Olympic Qualifying London 2012: US v El Salvador

The US continued to soldier on in their quest to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics taking on El Salvador.  The game was an up and down roller coaster ride for US fans and the home team tied the game but lost out on qualifying.  The score was tied at regulation, 3-3 and El Salvador will see the US eliminated from Olympic qualifying.

With an early goal from Terrence Boyd, the US looked to romp, as they did on Mexico in preseason and with Cuba in the opening match.

However, as the game went on, El Salvador began to take positive steps toward scoring the equalizer in the 35th minute by Mark Blanco.  El Salvador followed up their first goal with the go ahead goal two minutes later by Andres Flores.

Then, about 20 minutes into the second half Terrence Boyd scored the equalizer for the yanks, and three minutes later Joe Corona followed up with the third goal of the night to put the US on top.

Tragically, however, a defensive mix up in midfield during the last minutes of added time allowed El Salvador’s Jaime Alas to break free and fire a shot on frame and US keeper Sean Johnson bobbled the late hop and caused the ball to spin out of control and into the net.

The lineups for both sides:
: 1-Bill Hamid (18-Sean Johnson, 39); 3-Kofi Sarkodie, 2-Ike Opara, 4-Perry Kitchen,13-Jorge Villafaña; 16-Amobi Okugo, 8-Mix Diskerud, 10-Joe Corona (20-Michael Stephens, 88); 7-Freddy Adu (capt.) (14-Joe Gyau, 90+3), 15-Terrence Boyd, 11-Brek Shea

Subs not used: 5-Zarek Valentin, 6-Jared Jeffrey, 12-Teal Bunbury, 17-Tony Taylor, 19-Sheanon Williams; Head coach: Caleb Porter

: 18-Yimy Cuellar; 5-Alexander Mendoza, 4-Xavier Garcia (capt.), 2-Milton Molina, 13-Alexander Larin; 9-Isidro Gutierrez, 8-Diego Chavarria (19-Darwin Ceren, 73), 16-Richard Menjivar, 10-Jaime Alas; 20-Andres Flores, 17-Lester Blanco (14-Herbert Sosa, 87)

Subs not used: 1-Diego Cuellar, 3-Marlon Martinez, 6-Elman Rivas, 7-Dustin Corea, 12-Edwin Sanchez, 15-Jorge Moran; Head coach: Mauricio Alfaro

Bullet Points:

  • United States came out like they had a point to prove and they did so in convincing fashion, scoring a wonderfully worked goal, but you can tell, as the half progressed the US began to look tired.  It looked like their emotional state was so high that physically they could not keep up the demands of the moment.
  • While the starting line up stayed the same, for the most part, two changes were made – Kofi Sarkodie came in at right back for Valentin, meanwhile, Villafana remained at left back deservedly.  Additionally, Amobi Okugo was brought into the middle of the park to take over for a defensively ineffective Jared Jeffries.
  • I was actually surprised to see that Tony Taylor did not get a run out in this competition, and feel that this was a perfect game for him to come in as a sub.
  • Hamid, should have been subbed immediately after sustaining his injury – as a professional, he should have made the call himself to benefit his team and his country.  From a coaching standpoint, Caleb Porter should have recognized the levity of the situation and made the change because too much was at stake.  This would later play a significant role.
  • El Salvador score two goals on an ailing Hamid and a tiring and apathetic defense.
  • I still believe that Jared Jeffries should be turned into a center back and play alongside Ike Opara.  Playing as a center back in this system requires you to be more technical and Perry Kitchen is by far the less technical player of the two starting center backs.  Opara, on the other hand, clearly needs to mature professionally and deserved his time in defense with this squad but needs a more technical player alongside him.
  • Freddy Adu knows how to take over a game and was greatly responsible for the two goals from Boyd and Corona.  I just think this was not present in the first two games, it’s too bad he couldn’t put together a series of consistent performances.
  • Porter made a couple of changes, I think would ultimately have dire consequences.  First of all, he decided to sub out Joe Corona, for the second game in a row even though Corona was the leading goal scorer, and despite having a lackluster performance is still your best player on the ball, possession wise – I don’t even know why he would sub in a similar type player in Michael Stephens and not, say, Jared Jeffries ….. to provide some defensive cover in the midfield, which ultimately proved to be significant.
  • Secondly, you sub out Adu and replace him with Joe Gayu which under any other circumstances, would appear to be offensive ….. in the latter stages of a critical cup qualifying game, are you looking to score more goals or preserve the lead?
  • It was clear that the substitutions needed to be made up the center of the park with both Okugo and Diskerud being the obvious choice.  El Salvador’s final goal was ultamitely scored because a player broke free in the midfield and was allowed to square up his body and take a go at it …. it was a tough situation to put a keeper in as evidenced in the results.
  • Although Corona was tiring out, so too were is defensive cover in midfield, and I would rather bring in fresh legs on the defensive end, rather than making a questionable replacement for the number 10 and your team captain.
  • Caleb Porter was unable to recognize an ultra defensive formation from Canada and failed to make the in-game adjustments in order to exploit their weaknesses.  It was the Canada match where we saw this squad clearly move away from a style of play which had been instituted and enacted flawlessly against Cuba and Mexico.
  • Too many questionable decisions from the manager, and too much lack of enthusiasm from the players resulted in two poor performances and elimination from from the tournament.
  • To be fair, there were some players missing from this squad who could have made a significant difference, but I still believe Olympic qualifying was easily attainable and if I was to point to reasons for the unfavorable outcome, I’d say some poor decision making from a young and inexperienced manager proving to halt the momentum of a team on fire.
  • When this squad plays the way they can, they are extremely talented and capable of producing some of the most attractive football the country has seen.

US v. Cuba: Olympic Qualifying 2012

The US U-23 Men’s National Team defeated Cuba U-23 Men’s National Team in their first game of Olympic qualifying in Nashville, TN.  The US topped Cuba with six goals on the night from Joe Corona with a hat trick, Juan Agudelo, an own goal off a Brek Shea cross, and a stunning strike from captain Freddy Adu.

The lineups for both sides were:
USA : 1-Bill Hamid; 3-Kofi Sarkodie, 2-Ike Opara, 4-Perry Kitchen, 5-Zarek Valentin; 6-Jared Jeffrey (16-Amobi Okugo, 64), 8-Mix Diskerud, 10-Joe Corona; 7-Freddy Adu (capt.), 9-Juan Agudelo (12-Teal Bunbury, 46), 11-Brek Shea (14-Joe Gyau, 57)

Subs not used: 13-Jorge Villafana, 15-Terrence Boyd, 17-Tony Taylor, 18-Sean Johnson, 19-Sheanon Williams, 20-Michael Stephens; Head Coach: Caleb Porter

CUB : 1-Odisnel Cooper, 2-Yoisel Salazar, 4-Dairo Macias, 5-Renay Malblanche, 6-Osay Martinez, 8-Jorge Farinas (15-Arturo Diz Pe, 24), 10-Maikel Chang, 13-Carlos Domingo Francicso (capt.), 14-Aricheell Hernandez (7-Ricardo Pena, 68), 16-Heviel Cordoves, 17-Dayron Blanco

Subs not used: 3-Yosmel De Armas, 9-Felix Guerra, 11-Daniel Saez, 12-Julio Pichardo, 18-Maykel Reyes; Head coach: Raul Triana Gonzalez

Bullet Points:

  • Caleb Porter probably wants this night to be over and done with and the next match to happen as quickly as possible.  The worst thing to happen to the squad is for complacency to set in so early.  This match was clearly not representative of a true contest worthy of Olympic qualifying.
  • Cuba looked sluggish and without direction, almost devoid of a game plan.
  • The central midfield put in a strong performance, and I really like the chemistry between Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud, who are both similar players.  You can tell they enjoy their football and are both constantly active.
  • Jared Jeffrey, to me, looks a lot like Phil Jones of England and Man United.  Phil Jones you will remember was compared to Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro by a doting Fabio Capello while manager of England.  While I won’t go that far, the comparison is being drawn at the players versatility and confidence on the ball – to which I feel he could slot in at the center back position easily.
  • Not sure if Perry Kitchen should be at center back or trade places with Jared Jeffrey.
  • Not much activity from Freddy Adu.  Did we really need him to be active?  I would hope that as the elder statesman and leader on this team Freddy is experienced enough to know when his team needs him and when they don’t.  Look for Adu to make an impact in the following matches.
  • Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo are cementing their place as the future attack duo for US Soccer in the years to come.  They both have gradually grown in confidence (it never really seemed like they lacked confidence) but also have grown into a chemistry on the field that is so rare to have between two strikers.
  • Seeing this squad perform tonight I was surprised, not about the goals scored or individual performances, but more or less at the team staying true to a philosophy and a system of play regardless of the circumstances.  The US were consistent throughout the match in their play and actions surrounding the ball and toward each other, whether it was the first ten minutes or the final twenty minutes of the game.
Thoughts?  Reactions?  Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.

Preview: US U-23 v. Cuba U-23 Olympic Qualifying 2012

Caleb Porter and the US U-23 Men’s National Team are set to open their Olympic qualifying bid for London 2012 tonight at LP Field in Nashville, TN; the game is set to start at 9:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on Universal/NBC Sports networks.

The US U-23s come into the match with a convincing preseason which included wins against MLS and NASL sides.  The highlight of the training camps building up to tonight was a clinical performance against fellow CONCACAF rivals Mexico posting a 2-0 win in Frisco, TX.

Cuba U-23s are coming off a preseason which saw wins against Anuba, Guyana and Suriname U-23s and draws against Trinidad & Tabago and Saint Kitts & Nevis U-23s most recerntly.

“They’re a very organized team. They have some attacking guys that are dangerous. We expect it to be a tight game. They’re going to be organized and disciplined and I don’t think they’re going to open up and run with us.” Said Caleb Porter, “I think they’re a team that’s probably going to sit and counter and in soccer, that makes things difficult but we’re prepared for that.”

Freddy Adu will be looking for revenge as he scored the lone goal in the 2008 Olympic qualifying final round which saw the US tie Cuba 1-1 on their way to Beijing.  Adu captains the 2012 Olympic squad, this time around, and looks to feature as the centerpiece in a preferred 4-3-3 system.  Adu, who has played at nearly every tier for the US National teams, has been vocal about his preference for the possession based system and can feature as either an inverted winger or a straight up No. 10.

“Wherever he puts me, a lot is asked of me in playing different roles. It’s not different in the sense that if I am out wide, I’m more pinched in anyway to be a second playmaker. It’s something in the back of my head,” said Adu.

Some other roster notes include, thirteen players previously playing in at least one World Cup at the youth level, and four players – Adu, Jared Jeffrey, Shea and Sheanon Williams – have appeared in both the U-17 and U-20 tournaments.  The U-17 Residency Program developed 11 players who will represent the U.S. in Olympic qualifying: Adu and Michael Stephens from the 2003 cycle; Jeffrey, Amobi Okugo, Kofi Sarkodie, Shea and Williams from the 2007 cycle; and Agudelo, Joe Gyau and Kitchen from the 2009 cycle.

I’m excited to see the US exclusively use the 4-3-3 system in a legitimate competition at any level, for the first time.  However the US line up, I expect that Cuba will look to frustrate the US and limit their creative chances by inviting mistakes in play and capitalizing on them.  I have seen in recent training camps that teams who sat back and absorbed waves of offensive attacks from this squad, eventually buckled under the pressure and toward the end of a match looked overwhelmed.  This is wholly the aim of a possession based system, to apply constant pressure throughout the match and dominate.  I am curious to see at which point in the game the US will break down the Cuban defense and begin to exert their game plan as they have been successful in doing in the previous 5 matches.

Porter Names Final Olympic Qualifying Roster

US U-23 Men’s National Team head coach Caleb Porter named the final Olympic qualifying roster to compete during the process used to select the CONCACAF representatives for the London 2012 Olympics.

The roster remained the same with one exception, D Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union) was added to round out the squad when Josh Gatt was recalled by his club Molde FK in Norway.  Freddy Adu was named captain and Perry Kitchen was named vice-captain.

This is quite possibly one of the most talented, and certainly the most professionally accomplished, group going into Olympic qualifying the US has ever assembled for the U-23s.  That point can be left to be debated.  However, there is not a single college player on the roster and eight players have at least one cap with the senior MNT.  Eleven of the players were developed through the U-17 residency program and five players are employed outside the United States with the rest on MLS clubs domestically.

This roster does not reflect European based players who are age eligible but not allowed to participate due to club obligations.  Additionally, Caleb Porter has stated that overage players are yet to be decided on because the squad is focused on qualifying since overage players are not allowed to be used during the qualifying process.

Here is the complete US roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United; Annandale, Va.), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire; Lilburn, Ga.)
DEFENDERS (6): Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes; Durham, N.C.), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo; Huber Heights, Ohio), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact; Lancaster, Pa.), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union; Boston, Mass.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union; Potomac, Md.), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Mix Diskerud (Gent; Oslo, Norway), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz; Richardson, Texas), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union; Sacramento, Calif.), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy; Naperville, Ill.)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls; Barnegat, N.J.), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund; Berlin, Germany), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City; Prior Lake, Minn.), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim: Silver Spring, Md.), Brek Shea (FC Dallas; Bryan, Texas), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia, Jacksonville, Fla.)

Porter Adds Tony Taylor – Talks Training Camp


US U-23 Men’s National Team head coach Caleb Porter has added Tony Taylor to the final training camp in preparation for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers.  The squad will train for the next week before announcing the final 20-man roster on or before the deadline to submit the team sheet to CONCOCAF, March 20th.  Tony Taylor is based in Portugal with club Estoril Praia and was mostly used out wide to patrol the flanks for the US during a few recent friendlies.

Taylor participated in the Feb. camp with the U23s, playing the final 23 minutes in the 2-0 win against Mexico on Feb. 29th at FC Dallas Stadium.

Here is the U-23s Qualifying Schedule:

US vs. Cuba- March 22nd @ 9pm EST (LP Field in Nashville)
US vs. Canada- March 24th @ 7pm EST (LP Field in Nashville)
US vs. El Salvador- March 26th @ 9pm EST (LP Field in Nashville)

US vs. semi-final opponent (if applicable) – March 31st at Livestrong Sporting Park
US vs. final opponent (if applicable) – April 2nd at Livestrong Sporting Park

Porter Names US U-23 Olympic Qualifying Roster

Picture courtesy of US soccer

Caleb Porter named an initial 19 players to the US U-23 Men’s National Team Roster to report to training camp on March 13th to begin final preparation for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying.

One player has withdrawn due to injury and Porter will make an additional player selection before submitting the final roster on March 20th, which is the due date for all participating teams to submit their final roster to CONCACAF.

Although US Soccer did not release the name of the player injured, it did not go unnoticed that Columbus Crew Midfielder and Olympic hopeful, Dilly Duka received a hamstring injury this weekend in the season opener against Colorado Rapids, “I think he could be out for a while” said head coach Robert Warzycha.

Speaking about the long process of player selection among some of the best talent the United States has to offer head coach Caleb Porter said, “For the past four training camps we have been comprehensively evaluating the most talented personnel available from an extensive player pool comprised of professional players on clubs in this country and abroad.  We always keep in mind its most important to find the best mix collectively so that we can build a cohesive team capable of accomplishing our goal. I feel very confident in this collection of players and their ability to execute the playing style we believe will best represent their talents and get us to London.”

Overal, 13 players from MLS are represented along with 6 players that are playing outside of the US.  Freddy Adu returns to the Olympic scene while 8 players overall have at least one cap with the senior team.  Development of these players has been in cooperation with US MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann , the goal being to vertically integrate national team programs.

Overall, the US Soccer set-up is taking a major step forward and progress continues to be made.  However, there is still concern that injuries to any player with a senior cap, especially players who Klinsmann has depended on in more recent times run the definite risk of missing World Cup Qualifying.

More specifically with Brek Shea, who has featured in all 10 matches under Jurgen Klinsmann with the senior side.  But also, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury and now Terrence Boyd being included as key performers in a less than productive offense for the USMNT.

Another interesting note, is that within the FIFA Regulations for the Olympic Football Tournaments in London 2012, it is stated that a maximum of 3 players who do not meet the age limit (born on or after 1 January 1989) can be included in the final competition.  There is great debate in England over whether or not David Beckham will compete for team Great Britain for the 2012 London Olympics.

We have seen this in the past with US Soccer when the overage spots were utilized in the Olympic squad.  “The decision on whether to use overage players belongs to the coach. Certainly, he will strongly consider using all or some of the overage player exemptions based on the needs of the team,” said Michael Kammerman of US Soccer.  It will be interesting to see if US Soccer has plans to incorporate any senior members this time around.

Here is a look at the full roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United; Annandale, Va.), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire; Lilburn, Ga.)

DEFENDERS (6): Josh Gatt (Molde; Plymouth, Mich.), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes; Durham, N.C.), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo; Huber Heights, Ohio), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact; Lancaster, Pa.), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union; Potomac, Md.), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Mix Diskerud (Gent; Oslo, Norway), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz; Richardson, Texas), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union; Sacramento, Calif.), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy; Naperville, Ill.)

FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls; Barnegat, N.J.), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund; Berlin, Germany), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City; Prior Lake, Minn.), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim; Silver Spring, Md.), Brek Shea (FC Dallas; Bryan, Texas)