Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Loss Doesn't Spell Overall Doom

The United States' loss to El Salvador... wait... draw with El Salvador will lead to lots of fallout. Some will clamor that this was Caleb Porter's fault; others will question the talent pool; still others will say this reflects poorly on the U.S. youth system and the types of players who are being produced.

Now, say what you will about Porter and the rest of the coaching staff; his international inexperience may have hurt the team and I felt he should have rotated more players in and out of lineup given the three-games-in-five-days stretch. But one thing that can't, or at least shouldn't, be questioned is the fallout with regards to how it reflects on the youth setup.

This has zero bearing on the U.S. national team's future. None.

Now, it may seem natural to assume that it does. If this team of Americans cannot reach the Olympics - heck, if they can't beat Canada or El Salvador at home - then surely it has to point to larger problems, no?

Well, no. It does not.

Go back to any youth national team who either competed at or for a spot in a major tournament and you will find a mix of players who went on to excel with the national team and those who vanished and became nothing.

For the purposes of the U-23s, look at the U.S. lineup who failed to reach the 2004 Summer Olympics.

This is the team that lost to Mexico in Guadalajara in February 2004 and did not reach the Athens games.

USA: D.J. Countess; Chris Wingert (Kyle Beckerman, 46), Nat Borchers, Chad Marshall, Ricky Lewis; Logan Pause, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Davis (Eddie Gaven, 76), Bobby Convey; Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson (Alecko Eskandarian, 63). Subs Not Used: Doug Warren; David Stokes, Brian Carroll, David Testo.

Let's see... there's an MLS Most Valuable Player there, an MLS Defender of the Year, finalists for both MVP and Defender of the Year, players who have played and excelled abroad, players who are fixtures and key players on their MLS clubs... sure, there are some washouts and players who amounted to nothing but there's some solid talent in that group.

That loss then did not reflect the level of talent found on that team. And who knows, if that semifinal was not played in Guadalajara before 60,000 passionate Mexican supporters, perhaps we're not having this discussion.

But it happened and we are. And it happened again on Monday, so we discuss.

Now, that U.S. team was, I'd argue, more talented than their Mexican counterparts. Here's El Tri's lineup...

Jesús Corona; Aarón Galindo, Francisco Rodríguez, Ismael Rodríguez; Mario Pérez, Gerardo Espinoza, Diego Martínez; Sergio Ponce, Luis Ernesto Pérez (Luis Alonso Sandoval, 78), Juan Pablo García (Gonzalo Pineda, 67); Rafael Márquez Lugo (Ismael Iniguez, 83). Subs Not Used: Cirilo Salcedo; Juan Carlos Cacho, Jaime Duran, Hugo Sanchez Guerrero, Rodolfo Espinoza.

Mexico's best player from this squad was Francisco Rodriguez, better known as Maza. Jesus Corona has been one of Mexico's top goalkeepers in last decade or so, and Luis Perez and Juan Carlos Cacho have enjoyed league and some national team success, Gonzalo Pineda played in a World Cup... but Donovan and Beasley are better than anyone Mexico had that day.

This U.S. team now has some top-notch talent. Brek Shea, Terence Boyd, Freddy Adu, Joe Corona... pick your poison. These players will be influential for club and country before it's all said and done. Just because they failed collectively does not mean that individually they're garbage.

In many ways, the youth setup is like the game of soccer itself. Scoring goals is important yes, but creating chances is probably more important. The more chances you create, the more likely it is you will find the back of the net. But you can generate chance after chance and fail to score, just like you can churn out top youth talent but fail to win. Lack of goals does not necessarily indicate massive deep-rooted problems in a given team's attack, and lack of a youth team's clutch victory does not indicate if the youth system is strong or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the offensive end I don't the US has much to worry about. It's the defensive part of the game that has a lot of the fans worried. There wasn't one defender on that team that stood out or looked likely to make the jump to the senior men's national team. Hamid was also a huge disappointment.