Photo by Hunter Dorton/ISIphotos.com
Underneath the surface of the United States Under-23 men's national team's 6-0 victory over Cuba is room for improvement.
That's how coach Caleb Porter sees things.
Despite a convincing victory to open Olympic qualifying, Porter was not entirely happy with the way his team played, challenging the U-23s to improve ahead of Saturday's match against Canada in his post-match remarks.
Based on the potential that Canada and El Salvador boast, Porter is not being overly critical. The U.S. U-23s displayed some opening jitters and uneven play in the beginning of the first half against Cuba, set piece delivery — specifically off corner kicks — was far from efficient, and the few times the Cubans managed to press forward, the U.S. defense was not at its sharpest. A wide margin of victory and inspiring performances by midfielders Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud are solid building blocks, though, as the U.S. U23s move forward in their quest for London 2012.
Post-game reaction and comments from Porter and a few U.S. players are after the jump (courtesy of U.S. Soccer):
“We’re obviously pleased with the strong start, but we’re also not satisfied with the performance. Even though the result was lopsided, I still thought it could have been better. Early in the game we were a little bit shaky in the buildup. The defending could have been a little tighter. It’s a little bit to be expected in the first game of the tournament.
"It’s been a long wait for this first game, and I think that showed a little bit in the nervousness out of a few guys. The nice thing is they settled in. You saw in the second half it was sharper, the defending was better, and you could see what we are capable of doing when we play quickly, the spacing is good, and the ball moves.
"I thought we put together some very attractive sequences and it was very effective, and I think we’ll get better and better as the tournament goes on. We’ll keep grounded on this one, file it away, and get ready for Canada.”
On the effect of the red card
“Clearly the red card played into the game, but I would have liked to think we would have still played in a similar way. A lot of teams, even up a man, don’t move the ball as well as we did. Even when we’re even numbers, we’re a team that likes to possess the ball, and now when we’re up a man it was nearly impossible for them to get us off the ball. We leave the game with a realistic perspective. We win the game 6-0, but there’s a red card and in the early stages it wasn’t as good as it needed to be.”
On replacing Juan Agudelo at halftime
“We wanted to be smart. We’re up 4-0 at the time and we want to be smart about how we manage the game. He also took a knock, so we didn’t want to take any risks. We also have a lot of confidence in our bench. We have a lot of depth, and we know we can put guys in the game and the level will stay right where it is.”
On his plans for the lineup going forward
“We’re going to be smart with how we manage our group from game to game. We’re going to look at our team after each game and assess where we’re at physically. Ultimately we want to try to get three points from each game, but also be smart in how we manage the rigors of this difficult format. We’re going to take some time to consider the group, and look at Canada as well.”
On his message to the team
"We’re going to keep it in perspective. We’re going to stay grounded. This is a long tournament. You’ve got to keep your highs low and your lows high. We need to keep this high a bit low, and understand I’m happy and pleased that we got the result. It’s a good start, but we need to be better. That will be the message.
"The nice thing is that I don’t really need to harp on that, because they know it. These guys have very high standards. They know what they’re capable of. I’ve seen it, and you saw it for some periods today. When we move the back quick and we put together our combination play and accelerate it at the right times, it was pretty special.”
On how he fits into the team
“I feel very good. The coaches and players have received me very well. I have a lot of confidence. I feel like I’m at home. The players are very good teammates. I’m happy.”
“(Porter) lets me be free on the ball, and that’s something that helps me a lot, because I feel like I’m that type of player. I feel good.”
On the team's style
“It’s the best thing there is. I love this style of playing soccer. Caleb wants us to play like that, and we want to play like that ourselves. We are technical players and we want to keep the ball. We played how we wanted to play. I think it’s fun for the crowd to watch, as well.
On the beginning of qualifying
"It was nice to get this first game out of the way. That’s a game you always look forward to. Guys are a little bit nervous, but it was nice as soon as we played the first 15-20 minutes, we settled down and we started playing a little bit.”