Sunday, March 25, 2012

US U-23s Fall to Canada

After crushing a paltry Cuban side two days prior, the American U-23's suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Canada by a score of 2-0. The defeat puts the American hopes of the 2012 Olympics in serious doubt.

In the second match of Group A, the Canadians took advantage of set pieces by scoring on corner kicks. Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini put the goals in after the American's failed to mark each properly. Bill Hamid should have done better on both chances, particularly on Doneil Henry's goal, in which Henry was able to jump directly in front of Hamid to put the ball into the net.

The result combined with news that Juan Agudelo will miss the rest of the tournament with a meniscus tear in his left knee, means Caleb Porter will need to change his game plan. The United States must defeat El Salvador on Monday and count on Canada to defeat Cuba (which is all but assumed) in order to advance to the must-win semifinal matchups.

Canada played a very defensive minded match and showed discipline in dealing with the American attack. The Canadian midfield disrupted the American flow despite Caleb Porter's side holding the majority of possession. Throughout the night the chemistry of the US U-23s seemed off and one wonders if the win over Cuba lulled the younger national team into a false sense of security.

Particularly ineffective was Teal Bunbury, who started in place of Agudelo. Bunbury's form has been a bit up and down for both club and country since his starting spot for Sporting Kansas City was threatened by CJ Sapong (who misses out on the U23s by a handful of weeks). Bunbury seemed to be in the right place, but a failure to capitalize on plays plagued him.

As if emphasizing his importance to the team, Freddy Adu was invisible for much of the match while Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona were unable to find any semblance of cohesion. Their absence combined with Brek Shea's ineffectiveness on the flanks raises questions about the mental fortitude and preparation of the youngsters.

During the final minutes of the match the Americans did show some signs of life, but Candian goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz was on point and alert shutting down each one.

Caleb Porter is now tasked with regrouping his side and preparing them for a formidable opponent in El Salvador. The match is the final group game on Monday night.

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