U.S. is simply outclassed by Germany in Under-17 World Cup exit.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, August 30, 2007) -- The United States ran into a better team and resultantly a 2-1 loss to Germany ended its disappointing performance at the Under-17 World Cup in the Round of 16.
In Cheonan, South Korea tonight, the match was really not as close as the final score might indicate. Germany, by far the swiftest and most technically gifted of the four U.S. opponents in this event, was on the attack from the opening moments. Except for a period late in the first half, and then in the closing minutes, the Germans were in control.
The only effective part of the U.S. attack was long throw-ins by defender Sheanon Williams. Often, they were just as dangerous as accurate corner kicks and one led to the only American goal, captain Mykell Bates' strike which came two minutes into stoppage time.
On one level, the U.S. actually played quite a bit better then it did against Belgium in a 2-0 victory in its final group match. The Americans held Germany off the scoreboard until the 65th minute thanks to some solid goalkeeping, an active defense and more than a little bit of luck.
Except for a few minutes in the opening match against Tajikistan, the U.S. received solid play from its back-line throughout the tournament. Today's effort was probably its best of the World Cup. In Richard Sukuta-Pasu and Toni Kroos, the Americans faced two of the best forwards in the world at this age level. Kroos, for example, is being called the next Jürgen Klinsmann, the best young striker to come out of Germany in a generation.
Both German goals came on counter-attacks with Kroos getting the ball to Sukuta-Pasu with only a single defender to beat. Both times he finished beautifully.
With Billy Schuler serving a yellow-card suspension, U.S. coach John Hackworth had limited options for his front line. He chose to insert Kirk Urso, who is really a midfielder, which left the U.S. essentially playing with only Ellis McLoughlin on top. This made for a crowded midfield and might have helped the U.S. defensively at times, but with only a closely marked McLoughlin pushing forward, the Americans were not able to generate much in the way of an attack.
The U.S. depends on its midfield to push forward in transition, but it had its hands full today and spent most of the game back on its heels, playing frantic defense.
In the end, as it often seems to happen to the U.S. in the knockout stages of this tournament over the years, it looked like the Americans sent out boys out against men, in the soccer sense. Every one of the German players is on the roster of a top Bundesliga team (except for one who plays for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League) and many train not with the youth or reserve teams, but with the first teams. Several, including Bayern Munich's Kroos and Bayer Leverkusen's Sukuta-Pasu are expected to be getting first-team minutes after they turn 18 later this year.
So, the end was disappointing for the Americans, who lost three of four outings in this tournament. They U.S. was the only seeded team in Group E and thus the pre-tournament favorite, and the American hopes were to go deep into the knockout stage. Yet, the U.S. barely sneaked through closely contested group play when it finished atop a three-way tie for second at 1-2, winning the tiebreakers. Today, the U.S. was outclassed from the opening whistle.
U.S. player ratings:
Goalkeeper Josh Lambo - 6: Played very well and kept the U.S. in the match with eight saves until beaten by two well-taken shots by Sukuta-Pasu an exceptional player.
Defender Sheanon Williams - 6.5: Had a difficult task in that he was under pressure as a defender, but was expected to continually push forward. For much of the second half, his long throw-ins made up most of the U.S. offense. Had a terrific match.
Defender Mykell Bates - 6: Against a talented and fleet player who was much taller, he held his own defensively and managed to always be a threat in the German box on set plays. This capped a very good tournament.
Defender Tommy Meyer - 5.5: Held his own against Kroos but, having to cover because other defenders pushed forward, was beaten for both goals, in both cases by quality plays.
Defender Brandon Zimmerman - 5.5: Was put under pressure early and often and responded well. His best match of the tournament.
Midfielder Jared Jeffrey - 5: Had to spend much of the day playing defense. Had a few good moments and at times did help the U.S. control the middle.
Midfielder Danny Wenzel - 5.0: As with the others in the middle, played decent defense, but contributed little offensively.
Midfielder Greg Garza - 4.5: Could not contribute much to the offense, but was solid defensively. Was pulled out to start the second half.
Midfielder Alex Nimo - 5.5: Was a marked man and closely shadowed all day, often by two players. Tried it on both flanks, but could do little.
Midfielder-forward Kirk Urso - 5: Never seemed to get on track. Did well as a substitute against Belgium, but not as well today.
Forward Ellis McLoughlin - 4: As the lone striker, received little service and contributed almost nothing. Was kept completely in check.
Forward Abdusalam Ibrahim (46th minute for Garza) - 5.5: Brought some life into the U.S. attack at times in the second half, but generally was easily handled by the German defense.
Midfielder Bryan Dominguez (75th minute for Urso) - 5: Helped apply some late pressure in the German end. Might have been a better choice as a starter.
Midfielder Danny Cruz (83rd minute for Wenzel) - 5: Had a few good moments in a brief appearance.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Sheanon Williams.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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