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USMNT U-23s rue self-inflicted wound in narrow loss to Mexico

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Losing does not generally generate good feelings. Losing to your nemesis because of a self-inflicted wound even less so.

Just ask the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team.

The Concacaf Olympic Qualifying group stage ended on a sour note for the U-23 USMNT on Wednesday night, as the Americans suffered a 1-0 defeat to arch-rival Mexico at Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara. Jason Kreis’ side will live to fight another day in the competition, but suffering a first loss in the tournament and not capitalizing on a chance to win Group A stung all the same.

Especially since it was a needless individual error that help provide the difference. Center forward Sebastian Soto hit an ill-advised back pass from a very deep position in the 45th minute, and Uriel Antuna pounced on it to author the winner.

“It is a game of small details and getting all those right, and against the best teams you are going to get punished if you make even the smallest of mistakes,” said U-23 USMNT centerback Mauricio Pineda. “Today we were punished for that and I think we have to start punishing teams on the other side of the field as well, but we will keep improving defensively and offensively.”

While it is tactically unclear why Soto dropped so far back to the point that he was behind the entire midfield and playing a ball to the centerbacks, a lot of the focus in the immediate aftermath of the match was on the Americans’ continued struggles in the final third.

The USMNT had plenty of goal approximations against Mexico from the run of play, but was once again not overly threatening once it got into the last part of the field. The Americans finished Wednesday’s match with only one shot on target, and that came via a tame header from midfielder Johnny Cardoso in the second half.

“It is a difficult one for me. We have who we have,” said Kreis when asked about the lack of creativity in his team. “We have players that I think are very useful for us in the midfield. I think a little bit when you are playing an opponent like Mexico, you are not going to get a lot of time and space on the ball to make those decisions.

“I think ultimately from my point of view against that opponent, we still created enough, we still got to the final third enough times. For me, it is not about creativity of a central midfielder, to me it is just about finishing attacks and what you are doing in the final third.”

Kreis added that he was surprised to see Mexico field a near full-strength lineup. The American coach opted to go with a more reserve group, with the idea being that he wanted to keep more of his first-choice options rested for the decisive semifinal game that will be played on Sunday vs. one of Canada or Honduras.

Still, the USMNT’s overall performance, both in the match and in the entire group phase, left something to be desired.

“I think my takeaways are the same as they were before this game,” said Kreis. “I think tonight we saw really bright spots, I think we also saw spots where you are like, ‘Wow, these guys are still rusty,’ and (they are) still making mistakes you do not normally see them make in passes and movements and those sorts of things.

“It is what it is, and ultimately I think that we are in a good enough place where we will get the result in the very next game. It is a difficult result for us to take tonight, but the goal is still right in front of us as it was before the game so we are focused on that immediately.”

In the end, that looming weekend fixture is what really matters since it is what will determine if the Americans can get back to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

The loss to Mexico may have hurt, especially because of how it came about, but the truly important game remains on the horizon.

“It is all still there for us,” said Kreis. “Nothing has changed.”

Comments

  1. It will be US vs Honduras in Sunday. Honduras played well tonight and looked better than Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The U-23 will need to be at their best game to beat Honduras in Sunday. Anyways, it’s much better than facing Mexico in the do or die semifinals.

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  2. It’s too bad the best American winger in Guadalajara is playing for El Salvador. Perez on a brace, and could of had a hat trick but I guess you can’t expect a 5’5 guy to be good at headers.

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  3. My gripe is why a no look pass to a CB, against a pressing team?! …then compound the mistake by not fouling and at least giving up a free kick. Antuna is dope, let me put that out there. You give the ball right to ‘em, then lose site of the ball, and the man, who was right in front of ya? Talk about major lapse in judgment. Tough loss, but job isn’t done. #USMNT

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  4. 2g 4a in the NT game came from the 10 field players that played today that could have suited up for OQ. There is a reason most in qualifying are still in MLS. A healthy Llanez would also make that team better.

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    • Yeah, that and Eryck Williamson paired with Yueill. Potential only goes so far. When actual playing time adds to experience. Another thing Williamson physically is a man and plays that way.
      The player who play regularly and start for their club teams show how capable they are on the field. Yueill, Mihailovic, Lewis, Kessler, Vines.

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  5. ***Tangent Alert*** I come from an athletic family. Meaning multiple family members earned college degrees thru athletic scholarship in basketball & football. (It skipped me!) Handful became teachers & coaches. So talking sports, strategy, techniques, evolution of the game etc, is a way of life in my fam. Until Atl United, didn’t get a chance to talk real futbol with my family, or friends. …so I watched the match with my 70 old uncle last night. Doesn’t know much about the sport except he hated getting kick in the shins back in the 50s. I tried my best to catch him up, but ‘15 minutes into the match, a lil’ before Jon Strong shouted out Ives, my uncle was frustrated, as I would be, if watching it solo! If you’ve made it this far, just a little more. Some of my uncle’s complaints were 1)- Ball kept going to the center backs, then to GK, and not up field into the attack 2)- Everytime US had the ball, a)Mexico had 3-4 players surrounding our guys, b)-and no one was coming to get the ball, 3)- US Defensive rotation was too slow, 4)- Not matching Mexico’s intensity, 5)- US act like they don’t want to score! Whether Agree or disagree. This is coming from a former AD of a small high school, coach, and college basketball player. (We watched OCSC last year, he’s a big fan of Nani, now!) I posted all of that to say. We who watch this sport everyday, everyweek can even agree, on which players are actually showing up in this tournament?! Anyone can disagree with anything I post, but at minimum you know where I’m coming from! Substance imperative, substance!! Some people actually take time to read other peoples comments. You don’t even give us a warning, when you go off these tangents!! #USMNT#Olympics

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  6. You can say what you want or think what you want but performances are real. Kreis insists on playing central players wide and a 6 who does pass accurately, push the ball into open space, switch fields, take on defenders, etc.
    The first half Mexico knew the only player who was dangerous with the ball was Mihalovic, who was repeatedly fouled. Perea has no game at this level or should not be pigeonholed into playing central. Was he just tentative, passive, or just not see he field? His inaccurate passes and lack of will to dictate any tempo doomed the US attack. Looked completely out of sorts with the exception of a few balls forward. It harsh to pick on player but it’s on Kreis for playing a kid out position or expecting him to be an engine.

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    • You’ve earned some equity with me Twomile. I respect your tactical analysis. I can read your post, rewatch a match and see you point, and not think your way off. Wholeheartedly, disagree with the midle of your post. Have you watched Orlando City last year? And see Perea? Saying Perea isn’t a 6?!!! Is parallel to saying, Dike shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a CF! We are all frustrated at that loss. I encourage you to rewatch the match, like I like to do. Perea wasn’t the problem. Perea is the most composed outfield player the US has in the tourney. Parcero is suave!! Ochoa is no. 1! #OCSC. I’m out!

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  7. If you play soccer at a high level, you would know why he had to drop that deep to receive the ball. Not rocket science, and to even pose that question shows some people here don’t even know how to play.

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    • Someone playing at a high level should also know to stay in position and trust the guys behind him to move the ball out. He got antsy and paid for it. There is some preseason rust there though, so I’m not too worried about it.

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      • Soto has been playing all season though. He’s played 15 matches between Norwich U23s and Telstar.

      • If he was allowed to drop into that space that deep, then where are the players that are supposed to be there while trying to pass their way out of trouble in the back? Ok, the guy made an error, you guys going to hound him like Brek Shea and his error against El Salvador and Jeff Agoos against Jamaica? Rest my case.

    • LOL
      FIFA 21 is not considered to be “high level”
      The fact is: Soto didn’t “have” to drop that deep.
      You’re just ignorant.

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      • Should he just wait for the ball up top? People would call that being lazy instead of getting involved and making things happen. The fact you’re calling someone ignorant shows that you never played in a real game and just read about it and play video games.

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