once in the 16th: someone pentrated the flank, crossed it in, and Szetela happened to be in the right place at the right time. It never happened again.

The Koreans formed a 3-5-2, creating a staggered mesh between their back three and holding midfielders to nullify the US' capability to send a long ball forward. Jozy was positioned in no man's land and had absolutely no service from the midfield the entire game. The Korean wingers were definately more for attacking purposes than flank patrol. In effect, the Koreans lined up in a 3-2-3-2.

The officiating controlled the game in a very negative way, gifting Korea with opportunities in advanced positions, penalizing the US defense for playing a physical game, and frequently disrupting the US' transitional momentum. This is horribly disappointing to me. Absolutely stupid officiating.

Update: Ives has posted his critique of the match. He places more of the blame on the US squad and makes a point that Freddy Adu is failing everyone's lofty expectations. Ives also comments that the US had no wing play, which confuses me because it seemed like all the best plays from the US were built from the wing. Also:

"Ultimately, this U.S. team doesn't want to go into the Brazil match needing a result because I see the Brazil attack absolutely shredding this back-line. "

I don't, if the US can stay strong and stand them up. Disrupt and prevent service into the box: these are the two keys to the US defense, ones they missed vs. Korea, but ones I think they'll realize vs. Poland and Brazil.

Other notes:

- You could tell that despite his lack of opportunities, Altidore is a true scoring threat, a real dangerous striker of the kind that the senior national squad is in sore need of. The sooner this kid hits the big time, the better.

- Unwarranted calls and harsh yellows have made the US defense timid. No more hard tackles in the defensive third. Korea is enjoying this.

- It's disappointing to see the referees taking the US' physicality out of the game, but it's also disappointing to see that without their physicality, the US defenders don't know how to defend.

- Seitz is MOM for me. He came up big on several occaisons and did his best to hold on to the match. RSL should be proud.

- Johann Smith is sorely missed.

- I'm not saying the referees were biased, but their calls were definately one-sided.

- US shafted in 40th: obvious penalty. This refereeing is really f*cking maddening.

- Altidore needs to see more ball.

- Bradley has really failed expectations. Everyone expected him to exert some influence in midfield but I couldn't tell that he was there at all.

- The referees finally toss the US a bone with a dangerously positioned free kick, and you know what happens? The US knocks it out because the Korean goalkeeper clocked one of his own guys. At this point I'd like to see a statistic tabulating exactly how many times a downed Korean has f*cked the US' momentum.

- US SHAFTED AGAIN: blatant penalty in the 92nd but the ref waves it off. Abslutely astounding. Altidore is frustrated and rightly so.

- Both of those un-penalties involved the US's last attacker and a significant goal-scoring opportunity. Textbook penalty calls which are especially upsetting when you consider that the ref let the Koreans go without cards on either of those two situations.

-I'm confused: Ferrari was not a member of the starting lineup, nor was he subbed in at any point. What gives?

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