The US under 17s began their quest for World Cup glory on Monday against their Spanish counterparts. It was a promising start to their dream of World Cup Glory on Nigerian soil.
It is a coaches dream to start a game off and see the opposition receive a straight red within a minute of kick-off. That is exactly what happened for Coach Wilmer Cabrera (US u17 coach) as midfielder Luis Gil slipped in a beautiful through ball behind Spain’s defense that Jack McInerney raced onto and was tripped up just outside the 18 yard box. It was a clear 1 v 1 goal scoring opportunity and last man tackle that deserved the straight red. The US players clearly knew the importance of such an advantage as seen on Marlon Duran’s face when the referee showed the red card. Duran was sporting an ear to ear smile.
Can it get any better than this to start a World Cup campaign? YES it can and YES it did! Marlon Duran sent a looping last ditch effort ball into the Spanish box which appeared to look like an easy catch for any Goalkeeper. McInerney jumped to challenge the Spanish GK who missed the ball making it an easy tap in goal to put the US up 1-0.
Dream start? Up 1-0 and Spain down to 10 men. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Well, Spain regrouped quickly and made a substitution taking out a forward and replacing him with a center back in the 7th minute. Yes, a defensive move to give the team balance even thought they were down 1-0. So they went to a 4-4-1. They decided to be organized, defend well, and pick and choose their moments to counter-attack the Americans.
It didn’t take long for “quality” to show. Spain created three great opportunities in a 15 minute spell in the first half and finished two of them to retake the lead and control of the game. Quality is the difference between the two teams. Quality is the reason 10 players defeated 11. The US roster simply lacks the technical quality and touch that the players the Spanish roster boasts have.
How beautiful was Spanish #17 Pablo Sarabia’s 2nd goal? Did you see his first touch to settle the driven cross out of the air at full speed? How perfectly timed was the kids run leading up to the 1st goal? What about the quality in his service?
A good question to ask yourself. How many players of Pablo Sarabia’s technical quality are running around kicking a ball in our country of over 307 million people? THERE ARE A TON OF PABLO SARABIA’S IS THE ANSWER! There is only 1 on the US Roster who is in the same class as most of the players on the entire Spain U17 roster. His name is Luis Gil.
Luis Gil showed he was in the same class on Monday. His calmness under pressure when he has possession, his decision making, his awareness, his soccer IQ are all very very good. He had a direct impact on the game and made the plays that show “world class” potential. His through ball leaving McInerney alone with the keeper producing the red card in 1st minute of play. His masterclass on the sideline at midfield stepping on the ball in traffic, megging the 2nd defender, and sending a perfectly weighted through ball to leave Chavez 1 v 1 with the keeper.
Another question to be asked. With his creative play, why not get Gil more touches on the ball? Why not make our back line find him as their reference? He should be making the decisions of when to go forward and when to keep possession. Not Kitchen, Polak, Watts, and Harold (back 4). Not the d-mids (Duran and Palodichuk)! Why not surround Luis Gil with more Luis Gils? Players of his quality that speak the same soccer language instead of players with pace and strength who cannot hold the ball under pressure, make good decisions, read the game, or finish.
It is rumored that Gil has been offered a contract at Arsenal FC and might be moving there at the conclusion of the u17 World Cup. He has been there on trial and training prior to the World Cup. If this boy wants the opportunity to learn and develop in a proper environment with players of his caliber where he can realize his potential then he should take it. If not, he can come back to the States – continue on with the Pateadores and be another wasted talent.