There is no other word to describe the U.S. Under-23 national team’s performance against Cuba on Tuesday night than disappointing. A 1-1 tie isn’t the worst result in the world but the Americans missed a golden opportunity to bag three points and make things easier for themselves in the rest of the Olympic Qualifying tournament.
Peter Nowak deserves the blame for a flat first half by his squad, a performance that was a product of lineup and formation that was just not going to work with the personnel he used. Yes, the first 15 minutes of the match were promising for the Americans, but that was down entirely to the creativity and trickiness of Freddy Adu.
The concept of using Charlie Davies and Robbie Findley as wingers was a nice attempt at flooding the U.S. attack with speed, but neither player looked comfortable on the flank and they wound up leaving Jozy Altidore all alone up top. Altidore looked lost at times as he waited for service that never came. Nowak’s decision to leave behind Robbie Rogers and Arturo Alvarez was only made more puzzling by the awful showings of Davies and Findley (though it should be noted that Rogers is believed to have been carrying an injury)
The second half was better for the Americans, particularly the play of Dax McCarty, Maurice Edu and Sacha Kljestan, but the forward trio of Davies, Findley and Barrett looked just plain awful. I know Altidore didn’t have a great first half but he is head and shoulders above those three forwards and it is scary to think what the U.S. team would do without Altidore for an entire tournament.
The defense also looked extremely vulnerable. The fullbacks looked decent in the first half but I saw them beaten too many times in the second half. Luckily for the Americans, Cuba just couldn’t deliver the final pass to create quality chances. Aside from the equalizer of course.
So what now for the Americans? Scrapping the 4-2-3-1 formation is a start (not just scrapping it but burning it in a fire. The 4-4-2 the U.S. team used in the second half was effective and Nowak has the players to make it work.
What did you think of Tuesday night’s performance? Share your thoughts below: