Recapping the U-20 WWC quarterfinals

My first trip to FIFA.com this morning and what do I see? Fatigue blamed for USA failureare you joking me, Heif Ellis? Does anyone really believe that? Sure, this team was probably fatigued, but that is a cheap excuse for the failure. Were they fatigued in qualifiers? Were they fatigued in that first game against Ghana, through all the rest of group play? If fatigue is to blame, then that just backs up the heart of the issue: this wasn’t the team the US was looking for. The force was not strong with these players. Jill Ellis cannot discern when it’s a trap. Need I go on?

This picture from the USWNT blog describes the US U-20s' performance perfectly. I agree, Nairn.

Let’s have some links.

July 29, Semifinals (in Eastern time)

  • 9:30 AM – Germany vs Korea Republic
  • 12:30 PM – Columbia vs Nigeria

Are we done with the 2010 US U-20s yet?

I’m getting bored of talking about how bad the US roster, starters, and subs were this tournament. I am really disappointed in the captains’/veterans’ play; they both performed better in 2008. I still think Henninger is one of the top two keepers in the US at this age level. Quon was injured, hopefully not badly. Verloo, Noyola, and DiMartino disappeared on the bench. Hayes subbed in and out. Kristie Mewis did her best, but it’s hard to play 1 v 11. Even the defense broke down as the tournament progressed. Et cetera.

It’s hard to deny that you can evenly distribute the “blame” among the players and the coach. I like Ellis, but her work with the 2010 U-20s is like Gabarra’s work with the 2010 Washington Freedom. Decent players, good on paper… shabby results. That’s fine at UCLA, but not on the ladder to the US Women’s National Team.

It’s a horrible thing for a US (and U-20) fan to say, but I’m glad this team is out of the running. This wasn’t a strong team to begin with–like I said, as far back as qualifiers. The problems weren’t fixed. The results were telling.

Mexico is playing Korea Republic right now, and although they are down 3-0 to the AFC side, the Mexicans are still playing better than the US did. They are overmatched, clearly, but they are consistent. Cuellar, Corral, and Santiago haven’t given up. They will lose, and despite the scoreline, it won’t be an embarrassing stumble backwards for their program.

[A very quick edit: yes, Mexico’s Gomez Junco scored as this post was publishing, so nya! No frustration, not giving up.]

The U-20 WWC knockout rounds begin!

Tumblr is having difficulties this morning, so it’s time for another post o’ links. Today is game day for Germany-Korea DPR and Sweden-Columbia (is Sweden already down by 2?) and the only one I’m sorry I’ll be missing is Germany-DPRK.

Let’s look at US business first, since I have been ignoring them.

I’d like to highlight the commentary we’ve been getting from the ESPN3 webcasts. The commentary on the Mexican games has been wonderful (especially if you’re sick of FSC’s WPS games). One quote, which I cannot remember word for word, essentially boiled down to, “If you’re struggling with the pronunciation of names, ask the players and coaches.” In the game against Nigeria, after a sub came on, it was, “There are two Sundays in the game now… suppose that makes it a fortnight.” If you are going to commentate a women’s soccer game, you have to relax and enjoy it.

Here is the FIFA business:

By the end of all this collecting, Sweden has not managed to come back. 2-0, Columbia advance. Time for me and the Swedes to pack and hit the road!

Way to salvage my interest in the U-20s, Mexico.

Now that I’ve caught up on Mexico’s games, I have to say…

That was fun. That was fun the way watching the US in 2008 was fun. Watching the US this week feels like a chore or obligation. There are expectations and standards that they aren’t living up to. Watching Mexico, on the other hand, has been like watching Santa Clara in 2009. Think of CONCACAF qualifiers like the NCAA regular season. If they didn’t advance, then oh well, what else is new? …but I wanted them to advance. When they did, that was great. They were drawn into a group (quadrant, if you will) that they could handle, but if they didn’t make it out of group, then okay, they had a good run and I’d see them again in a few months. They have players in the NCAA, age-eligible U-17s, and full national team players, which means other options for following them.

Mexico opened with that surprising game against Japan. They contained the Japanese side and could have beaten them. But you can’t judge a team by their first game–after all, England drew Nigeria–so I figured I would wait and see how Mexico did against England and how Japan did against Nigeria. As it turned out, Mexico wasn’t a fluke! England, who didn’t pull any wins in group, lost to a persistent Mexican side. Mexico’s work ethic continued in the game against Nigeria, who went up a goal in the 16th minute. This could have been an elimination game for either team, as Japan was leading against England, but Mexico never let up and never wavered. After a series of corner kicks, Mexico pulled even in the 77th, off a beautiful goal from Alina Garciamendez.

While the determination to get forward deserves a lot of praise, Mexico’s defensive efforts do, too. They have a wonderful (and young) keeper in Cecilia Santiago, who has been steady in the back, and a solid group of defenders in front of her. After getting injured in the game against Nigeria and coming back in to continue play, captain Nayeli Rangel pulled off a really sweet save after Santiago was beaten. A second goal for Nigeria definitely could have changed the game’s momentum, and the relief was stark in Rangel’s body language after the save.

Mexico have advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time. Everything after this is gravy. Last season, when Santa Clara finally turned things around in the regular season and made the NCAA tournament, I had the same feeling. At least they made it; at least they were back. They weren’t going to make the Final Four–someone would have to break down the unbeaten Stanford–but the Broncos did go so far as to play Stanford, and to play them well. Even that loss to the Cardinal felt like a win.  And that is what I have in Mexico this tournament.

Mexico U-20 WNT after drawing Nigeria

photo courtesy of el-mexicano.com.mx

When it’s all over, the players will go to their college teams. Garciamendez is with Stanford, Cuellar with Arizona, Figueroa with Pacific, Kotero and Sierra with Auburn, Alvarado with Mississippi State, Garcia with San Diego, and Rodriguez with UC Irvine. With some internationals, it’s hard to invest because I don’t know if I will be able to follow those players through their careers. Although not all of the Mexican players are US-based, a good portion of them are, which means my investment doesn’t have to stop when the World Cup ends.

Alina Garciamendez and the goal

I hear that the US Soccer matchtracker gushed about Mexico’s goal to tie Nigeria yesterday, and it sounds as though there were repeated uses of “brilliant” with regards to Alina Garciamendez’s shot. FIFA.com named it the goal of the day.

I agree, that is pretty and impressive coming from the Stanford defender, but why are you following the US games through ussoccer.com’s matchtracker? The ESPNs have all of the US games, usually with better commentary.

For good measure, here is the final celebration, as this 2010 squad have advanced Mexico’s U-20s to their first appearance in the quarterfinals.

Webcast update for the quarterfinals of the U-20 Women’s World Cup

I almost never make predictions in tournaments, so I pretty much forgot who I expected to advance from group for the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Group A: Looks like I felt solid about Germany and France and didn’t mention Columbia at all. France struggled more than expected. Germany advances at the top of their group with 9 points. Columbia and France are even with 4 points apiece, but Columbia owns the tiebreaker.

Group B: Here, I felt like Korea DPR and Brazil were the safe bets. This was the group of death, after all. Obviously, Brazil crashing out was a surprise. Sweden tops the group with 7 points, and Korea DPR advances with 6.

Group C: Evenly matched, as expected. I had pegged Japan and England to go through, and I am very happy to be wrong. Mexico and Nigeria advance after a great showing. They are even with 5 points, and Mexico takes first with the tiebreaker.

Group D: I got one right! USA and Korea Republic to advance. I didn’t expect it to be so hard for the US, so this is a shallow win. The US has 7 points to Korea Republic’s 6.

Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Switzerland leave without any points. England drops out with 1 point from their first game, a draw with Nigeria.

Now the knockout rounds start. Times listed are Eastern. They will be on ESPN3, and the US game will be on ESPNU as well.

Quarterfinals

  • July 24
    5:30 AM – Sweden vs Columbia
    12:00 PM – Germany vs Korea DPR
  • July 25
    5:30 AM – USA vs Nigeria
    12:30 PM – Mexico vs Korea Republic

The semifinal games will be played July 29 at 9:30 and 12:30.

North Carolina is not a good place to keep up with soccer.

I still haven’t watched US-Switzerland (not to mention any of the USWNT games) but I’m not sure I can be bothered while at the beach. I am still enjoying Mexico and New Zealand’s squads, and I will have those write-ups after I finish watching their games. I’ll miss those Junior Ferns in the next round.

For now, here is what’s going on with the U-20s.

Cross-Conference ‘Cast – Episode 09 – No Touching!

New Episode! We recorded mere hours before the Sky Blue FC coaching change, which actually doesn’t matter considering our general apathy towards the orange.

My co-editor is on vacation, living the life of the rich elite on the East coast, while I toil in middle America. All of this was made very clear in the hour we discussed:

  • WPS Action, including Ashlyn Harris’ coaching debut, Boston’s turnaround, and FCGP’s meteoric… extended stay at the top.
  • USWNT’s two games against Sweden.
  • U20 WWC and how much we looooooooove Mexico <3 <3 <3
  • Shek Borkowski leaves Zvezda
  • W-League update! Pali survived!
  • Utah does a scarf thing.
  • Kelsey Davis wins our award.

One big catch-all post for the missed days of U-20 WWC action

U-20 WWC: Ghana vs USA

A/N: I would much rather be writing about the New Zealand-Korea DPR game and listening to my sister babble about Disney movies than griping about the US game, but…

Compared to the U-20s in this game, the US U-17 team that didn’t make it out of qualifiers are much less of a disappointment. Ahead of the game against Ghana, Jillian Ellis said that they hadn’t seen Ghana’s U-20 WNT play, but she had seen U-17s, so the US knew to expect… athleticism. Which seems really obvious. Essentially, the US went into this game unprepared, nervous, and out of sync.

The backline, while not perfect, was competent. Bianca Henninger and her defenders held the fort well, aside from the early goal, which pretty sweet, despite being against the US. The backline managed to get involved in the attack as much as anyone else, and Toni Pressley laid out some nice tackles.

The big issue for the US in this match was the forwards, who apparently couldn’t connect for anything. Bywaters was just as off as she was during the qualifiers, and just as overused. Brooks was useless in the midfield. Leroux, Nairn, and DiMartino weren’t on the same page, and the frustration was obvious. The eyerolling from Leroux, the physicality from Nairn, the constant adjusting of the kit from DiMartino. Despite illness, injury, and inexperience among the Ghanaians, the supposedly superior US side couldn’t put the ball in the net until the 70th minute.

I don’t care for the way Ellis arranged the starting lineup and subs. I think the right players went in, but the wrong players came out, and Bywaters was left to flounder for too long. Verloo probably wasn’t in long enough  to prove that she could make a difference, but she did get involved right away. Hayes probably should have started, and Noyola should have come in for Brooks, not Nairn. These two subs had more to do with the US goal than Leroux did. Which is nothing against Leroux, but more with regards to the value of these two players. Without them, this game would have ended in a Ghanaian win and a huge upset for the American side.

There had better be lineup changes in the next game. I have no sympathy for a US U-20 team that aims for a record worse than 2006’s.