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U.S. U-23s 3, Canada 1: The SBI Breakdown


Photo by Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports


The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team is off to a promising start.

Led by a Jordan Morris brace, the U.S. toppled Canada, 3-1, in the opening game of the team’s Olympic qualifying run. In short, it was an impressive performance, one that should serve as a solid kickstart to the group stages.

Players like Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter did the attacking damage, while the team’s young core of U-20 stars proved that they were certainly not in above their depth at the U-23 level.

Yet, it was not all rosy for the U.S., as there are still several improvements to be made as the team moves forward through qualifying.

Here are SBI’s five takeaways from Thursday’s U.S. U-23 victory:


No matter who the opponent, Jordan Morris just can’t stop scoring.

Whether it’s Mexico, SMU or Thursday’s opponent, the Canada U-23s, Morris continues to hit the back of the net at a high rate. The Stanford youngster’s impressive 2015 seems to have no sign of stopping following another two-goal performance in Thursday’s triumph.

While Morris’ first goal was little more than a simple header at the doorstep, his second showed plenty of the qualities that has made U.S. fans salivate. Played through by Wil Trapp, Morris showed off his wheels to chase down the ball over the top. Then, with a defender on his hip, Morris battled through with strength before launching a shot under the goalkeeper coming out.

Morris just seems to have “it,” as well as every tool needed to become a successful striker. If Thursday’s performance was any indication, this qualifying tournament could just be yet another launching pad as the 20-year-old pushes towards his long-awaited move to the professional ranks.


While Morris may have snagged the plaudits based on statistics, Jerome Kiesewetter might just have been the most dynamic American player on the field.

After emerging as a standout at this past summer’s Toulon Tournament, Kiesewetter was dynamic yet again in Thursday’s victory. Given freedom to move throughout the front line, Kiesewetter was, in short, a menace, one that gave Canada fits all night.

The Stuttgart youngster helped kickstart the U.S. attack with an assist on the opening goal, but it didn’t stop there. Throughout, Kiesewetter snuck in behind the back line to find looks on goal while helping draw eyes away from Morris. In reality, Kiesewetter was unlucky not to score, as he was certainly deserving of a signature moment from a spectacular night.

When assessing his Toulon performances along with that of Thursday evening, Kiesewetter looks to be a lot better than a lot of people give him credit for. While he may not receive the hype of a Morris, Kiesewetter looks like he might just be every bit as talented, and every bit as important as the team continues to march through qualifying.


Ahead of the tournament’s start, it was easy to see that the central midfield was going to be a point of strength for the U.S. U-23s. That was apparent Thursday night.

While the duo of Wil Trapp and Fatai Alashe controlled play from their assigned deeper roles, Emerson Hyndman and Gedion Zelalem were given room to flourish in the attacking end. On paper, the four form what is essentially a perfect balance of talent, grit and creativity to make a team tick.

Although Zelalem appeared slightly off his game, Hyndman shined. In truth, the U-23 team as assembled is built for a player like Hyndman to thrive. With Trapp and Alashe holding down the fort, Hyndman can take full advantage of his ability to see the game. He did so repeatedly Thursday night, finding Morris and Kiesewetter time and time again with cutting, precise passes that carved up the Canada back line.

Although there were some issues in terms of spacing, the midfield, as a whole, looked solid. Yet, with players like Marc Pelosi and goalscorer Luis Gil more than ready to make an impact, it’s up to head coach Andi Herzog to keep things ticking for a talented midfield unit.


Ahead of the qualifying tournament, Herzog said he was prepared to lean on his U-20 stars, including Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers. The duo made Herzog look good Thursday, as both put in strong performances to help lead the U.S. back line.

Although not a flawless performance, Carter-Vickers looked far from over his head, despite being up to six years younger than those he was facing. At just 17, Carter-Vickers is more than ready to compete, even if it won’t always be easy-riding against the age group’s top teams.

Miazga was likely the better of the two, with the Red Bulls defender coming up big time and time again. Even when Canada was able to sustain pressure, Miazga was there to clean up any and every mistake before the danger became too great.

Prior to the tournament, Herzog said it’s a matter of months, not years, before Miazga gets a look at the senior level. Thursday’s performance was just another example to back that up in what could be Miazga’s second crucial tournament run of 2015.


Thursday’s clash with Canada yielded the ideal result, but it certainly wasn’t quite the ideal performance from the U.S.

Although there is plenty of praise to go around, there is still plenty of improvement to be made as this group continues to come together throughout the tournament. In reality, Canada was a team that was always overmatched, yet it did find moments of success that made Thursday’s game a bit too nervy.

For one, the U.S. will need to do a better job with controlling spacing. Especially in the second half, Canada was able to find pockets of space in the midfield that threatened to open up the U.S. defense. On another night, or against a better team, the U.S. could have been punished quite frequently for being a bit too lax on the defensive end.

Improvements like that come with time, something which the U.S. actually has on its side. In command of their group with Thursday’s win, the U.S. still has the group stage to get things sorted ahead of the do-or-die knockout rounds. Yet, if the last cycle taught anything, it’s that minor lapses could be a death wish, making it paramount that the U.S. continues to improve as the tournament moves on.


  1. Miazaga looks like a good prospect. He is lanky but also athletic for his size and an excellent one on one defender. I know this is a tired trope – and he is in a good situation at RBNY – but I would love to see him sign to a better league in Europe.

    Always love watching hyndman when he’s on – he’s got the best touch and vision I’ve seen in a US prospect in a while. It’s too bad he never filled out because I think he is hindered a bit by his lack of physicality.

    I don’t think its a debate for Morris. The kid is raw technically but he has fantastic movement and has already shown a penchant for finishing. Can’t wait to watch him when he turns pro – unless he pulls a van wilder.

  2. People should also remember a lot of these guys are still very young. CCV 17 and Zelalem 18 could play in this tournament 4 years from now as well. Really this team should be made of guys from the 2013 U20 WC. However very few from that group have stepped up and are being passed by younger players as we see with this team.

    • That 2013 squad was pretty bad even though it was a tough draw 3-9 on aggregate with only a draw to show, they finish 22nd out of 24 teams. Of course, Tab’s strategy of trying to high press Spain, Ghana, and France left the back line out to dry. Really only Yedlin, Trapp, and O’Neill have done much since then and with Yedlin and O’Neill with recent transfers they weren’t probably available and World Cup players like Yedlin rarely play in U-23 qualifiers.

  3. The overall outcome of the match may have been positive, but the team chemistry and some of the individual performances were less than stellar. CCV, Maigza, Trapp, Hyndman, Morris, & Kiesewetter played well, but did have some gaffs and giveaways that will need to be cleaned up as things progress.
    Was not overly impressed with the outside backs or Zelalem. All 3 seemed a step behind all night. Passing was off, positioning wasn’t very good, and tended to turn it over too often.
    The lack of width (lacking true wingers and backs) left the team exposed to the speed of the Canadians. If the Canadians could hit the broad side of a barn the outcome could have been different.

    • I didn’t think Miazga’s service out of the back was very good , although his defensive work was it usual quality. Its hard to judge if it was poor passing choices or guys just weren’t in open positions since the camera can only show so much.

  4. It was the first time this team has played together so no need to draw on a few negatives. Center backs were solid and strikers were aggressive. So much midfield talent will be better on Saturday I’m sure.

  5. World Class cross by Kiesewetter. And Kiesewetter has amazing speed.

    DM continues to be USNT’s weakest, at all youth level and Senior side. There’s lack DM’s with calmness and ability give OK passes.

  6. I missed the first half. Even so, I find this analysis much too rosy. In the second half I didn’t see hardly anything to praise except for Morris’ second goal. The US could rarely string more than 2 or 3 passes together, couldn’t handle Canadian pressure without giving the ball away, and all too often resorted to long balls from the back and midfield. And on the Canadian goal, how do you leave an opponent on the near post totally unmarked? The Canadian lined up, just stood there and waited for the delivery with the closest defender about 3 feet away. I found it to be astoundingly lax. Just like in the Gold Cup, the Canadians had trouble finishing. A team with good finishers would have probably scored 3 in the second half against the US.

    • Agreed when it comes to the 2nd half… though judging a game solely on one half would oft times be considered unfair. I’m not so sure Canada had 3 goals with better finishers. They got in some good spots (thank Serna) but they had trouble getting clean shots off against our centerbacks. Our defensive flanks are a real issue. Might be okay for getting to the semis, but unsurprisingly it continues to be an issue for USMNT’s of all ages.

      Jerome is getting way too much credit. Great he got into some good positions and had an assist. he also made some really poor final third plays and decisions. and im not just talking about the clean breakaway (which he absolutely has to do better with). He got put in a lot of good positions but does someone like Maki mean we have 2 goals at half instead of 1?

  7. From what I’ve seen of Zelalem at the U-20 World Cup and for Rangers, I think he plays better in a slightly deeper spot on the field. It looked to me like he lined up as a number 10 and I think that’s too high up the field for him. He’s clearly not a 6 but he likes to drop back deep into the midfield and spray balls around and he didn’t seem to do that yesterday. There were also moments when I thought the team failed to give him the ball and let him get into a rhythm. For instance, I recall Alashe hitting a cross-field long ball to Morris in the first half when a shorter pass to Zelalem was available and the better option. It turned out to be fine–Morris was in on goal–but over the course of the game, better to give it to Zelalem, get it back, work the ball around.

    I’m hopeful that he continues to play and he becomes more comfortable with the team. Great prospect.

    • The US just didn’t hold possession enough to match Zelalem’s game. I was a bit frustrated watching that. With the talent in the midifield, I would like to see them hold possession under pressure better and work the all up field.

      Most of the goal threats were counters that maximized the speed advantage of the two main attackers. But with all of that midfield talent and professional experience, they should be able to dominate possession a lot more against Canada.

      Some of that was on the keeper, who every time it was passed back to him, wanted to send it long. And just about every time, the US lost possession. That drove me crazy. The team would work to maintain possession and pass back to the keeper, only to have him give up voluntarily through long, high kicks.

      • Agreed, though I did think that part of the reason they had trouble keeping possession was Zelalem being off his game.

    • I agree with you completely. I’ve watched all of Zelalem’s games at Rangers, and they started out with him roaming around the attacking pitch trying to find the game. A few games in, he is playing deeper, always showing for the ball and demanding it. He usually passes immediately, being utilized as a pivot that plays quick one-two and is able to wiggle away for a penetrating pass.

      That is not how he was cast against Canada. He was clearly asked not to cross wires with Emmo and to stay in the attacking third.

      In particular, I thought that Alashe was looking to hit amazeball passes to the forwards, when he should have played Zelalem and followed his lead. He will find the right pass.

      I disagree that he was off his game.


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