Despite a bit more possession and grabbing the lead twice, the US U-17's opening match of their World Cup was eerily similar to the U-20's opener against South Korea. The Tajiks seemed quicker, more technical, and more interested in the game than their American counterparts. The difference between this game and that of Adu & co. in Canada? Finishing. The Tajiks were willing and able to fire away from distance and that got them their just rewards.
The US side had a few players worth noting, particularly Dominguez, Schuler, and Nimo, but in the main, they sort of looked like they were going through the motions, passing in patterns and making runs from the textbook, playing with little spirit or imagination. Sure, they looked good in the rehearsed confines of set pieces, but the attacks from open play often just ran out of steam when a player held the ball too long or didn't have any further options beyond barreling through the next defender, trying to use individual skill to win a game that demanded cohesive team play.
Obviously, we'll all be hoping that this was a wake-up call for the rest of the tournament and that the U-17's replicate the form that drove the U-20's through to the quarterfinals earlier this summer. I didn't get a chance to see the Tunisia-Belgium match, but I'm assuming that they'll be a step up in quality from the Tajiks. Here's hoping that the kids dig deep to find some of the inspiration they were so desperately lacking in their 4-3 loss in the opener.