U-20 Recap - Comeback Kids

Well, the Baby Nats proved against Poland that they could come back from a goal down, and they did it again against a feisty Uruguay squad. It wasn't quite the spectacular explosion of goals that the earlier triumph was, but it was certainly more dramatic and nail-biting.

Uruguay clearly came into this game ready to rough up the US attackers and did so without much opposition from the awful referee, who seemed to alternate between letting brutal play go with nary an admonishment, yet blew the whistle for seemingly innocuous bumps off of the ball - for both sides. All you can ask of a referee is consistency. Unfortunately, consistent wretchedness isn't what you look for, and the match ended up getting away from the official well before the end.

In any case, Uruguay succeeded in knocking Jozy Altidore out of the game with an injury after several questionable challenges and his replacement Akpan was a mere shadow of the Red Bull hitman. While Akpan never really seemed to come to terms with the pace of the game, he did apply the pressure that led to a late Uruguay own goal that sent the game into extra time. After that, it was only a matter of what would prevail in extra time: the possession and pressure of the US, the rapier counters of Uruguay, or the whimsical throw of the dice that is penalties?

Fortunately, the US managed to bundle over their second from a corner kick, with Bradley roofing a ball pinged towards goal from about 12 yards out. I have to say that Szetela and Adu deliver some wicked free-kicks and corners that will be gladly welcomed into the senior ranks should they someday succeed in making the full squad. Despite some chances, including a header off the post, Uruguay could not manage an equalizer and the US advanced to the quarterfinal.

I have to say that as impressed as I have been with this squad over the last couple of games, this effort left a little to be desired, both from the players and coach. I was mildly confused, to say the least, by the substitutions made by Rongen and still feel that this team is tactically inflexible. While it's hard to fault the effort displayed by the US players, they allowed Uruguay's physical play to knock them off of their game, much like the speed and pressure of the Koreans did in the opening match of the tournament.

The US also never managed to utilize the wings effectively and Uruguay has to be credited with strong, if not always legal, defending. Speaking of not legalities, I don't think I've seen quite so many dives in a match not involving Cristiano Ronaldo or Arjen Robben in ages. It was getting so bad that Danny Szetela tried to get in on the act by collapsing after taking what we'll generously describe as a "brush of the fingertips" to the face. Regardless of the quality of Szetela's acting, how the linesman and center ref managed to miss the intent of the blow has to be questioned. Classless to the end, the Uruguay kids tried to emulate their senior squad's "sore loser" routine from the Copa America last night by starting a bit of a kerfuffle after the final whistle.

Little Bradley looked like he was about ready to bite somebody's head off and I hope that there won't be any disciplinary action forthcoming that could keep players out of the next game. Speaking of that next game, I sure hope Altidore can go, cause I didn't see much from either Akpan or Ferrari that made me think they'll be effective in this tournament. Chalk it up as a learning experience and hope that all those cards the US picked up in this match don't lead to suspensions down the line that end up costing the US in a semifinal or final.

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