By FRANCO PANIZO
BRADENTON, Fla. — The U.S. Under-23 men's national team wrapped up its December camp with a second intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday afternoon, and the competition for roster spots set the tone for a physical and fiery match.
Split up into white and blue teams, the 29 players in camp (Bill Hamid left camp earlier in the week due to family reasons) took part in a windy match at IMG Soccer Academy that saw its share of physical play and rough challenges. The White Team was victorious in the chippy 2-0 affair courtesy of second-half goals from Terrence Boyd and Sebastian Lletget.
"At the end of the day, these guys are a team but they're also fighting for spots You could see that," said head coach Caleb Porter. "They're pros, they're competitors and when the game is on the line, they're going to want to win. That's good. At times, they got a little carried away but I'd rather it that way than to have a bunch of guys that don't care.
"Clearly, they care."
The match marked the end to Porter's first camp with the team. Porter will hold his next camp in January in Los Angeles, and the U.S. U-23 team will play two friendlies in Costa Rica towards the end of it.
"We're going to play Saprissa and Alajuelense, which will be good," said Porter. "We need to get games. You can try to fabricate a game, and we got a lot of questions answered.
"Training is one thing, which is to see guys in elevens, so that was good," Porter said. "But we need to also see them in a real game against another opponent in hostile environments, see how they respond, so that's the thought behind those two games."
Here are some observations from Thursday's match:
INTRA-SQUAD GAME LINEUPS
*White Team (4-3-3): Sean Johnson (David Bingham, 45'); Sheanon Williams, Royal-Dominique Fennell, Sebastien Ibeagha, Kofi Sarkodie; Michael Stephens, Bryan Arguez (Jared Jeffrey, 45'), Sebastian Lletget (Mikkel Diskerud, 45'); Will Bruin (Andrew Wooten, 45'), Terrence Boyd, Jann George.
*Blue Team (4-3-3): Zac MacMath; Zarek Valentin, Andrew Wenger, Gale Agbossoumonde, Jorge Villafana; Amobi Okugo, Joe Corona (Kelyn Rowe, 45'), Dilly Duka (Danny Cruz, 45'); Jack McInerney (Joe Gyau, 45'), Teal Bunbury, Freddy Adu.
*Some of players substituted at halftime returned to the game during the second half.
Terrence Boyd scored a beautiful goal from 20-25 yards with a toe-poke blast near the midway point of the second half. That was just part of the impressive game Boyd, the White Team's captain, put together. He was active throughout and not afraid to get into challenges, though he should have been sent off prior to scoring his goal when he got a second yellow for a rough challenge on Zarek Valentin.
Amobi Okugo delivered a strong performance as captain of the Blue Team. He covered a lot of ground, broke up several attacks with timely tackles and linked up well with the attack. He got Boyd to receive a yellow card when the German-American forward wrestled him down from behind in an attempt to get the ball.
Sebastian Lletget scored on a well-placed shot just inside the penalty area, and looked good atop the White Team's midfield triangle. He was active in the first half, and kicked it up a notch in the second when he had Jared Jeffrey and Mikkel Diskerud playing behind him.
Dilly Duka looked good in the first half, constantly in the thick of things as the Blue Team enjoyed a better first half than the White Team. Duka did well atop the midfield triangle, creating several chances for his side.
Mikkel Diskerud came off the bench at halftime and helped turn around the White Team's fortunes after a first half largely dominated by the Blue Team. He was tidy in possession save for one terrible back-pass that went to an opposing player in the final third, and he had one bending free kick that was just high.
Freddy Adu failed to make much of an impact. He had a couple of nice plays but was sloppy with some passes that should have been routine for him. He also didn't create much for himself or his teammates. Porter talked after the game about Adu, saying that he showed his quality over the week-long camp, but that he needs to pick up his fitness.
Teal Bunbury was a real threat in the first half with his size and speed, but he was never able to break free on goal. Bunbury went down several times just when he looked ready to beat his defender, but the referee did not whistle anything in his favor.
Sebastien Ibeagha struggled after having a strong showing in the earlier intra-squad match. He had his hands full with Bunbury, and also had a couple of bad passes out of the back.
Gale Agbossoumonde had a mixed showing. He looked good in the first half, passing well out of the back, making runs forward with the ball and coming up with well-timed tackles. The second half was a different story, as he distributed the ball poorly on a few occasions.
None of the goalkeepers had much work to do in the scrappy game, though the save of the match came from Zac MacMath in the second half when he denied an opportunity with a quick reaction.