Top Stories

Under-20 World Cup: USA 4, Cameroon 1 (A Look Back)

DukaWilliams (Getty Images)

Thomas Rongen changed half his team, but stuck with his formation, and a decision that started out looking like it might be a stubborn mistake wound up being a smart move that has the U.S. Under-20 national team in great shape at the Under-20 World Cup.

The Americans trotted out a 4-3-3 formation for the second straight match, doing so despite the same formation being largely ineffective in a 3-0 loss to Germany. Rongen saw something in the match-up against Cameroon that suggested to him that he needed to stick with three forwards and the result was a 4-1 thumping against a highly-regarded Cameroon side.

It didn't start out looking like a smart move, not as the United States struggled through the first 40 minutes of the match, but when midfielder Bryan Arguez scored the match's first goal just before halftime, the dynamic of the match changed and the opportunity for Rongen's 4-3-3 to shine presented itself.

How so? Cameroon came out in the second half eager to equalize and got caught overstretched and exposed to a counter, which Dilly Duka was able to exploit with the U.S. team's second goal. That became a theme for the second half, with Cameroon attacking and creating build-ups, and the Americans countering with their three forwards (and Duka's creativity) and applying heavy pressure on the African team's defense.

If the U.S. team had sat back and bunkered, Cameroon would have created even more chances and would have likely made it a much closer game, but the U.S. attack kept pushing even with a lead, a formula that led to two more goals and a USA romp.

Despite the result, the U.S. team shouldn't be fooled into thinking that approach will work against everybody. A team with a bit more patience, better finishers and defensive discipline could have done a much better job of exploiting the U.S. team's weaknesses. A team like South Korea, the U.S. team's next opponent.

With that in mind, Will Rongen stick with the 4-3-3 against South Korea, a team that also employs a three-forward attack? The impressive performances of some of his midfielders could force Rongen to seriously consider switching to a 4-4-2. If he did, Rongen could play the midfield combination of Dilly Duka, Mikkel Diskerud, Jared Jeffrey and Bryan Arguez.

Duka certainly showed enough play-making ability vs. Cameroon to retain his starting job, and Arguez showed for a second game that he is the team's best defensive midfield option, but Diskerud is a creative player who could work well with that midfield grouping. He never really stood a chance to show his qualities playing in the team's opening match, playing in a three-man midfield against Germany's five-man midfield, a match-up that stifled the U.S. team's offense and rendered Diskerud largely invisible.

Rongen will have much tougher lineup decisions to make for Friday's match than for the Cameroon match, but one advantage his team will enjoy, regardless of lineup and formation, is the confidence the squad is riding heading into the match vs. South Korea. The team could have folded against Cameroon after almost a game and a half of goal-less soccer, but instead of folding it flourished and now Rongen and his team have a chance to show that the team we saw dispose of Cameroon is a much more true reflection of this U.S. Under-20 team than the team we saw get rolled by Germany.


What did you think of the U.S. team's performance on Tuesday? Still worried about the number of chances being given up? Is Dilly Duka your new favorite player? Think the team will advance to the second round?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Oh Jeffrey despite some give aways has great vision, his ideas were sometimes too far ahead or creative though for his teammates, he’s also not afraid to get stuck in, he’ll also be one to watch.

  2. I agree with you guys on Taylor he’s got some skills and great confidence but his finishing is horrible. IF he can work on that final ball or finish he could be future full national team member.

    Brek Shea IS tall, very athletic and has good foot skills, but his finishing his horrid and seems a little lost up front sometimes, didn’t MAn u want him as a defender, thats where I see him playing well, didn’t impress me too much up front, but his future is brightI just don’t know in what position.

    Opara and Gale were are impressive to me, very athletic, big and strong, and Opara really seemed to start reading the game well against Cameroon, however their distribution out of the back is amatuerish and needs to be worked on.

    The last player I think has a future with the full team is Duka, he seems to have a good mind for the game, not the most athletic but smart skillful player, Arguez showed some flashes as well.

  3. This Guy,
    thanks for the info. but don’t you think that they can be better than other guys in this team. I not saying cause they are in Italia but they are getting train better and their football soccer is much better that what are we seeing in this team. I already posted some of the guy that impress me a bit, I forgot to mention “Diskerud” but they could have bring some other type of rythem to this playing style. Even tho Nazzani or Bernardo are not getting playing time they can play better than other in this team. See what Dos SAntos is doing for Mexico and he is not even playing for the Spur.

  4. An article over at YA says that about 15 European scouts were at the Cameroon match to watch Tony Taylor. If that’s not surprising: More than that showed up to scout Agbossamounde. And he’s 17 years old.

  5. Angel,
    One of those Italian/Americans is Vincenzo Bernardo. Rumor is that he will be Philadelphia Unions first signing. the other is Nazzani, he isn’t getting minutes in C2 so not calling him up is understandable.

  6. @Andrew: Well Shea, Cruz, Duka, Taylor, Flores, William, Okpara, Jeffrey & Arguez had a good game the they have impress me a bit. But Arquez was out the lineup and like always this Rongen guys keep making mistake of the taking the right guy with two Italian/American playing in Italy he should have callup.

  7. Tony Taylor plays for FIU i believe. He just signed with Traffic Sports which is an agency that Carlos Tevez used in the past. Boss (gale as you all call him) has also signed with Traffic Sports. Boss has played about 3 matches for Miami FC and hasn’t looked impressive. Traffic Sports will get them matches wherever they can and then eventually a club signing in Europe.

    In Dilly Duka’s postmatch interview on you can clearly tell that he was sending in a cross that turned into a goal.

  8. I thought the first half Duka was not very good at all…gave away a lot of passes early on but he absolutely changed my mind in the second half. As for Arguez…what can you say he has been a big difference so far. Thought Cruz and Shea were great on the night. Didn’t see all the missed passes that everyone was talkin about from the two of them. Thought they connected well all game. Can;t wait to watch the Korea game.

  9. There doesb’t seem to be any room for Diskerud on the field right now, you look at the way the central midfield played with Duka Arguez and Jeffrey you cannot take them out. Diskerud can not provide the work rate that both Shea and Cruz gave on the outsides so its tough to justify playing him at this point. In game one I thought he was very ineffective.

  10. I was very impressed with Arguez and his poise on the ball. he made some nifty moves in the middle of the field to get out of tight spots. He moves at a languid pace, something like P. Veira in his Arsenal days. Don’t want to hype him too much, but he looks so much better on the ball than the last time we saw him.
    On Rongen- after the terrible performance of Ownby and Powers, I was shocked to see them back on the field as subs. Ownby’s goal notwithstanding, they were in over their heds. At least Ownby is out for the next game.

  11. @PetedeLA: These kids have played against Germany in friendlies so many times is about time they should have know something about them specially the coaching staff. If I was Rongen I will use the same squad for the Korea.

  12. I would also like to say that for a kid with no current club (which the announcers took every chance to mention), Sheanon Williams was pretty good back there. He did get beaten for some crosses, but he intercepted quite a few balls as well.

  13. You guys aren’t in the locker room. These are kids. You don’t know which kids can’t get any sleep… which have grown permanent goose bumps, which kids are playing drama queen. This stuff happens.

    Beckham once said that when the senior Americans played England at Wembley he saw some US players literally shaking in their boots.

    It’s not just about talent or formation. On that day I think the German team would have beaten anybody. They were so well organized, so cold blooded with their chances (for a U-20 team).

  14. Ives, I believe the change in players had more to do with the result than the opposition or formation. Williams, Duka, Arguez, Cruz, were much better starters than Powers, Ownby, and Mayen. You can give credit to Rongen as many do to Bradley at Confed cup, but the question always remains, how didn’t he see this at the start?

  15. Can’t see why anyone is harsh on these coaches. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the US programs are over achieving, not underachieving. We don’t have a proper club system in this country to properly foster youth development. That sort of thing takes time. MLS is obviously not that good. Sure we’re a huge country, but we just don’t have the developmental assets like the top European countries, Brazil, Japan, or even Japan and Korea. These tournaments are really some of the only times young American players have to deal with this kind of pressure. In other countries you feel massive pressure from the age of 11.
    I think people should give this Rongen guy a break. I’m sure he’s made some mistakes (Subotic, et al), but he obviously puts some emphasis on technique which has been our achille’s heel for so long. The coaches can only do so much. You can’t make a soccer player on an assembly line…yet.

  16. oh yeah, i also think we need Duka and Mix on the field at the same time. Korea’s strong work rate could allow them to key on Duka leaving us little creativity. put Mix out there- since he’s probably still an unknown to them.

  17. Ives, any chance the Red Bulls can do something to get Duka signed to the senior team? I know MLS stood in their way when they tried previously, but since then I’ve read some comments about Garber talking about amending the rules. Just seems crazy the league would deny a team a chance to sign young American talent, who likely has a future in Europe.

  18. maybe my opinion is a bit harsh. feeling blog regret!

    i’m sure he’s a much better coach than i am and the vast majority of coaches in the US system. so, i’m thankful for his work. bring home another win.

  19. jpc, i don’t know if you’re right or wrong on rongen being one of the most successful coaches in the US system, but it sure seems like his teams consistently underachieve, have losing records, and his player personnel decisions are head scratchers. that’s just my take on it though. do you have stats to back it up?

  20. BrianK, i think i agree with you. not sure why Rongen wouldn’t start our best players against the toughest team in the group our first match- especially considering the way they played yesterday. this performance to me seemed much better defensively (Ike Opara just earned himself a big payday- he was a beast) but for me jeffrey is still a liability w/ his giveaways. tough tackler but he failed to find the mark repeatedly in the first half leading to extra pressure on the backline. duka looked very much like our best player, and if taylor can learn to finish half the chances he gets/creates, he’ll be a good goal scorer. we’re going to need more help and more of the ball against Korea- they possess the ball very wall and are patient. Jeffrey trying to hold majority of defensive responsibilities alone in 3 man midfield won’t cut it i think.

  21. Great win boys. Duka is pure class. If you watch the replay over and over, which I did, you can see that the goalie is out pretty far when Duka first touches the ball…

    Not many kids or professionals in that case would attempt a shot like that with your supposed weaker foot…

    But thats what makes Duka special. Its his ability to take players on as shown in the game, play nice simple balls, great touch and awareness and two great feet… SIMPLY CLASS

  22. I hope this game was not a fluke, I really believe that we need to see more of Diskerud to evaluate him as a player and I think he has a lot to offer. Good game though. GO USA

  23. There has been a lot of criticism of Rongen both here and on other outlets.

    While his picks for the first game might have seemed a little strange, does anyone really knows enough about the players or inner workings of this team to say that they were stupid mistakes?

    I will say this for Rongen, every time I watch the U-20 teams that he coaches, I have seen a team that attempts to attack its opponents on the ground

    Beyond that, this is probably the least talented U-20 WC team in the last 3-4 cycles, and they are still on the verge of possibly winning its group (w/ a little help from Cameroon), which I believe is considered the group of death.

    Also, to the point by BrianK, Rongen’s right. Our players do lack the skills, composure and tactics of their oponents. This is clear, and has been clear about the US system forever. He’s not tricking people into thinking this in order to keep his job. And he should be frustrated b/c when a kid is 20 years old and doesn’t have proper technique its too late, in fact if a kid doesn’t have proper technique by 16 its probably too late. He makes due w/ the talent that comes through the system, and does a pretty good job. In fact he’s probably the most succesful coach in the US system in terms of results

    (SBI-JPC, I can only speak for my own criticisms of Rongen from the first game, but I took issue with him starting a three-man midfield and not starting Duka. Based on the results of the second match I’m not sure how my issue regarding Duka was invalid. If you’re a coach and you start two players who are relative newcomers to the team, and those two players are awful in the match you start them, then you as a coach deserve some criticism. Conversely, if a coach sticks with a formation that didn’t do well, and that formation goes out and produces a good result, he deserves credit, which is what we gave him.)

  24. I’m just happy to see a player with the technique of Duka. Rarely do we see an American make a goal of that quality in a game that matters. Finally someone who’s two-footed and can actually use it when it counts (yes, I’m aiming that at Robbie ‘blind cross’ Rogers).

    Unrelated–Bring on ManU vs Wolfsburg and Bayern vs Juve!!!

  25. That’s crap afrim. I would rather the refs get more strict and card people for that then have us dive around. I hope it’s not if we can’t beat them join them kind of thing

  26. in order to get the “edge” Americans need to be taught how to work the ref. If u notice every other country complains to the ref..tells him “no no no” after a foul(to avoid a yellow)etc… And it actually works with many refs! maybe not right there and then but pshycologically it has an effect and you have a better chance of getting a make up call down the line. (like falling in the box after a defender squeezes your jersey a little to get the PK)

    Embelish the fouls too, even xabi alonzo did it in the conf cup which got clark a yellow i believe. Its just not a Mexican or Italian thing.

    Theater is part of the game if we want to accept it or not. Sure its ugly and cheap and as americans we are taught to approach sports in a macho way (never quit, play hurt, suck it up, shut up and play etc..)

    i expect to get heat from this post but sissy crap like this could be the difference maker in a 50/50 game

  27. I think Shea just “stands out” because of his hair. Seriously. It is great marketing; amongst a sea of players, you always know when he is around.

  28. A few thoughts:

    1. If the Cameroonian player’s name was Banana YOYO,…then he would be a perfect fit for the Red Bulls.

    2. Nice to see the USA pull it together after a tough loss to Germany. Says a lot about the character of the team and the confidence of the players WHO STARTED the Cameroon match.

    3. On Rongen: Two points (1) Can his judgment be so poor that he failed to identify Arguez, Duka and Cruz as starters BEFORE the tournament? Clearly, the man has problems assessing talent, hence the whole Subotic fiasco. Which leads me to my second point,…which should be the last word on Rongen (2) he is very much like a store-front preacher in a poor neighborhood, who NEED and WANT to perpetuate the squalor so they have something to preach about so they can collect donations at their ‘churches.’ Not so long ago I exchanged emails with a soccer writer who went on and on about Thomas Rongen said that the US players lack skill, they lack techical ability, they lack composure on the ball, they lack this, that and the other thing. Well it occurred to me that Rongen is really just a store-front preacher dressed in a track suit. He tells everyone at the USSF all about the US players limitations and how far behind we are on this front and that front. But his message is clear,…..YOU NEED ME TO TRAIN AND COACH THESE PLAYERS TO MAKE THEM BETTER (because I need a job!). He is the Music Man. We got trouble,…right here in River City! Rongen wants to sell the USSF his band equipment!

    I realize the USA players have limitations,…but I would rather have a coach who believes that there is an upside to the players and believes in what Sir Alex Ferguson refers to as “that American thing.”

  29. The whole Ownby thing on here was hilarious yesterday. I don’t remember a player getting more hate (from the commenters) and gentle ribbing (from Ives) then to be redeemed entirely by a goal.

  30. Extreme switches from hating the team to loving it on this forum. Reminds me of the Confed Cup. The Germans won the game from the coaches with the formation and tactical awareness to the players who are just much better quality on the ball. Cameroon was definitely not outclassed but too aggressive and paid the price much like Egypt and Spain against the senior team. I still have very many concerns about our squad’s ability to do the simple things like passing in triangles and the midfield doing appropriate runs to get in the right positions to make connecting passes much easier. The way we scored most was through balls as cameroon was guarding the half line and forward. How easy is it to do balls over the top on that pitch where the field grass seemed to be replaced by super glue. No wonder old trafford waters the field pre-game and at half-time that field held on to every ball! I’m hoping that Rogen is taking some games to figure out who has the quality at this level and then plays them.

  31. @ Chris Whyte
    You are right it look more a 4-5-1 because Taylor look like a lone striker. But I did enjoy Duka and Shea together playing, Cruz did a good job but the need to make those passes much better because they either pass to long or too short. But I did enjoy those 4 goals but the need to convert all those chances because it could have been more goals for the USA but Cameroon had a lots of chance too and we were lucky. That Defends from Our USA team have to be more strong and more accurate.

  32. I like watching the games on Galavision just to hear:

    “Arguez a Duka…Dilly Duka…DUkaDUka..DU-ka, DUKA! …….Gol! gol! gol! gol…!”

  33. That was a 4-3-3? It sure looked like a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-5-1 to me. But, I’m definitely not the best at identifying formations.

    (SBI-Cameroon had so much of the ball that Shea and Cruz spent more time tracking back to help than getting forward, so it looked like a 4-5-1 at times but was a 4-3-3.)

  34. All I saying that every game that I watch from the U20 the only one who’s standout is Brek Shea, This guy have the height, Skill to hold the ball and have good crosses and should be playing in the senior squad. No wonder why Sir Ferguson and Man U wanted him on his Team.


Leave a Comment