I’m a bit late to the U20 topic, but this is not a news outlet; it is an education outlet.
In case you’re not up to speed, we lost to Guatemala and were eliminated from the U20 World Cup for the first time in 8 cycles.
And as with most US Soccer failures, many across the web do further damage by drawing terrible conclusions.
In this case, the theme seemed to be: “meh, no big deal”?
[Pause … Deep breath … Sigh]
Ok, on to my thoughts …
Potential is Nothing. Fulfillment is Everything.
There’s no question in my mind that this US team had some individual quality, far greater than the last cycle. That’s good, and it says something about Rongen’s identification and selection efforts this time around. Hell, it may even indicate some improvements to our overall development infrastructure – but let’s not get carried away.
Guys like Kelyn Rowe, Amobi Okugo, Moises Orozco, and Sebastian Lleget are most notable. These guys have potential to turn into something.
Unfortunately, potential is useless if not realized.
And failure to qualify, is a lost opportunity for this potential to be identified, purchased, and nurtured the right way until it blossoms. But things go further than just this set of players.
This is what people are not understanding. Let’s look at the their points of contention:
“2011 is another story, the squad is made up of almost all professional players already and the one non-professional to start, UCLA’s Kelyn Rowe, has interest from clubs abroad and is projected to be a top pick in the next MLS Draft if he signs with the league. These U.S. players don’t need to be “discovered” like past Americans.”
Of course they need to be “discovered”!!!
Okugo who? Moises who? Do you think Europe knows who these guys are? Do you think scouts, agents, and 1st division coaches over there are salivating over these US Players? Perry Kitchen who?
People; we are not like Argentina where all of Europe knows and tracks every single U17 & U20 player.
Come on man, can you say: “WAKE UP CALL”!
The excerpt above also implies that the current situation of these U20 players is one that can take them to that next level. Specifically, the level we all want US Soccer to reach. So MLS is going to take them there? How about 2nd division clubs, reserve games, or riding the pine elsewhere?
Kelyn Rowe might get trials overseas, but trials are a very interesting thing. If you’re not already a “made man”, you are viewed differently: especially if you’re a non-EU player.
Enter the World Cup. Beyond the obvious exposure, this tournament makes the lens through which a player is viewed much better – especially if they shine. That could have “made” some of these guys.
Instead, Okugo & Orozco’s immediate door overseas, like many others, is now shut! Slammed in their face actually! The chance to fulfill their promise? Greatly diminished, if not gone forever. How is this inconsequential?
But let’s get something straight. This goes much further than the players on this team. This was a chance to showcase American talent in general. To further show the world that there’s a worthwhile pool of quality in the States that is not tapped. I’m talking beyond Rongen’s roster.
It’s The Pipeline, Stupid
Make no mistake, the pipeline from the US to Europe or South America is very thin. And this was an opportunity to further accelerate growth of that pipe.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THESE SPECIFIC PLAYERS!
And that, my friends, has implications to the future of US Soccer.
This leads me into another incorrect conclusion some are drawing. One that lacks history and context. They say:
“Players from several of the top teams in the world pass on youth international tournaments to focus on establishing themselves with clubs and it isn’t a detriment to their development.”
“The U.S. will now join Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and a host of other very good soccer countries that will not play in this summer’s World Cup.”
“Argentina and Portugal didn’t qualify for the previous one.”
What’s implied here is just straight up ridiculous. The US situation can not be compared to these nations!
These are established soccer powers with pro-player pipelines that lead straight to the greatest clubs in the world. These countries have credibility! When an agent, be it an individual representative or a club itself, tries to sell their product (whether a 16 year old or a 20 year old), people listen! It doesn’t matter that said country didn’t qualify to a youth World Cup, or that said player wasn’t on a U20 roster.
The US, on the other hand, is an outsider trying to get in. Our product doesn’t “fly off the shelves”!
And that hurts!
* The excerpts used are from an article The Shin Guardian posted a month ago, but looks to be replicated here:
Great points Gary…. the all-caps shouting had me chuckling. But you are 100% right- I don’t see how viewing this as anything other than another setback to the US program is possible. While I like who and how Rongen has identified and brought in players, it seems like it is time to bring in a stronger tactical coach to mold and continue to develop these players, so as you write they can hopefully use these tournaments as a chance to move abroad and further their careers. I’m curious about your thoughts on the EU-based pros we have on the team (Wood/Gyau/Gatt/Lletget/Boss et al) and how you think they can project towards maybe the senior squad in 2-3 years
Gary Kleiban says
Scott, all the players you mention will likely get their shot at the senior squad. Well, if we still have a clueless coach at the helm (ie BB or one of his numerous clones).
If we end up having a NT coach with some true soccer chops, then from the EU-based guys, only Lletget seems to have potential. The others are nothing special.
I want to take this opportunity, however, to point out Gale A & Doyle are absolutely horrific players. To have them on the national team is embarrassing, and for me it tarnishes Rongen (even though I agree with many of his selections).
I haven’t had much chance to watch Gale A., but your evaluation of him seems really contrary to everybody who think he is the best chance for a real class American defender. What’s wrong with him?
Gary Kleiban says
What Kevin said.
He doesn’t have a soccer brain of appreciable level (let’s not even talk about the international level) – limited vision, poor decisions, slow decisions. He has ZERO development in this department – no tactical acumen to speak of.
To compare: Gale is in the image of Onyewu, Omar Gonzalez, Ike Opara, among so many other “prototypical American players”.
Gale is a very athletic and physical defender, but not the most intelligent player and certainly not the most composed or skillful. Breaking up plays and winning balls in the air, yeah he’s pretty solid. However, his positioning and ability to play out under pressure does not equate to a classy center back. I don’t know what others think, but for me Tim Ream is the standard for what an American centerback should copy, not Onyewu, Demerit, or Agbosomunde. Ream is not the most physically imposing CB in the world but he is decent in the air, good in the tackle, and his reading of the game is superb, he doesn’t have to get in many footraces or physical battles because he’s already in position to intercept a pass. Ontop of that his composure to always find a pass and play out of the back, and beyond that he has the class and ability to play even more than the simple ball, he can pick out passes into the higher midfielders and even forwards with purpose and succesfully. I know that Ream isn’t the monster people think a CB should be, but for me he is the first American CB that truly has world class potential.
Vincent Grady says
I have to agree with you there. Ream has good soccer IQ — in fact, he is a bit the exception with US players. We need to better at the younger ages in developing game awareness — the current system does not address it adequately. Too many games, too much traveling, not enough down time with ball and not enough good soccer.
Gary Kleiban says
Game awareness can only come from playing within a possession-oriented framework. That’s the problem.
As for the other players, I don’t understand the hype for many of them. I will quickly go over my thoughts on the players I remember from the small sample I saw in the World Cup Qualifying.
Zac MacMath- He seems like he’ll be a competent keeper, probably a good MLSer and fringe national teamer, nothing to get excited about though as the one position we seem to produce great players in is goalkeepers, and I don’t see him being “great”.
Moises Hernandez-Absolutely miserable player in my opinion, freak of an athlete, but the touch of a donkey, and the soccer iq of a u8 rec player.
Perry Kitchen- Seems to have some real potential but has a long ways to go. For such a young CB he has some natural leadership skills, is positionally pretty smart and fairly skillful, I don’t see him having the potential that Ream does, but I think he could be a very good player and I expect to see him starting in a world cup for us one day. Not a potentially world class CB, but not far off from it if he continues to grow. I just don’t see the potential as a DM that others see with him however.
Gale Agbossoumonde-See post above.
Moises Orozco-This guy in the very, very small amount I saw of him seemed like he could potentially be a brilliant player, I saw very little of him, but the way he moves and touches the ball just seemed to ooze class, every ball is perfectly weighted with positive intent and he controls the ball with ease. It’s a small sample I’m going off of so he could be a bust, but he did things in the small time he had that you just don’t see from American players.
Zarek Valentin-He seems a decent player, not skillful enough to be a world class player, but as a RB/CB I think he’ll have a very succesful career and may even feature with the national team quite a bit. Very athletic and a pretty smart defender, but offers next to nothing getting forward.
Sebastian Lletget-Easily our best player in my opinion, and aside from this blog I have hardly heard anything about him. He needs to continue to grow, and I’m not sure West Ham is the place to do that, but he is a very promising player. Keeps the ball moving, is very sure in his touch, and has excellent vision to pick out either the simple pass to keep possession, or the killer ball to break down a defense. He also puts the work in defensively. He unfortunately may not to turn out to be what he could be due to the club he’s with but if he’s developed the right way I think he very well may be the classiest central midfield player the US national team has ever seen.
Amobi Okugo- I like this guy, he’s nothing really to get excited about, he’s not highly skilled, but he is very good at breaking up plays, and getting off the ball connecting a simple pass. He doesn’t offer quite enough in possession for me but I think he has some potential and I expect him at the least to be a fringe national teamer at some point, if not more.
Kelyn Rowe- I am torn about this player, everyone in the world seems to be extremely high on this player, he did score some nice goals, but I just feel like somethings missing. It’s hard for me to explain but I just don’t see that “it” factor from him, he just doesn’t seem to have that natural feel for the game. I think he’ll be a good player, and involved with the national team to some extend but I don’t see anything with him that jumps out as potentially world class, I can’t help but see this guy as a poor man’s Donovan.
Greg Garza-Please keep him at LB as a pro. If he is with the national team it is just because of how poor we are at the position. He is not a bad player, fairly skillful, and a decent motor to his game,but could really be exposed defensively, and doesn’t add enough in possession or going forward to make it worth what you are giving up defensively. On the other hand, if the best LB we can produce is Bornstein, I could easily see him being the first choice LB at some point, I just don’t see him as being anything to jump up and down about.
Omar Salgado-Didn’t see enough of him to comment, he looks like he could have some potential, but I can’t really comment on this player much.
Conor Doyle-Terrible player, I don’t get the hype I guess it’s because he scored a goal. But he’s useless on the ball, incapable of combining or taking defenders on, and doesn’t seem to dig defending to much either. He also adds nothing to the possession game. I suppose he is a decent finisher, but he doesn’t strike me as an Inzaghi or Villa like goalpoacher, I could be wrong but I feel he is very overrated.
Joe Gyau-He needs to get cleaner on the ball, and more intelligent off of it but he certainly has all the plysical and technical tools to be a terrific winger. I just don’t think he has the technical skill or the vision/soccer iq to be a world class player, but I think he could be a very good player and probably a productive player for the national team, maybe similar to Beasley.
Cody Cropper-Don’t remember seeing him at all.
Dillon Powers-Don’t remember seeing him at all.
Sebastian Ibeagha-Another physical freak of nature that is a useless soccer player. Stop picking these players please we are not moving forward with guys like this!
Sacir Hot-Don’t remember seeing him at all.
Korey Veeder- Don’t remember seeing him at all.
Eder Arreola- I don’t have much to go off of but he looked like he might be a neat little player. Very smooth on the ball, dynamic, seems to have that “feel” for the game, devent vision. I’m not sure how high or low his potential is, but I liked him in the little I saw of him.
Bobby Wood- I liked this guy, but I can’t see anything more than a competent player in him. He is pretty skillful, has decent vision, pretty athletic, but he just seems “pretty good” across the board, nothing about him jumps out as potentially being world class in my opinion, this player just screams out “serviceable” to me.
Gary Kleiban says
What an excellent take on each player. I pretty much parallel your thoughts on all these guys.
I’ll probably be linking back to your post here in future articles …
Gary, thanks a lot for the feedback! I really enjoy your blog, I have become a daily follower of your blog, you see the game in a way most people don’t and I love to see your points of view.
Thank you for your analysis of of the U-20 team! I’ve tried to explain this to all those idiots on Bigsoccer who keep overhyping Gale but they just don’t get it. I think its Americans obsession with freak athletes. They’ve watched the NBA and NFL their whole life but they don’t understand that NBA and NFL athleticism doesn’t carry over to soccer. Soccer all IQ/brains and skill.
Look at Barcelona. They just won the Champions League again with a team of average athletes and a midget as their star player. They may not be athletic but they all have very high IQ’s.
this exactly proves your point about what these tournaments can do for U.S. under 20 team, unknown Costa Rican now signed by Arsenal, now with one player CRC stock has risen and players will be followed closer there