U-20 Recap - WRongen'd Up!

The Koreans are probably in for a few days worth of shooting practice as they dominated this game but were unable to apply the finishing touch that would have sunk the baby Nats. While it's true that Seitz carried on the proud tradition of American excellence in the nets, he was aided by shanks, slices, ground kicks, and the crossbar. So let's get to the talking points:
  1. The Koreans were quick, not just in sheer team speed, but in passing, thought, and recovery as well. They realized their size and strength disadvantage and pinged the ball about, with long crossfield balls finding unmarked attackers and disregarding the midfield, packed as it was with 5 American players in whatever that awful 4-5-1, 4-4-1-1 formation was that the US were playing. The Americans played at a pedestrian pace allowing the Koreans not just to recover and set up a strong defensive wall, but also to anticipate balls and to intercept them, setting up quick counter-attacks. The speed, workrate, and determination were impressive, but you could tell they were starting to flag as the game wore on and this might prove their undoing in other matches and indeed the tournament itself as the games begin to pile up on overworked legs.
  2. Bench Adu! Or at least move him out to the wing where he can have the time and space he seemingly requires to operate. I lost track of the number of times two or three Korean defenders closed him down and stripped him of the ball while he was dribbling about, looking to make something happen. Save for one decent burst into the box that created one of the American's better chances, Adu was pretty much invisible. Having watched Adu for a number of years now, I think it's fairly obvious that he's not a back-to-goal player, and playing the point in a central midfield three, that seems to be a situation he ends up in more often than not. He either needs to be running off of a big man up top or out on the wing where things are not so congested and he can collect the ball and turn, either to pass or to run at defenders.
  3. The Ref had some issues. Whether he himself was bullied as a child is open to speculation, but he sure seemed to have a problem with physical play, particularly by the man-child Altidore. This negated one of the American's big advantages, making them play a more tentative game and spoiling a series of chances for Altidore to make his mark. Some of the decisions were so shocking that you have to wonder if it took the US completely out of its normal approach to the game.
  4. WRongen tactics. It's not particularly appealing to beat a dead horse what with the flies and stench and all, but this one really deserves it sometimes. First, with the size, speed, and power at his disposal and some players who can hit a decent cross, why are the US playing a "continental" game? And why didn't they adjust to the Korean's tactics? Seems to me you should be looking to push the play directly to high wingers who can deliver ball after ball into the box for the likes of Ferrari and Altidore to be crashing onto. I thought that besides the Adu burst into the box, the US's three best chances were a long ball over the top to Altidore and two crosses directed at the same player, the first of which skipped past him for a charging Szetela to finish and the second of which should have been buried, though it probably would have been waved off for offside. Such play (deep and to the wings) would also have negated the primary attack vector for the Koreans, counter-attacks sprung from interceptions of anticipated or just plain lazy balls being shuffled around the stagnant US midfield.
  5. Questionable defending. Sturgis and Ward were particularly guilty of overplaying at the back, allowing for the buzzing Koreans to nip in and steal the ball. Also, the US probably would have been more effective at cutting out the Korean counters by having one of the holding mids always dropping deep as soon as the ball was lost to cut out potential passing angles and to provide cover for defenders looking to close down Korean attackers immediately. This last bit was another ref issue as any degree of physical contact by a US player looking to muscle a Korean off the ball was greeted with a whistle. This brings us to another fault of Rongen's. The Koreans were running riot on the counter playing a direct style, yet Rongen made no adjustment to either personnel or formation. Stick another forward up top and start going at the Korean defense hard rather than putzing about trying to be "creative" and you put the Koreans more on their heels and force them to defend deeper, thus freeing up more space for your midfield to rush into. Also, by pushing the wings up and having two forwards, you can apply more pressure to the defenders and prevent them from having the time or space to pick out those long passes directly to their attackers.
So, all in all a fortunate result for the Americans. Unfortunately and surprisingly, Poland got three points off of Brazil, so that leaves them in the awkward position of needing to beat Poland (doable) and probably also getting at least a point off of Brazil (difficult now that they will need points in that last match as well) in order to advance. Honestly, unless Rongen makes some immediate changes, this is going to be three-and-out. RSL and the Crew will probably be pretty happy to get their players back though.


  1. Towards the end of Adu's time with DCU, he was really, really pissed that Nowak kept him on the wing instead of slotting him in the center where he claimed he was more effective. But I see it like this: Adu is short, which means he can't compete in the middle against large c-mids d-mids, and speedy, which he can't use except on breakaways. Nowak's assessment of Adu's abilities was correct: Adu plays his best game out on the wings. Rongen has to realize this and play him out there.

    Also, I would say that the refereeing definately altered the US' approach to the game and especially crippled our defense. Can't blame the ref for everything, but he really exerted some undue influence on the game.

  2. I don't know how much short has to do with it. While short players generally do better on the wings as a rule because their lack of size is less of a hindrance there, plenty of wee little playmakers operate in the center successfully. Those guys do everything quickly though or play in leagues where they have more time and space on the ball.

    Those in leagues where time and space are at a premium get the ball and either (a) it's gone - off to another player, or (b) they're already off and running at defenders. Freddy seems to want too long to figure things out. He either needs to learn to make the read quicker, get out of the middle, or go play someplace where he has time - in which case his international career is pretty much over before it's begun.

    The other worrying thing is that his quickness just doesn't seem to differentiate him from the pack anymore. Maybe that was just a reflection on the team speed of the Koreans, but I haven't really noticed it too much in MLS this year either.