The United States U-20 team earned a hard fought draw on Monday, tying France 1-1 in the U-20 World Cup. The draw keeps the U.S. in contention for a spot in the knockout round with the U.S.’ final game of the group stage set for Thursday against Ghana.
Here are six takeaways from the U.S.’ match against France.
Tab Ramos will again face questions for his center-back selections
Shane O’Neil returned to the U.S.’ lineup for the match against France, but the surprise selection in the back was Javan Torre as O’Neil’s partner in central defense.
After the U.S.’ 4-1 loss to Spain to open up group play, many expected Torre to be the man U.S. head coach Tab Ramos would drop to bring O’Neil back into the starting XI. Instead, U.S. captain Caleb Stanko was dropped.
Torre struggled against France, committing several costly errors both in possession and in defending. It was also his foul in the 47th minute that resulted in the penalty that gave France their goal.
It certainly doesn’t help that the U.S. is without what would be several first-choice defensive selections for the tournament in Will Packwood or John Anthony Brooks, but Ramos’ selection of Torre again and the exclusion of FC Dallas center-back Walker Zimmermann from the roster has also been called into question by many commentators.
The U.S. will need to be better in the back if it hopes to pick up a win against Ghana.
Juan Ocegueda bears a lot of the responsibility for the U.S.’ defensive miscues
While many were quick to jump on Javan Torre’s mistakes, it must be admitted that Juan Ocegueda was very poor against France.
In the 44th minute and again in the 59th minute, Ocegueda lost track of his runner and had to be bailed out both times by U.S. goalkeeper Cody Cropper.
It was also Ocegueda’s man that earned France’s penalty in the 47th minute. On the play, Ocegueda was beaten badly on the dribble, forcing Javan Torre to make the step which resulted in the foul.
Ocegueda and Torre also combined to make several other defensive mistakes. On a French counterattack in first-half stoppage time, Ocegueda inexplicably stepped to the middle of the field to pick up a French attacker instead of leaving him for Torre. The ball was then played back out wide into the space that Ocegueda had vacated and Shane O’Neil was forced to slide across and bail the U.S. out of trouble.
In the 76th minute, both Torre and Ocegueda let Yaya Sonogo run right between them for an open chance which would have put France up 2-0, but thankfully, the French striker missed wide of the net.
Both of them playing on the left side of the U.S.’ defense is creating too many breakdowns for the Americans.
The U.S. did a nice job negating France’s size
It was pretty obvious, even before the kickoff, that the U.S. was at a considerable size disadvantage. In the tunnel as the teams prepared to walk out, with the team’s standing side-by-side, France’s height advantage was noticeable with several French players even taller than the U.S. goalkeeper Cody Cropper, who stands 6’ 4” tall.
The pregame coin flip was almost laughable as U.S. captain Wil Trapp, who stands 5’ 6” tall, was towered over by French captain Paul Pogba, who stands 6’ 2” tall.
However, the U.S. did well throughout the match to negate France’s advantage and did not allow the French to score on a set-piece service.
The U.S. attackers were poor all game
The U.S. struggled the entire game to get anything going on the attacking end of the field. Alonso Hernandez (subbed at halftime for Oscar Sorto) and Luis Gil could not hold the ball up top or connect many meaningful passes over 90 minutes. Jose Villarreal and Mario Rodriguez also struggled to get going on the wings for much of the game.
Rodriguez was the best of the bunch with two nice dribbling sequences.
The first occurred in the 67th minute and resulted in a penalty for the U.S. which Luis Gil was unable to convert. The second good run from Rodriguez in the 84th minute earned the U.S. a free kick that Daniel Cuevas scored on after putting away the loose ball.
DeAndre Yedlin was the U.S.’ best attacker
It’s not often that a team’s best attacker is their right-back, but that was true for the U.S. on Monday. Seattle Sounders product DeAndre Yedlin was a menace to the French, repeatedly making runs out of the back into attacking third.
His final passes were lacking and there were two occasions Yedlin should have taken a shot after cutting inside on the dribble into the French area, but nonetheless, Yedlin was a constant pest to the French defenders.
Yedlin’s cutting run in the 79th minute probably would have earned the U.S. a penalty as he was taken down, but having already called a penalty for the U.S. earlier in the match, it appeared the official didn’t want to do it again.
Yedlin’s rise both in Major League Soccer and on the U-20 team is an encouraging sign for the U.S. going forward.
The U.S. is still in it
After the humiliating 4-1 loss to Spain on Friday, the U.S. needed a point from Monday’s match to stay in the hunt for a spot in the elimination round. After trying to press Spain in the group-stage opener, Tab Ramos enacted a much more pragmatic game plan for the U.S. against France.
While France dominated long stretches of the match, the U.S. defense didn’t get pulled apart as badly as it did against Spain and the U.S. was able to focus its attacking efforts on counterattacks while staying organized defensively.
A win against Ghana on Thursday will likely put the U.S. through to the next round.
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