There is so very much to talk about after the United States’ crushing, last-minute elimination Monday from Olympic soccer. The longer-term “this” and bigger picture “that” must be addressed following the latest qualifying clunker at a sub-national team level. Surely there will be reckonings, and hopefully a thoughtful plan of how to make things better.
The short-term issues are all more stark and biting, fresh wounds of the moment:
The roster wasn’t good enough. The coaching wasn’t good enough. The leadership and problem solving fell short.
Heck, even the choice of venues from U.S. Soccer proved imprudent. (How nice would it have been for the United States, given the opportunity to choose its facilities, to have a packed, smaller house absolutely coming apart at the end, urging and helping the home team to grind out the last few exhausting minutes? We’ll never know; tens of thousands of empty seats is no recipe for whipping up a “stirring cauldron.”)
Nonetheless, it was thrilling and breathless, El Salvador’s 3-3 draw at LP Field. El Salvador moves into Saturday’s semifinals, and credit to the small Central American side for prolonging its own Olympic dream through a night of gritty belief.
For the United States, Olympic soccer from London in the summer of 2012 will be a TV event. Here are some things to initially consider from Monday’s heart-breaker.
- El Salvador was quicker, smarter and more committed over the telling first half, taking a well-deserved 2-1 lead into the break. Why? U.S. manager Caleb Porter and his men will need to answer that one. With so much on the line, the U.S. seemed content to “pretty” its way through the game initially – while the Salvadorans gave the home side a lesson in desire.
- The best U.S. spell: Between the 60th and about the 90th minute, when the desperation finally kicked in, proving once again that a U.S. side backed into a corner is a U.S. side at its best.
- Leadership and experience were sorely missing in the end, when U.S. players went diving emotionally into tackles at the telling moment. Rather than managing the final Salvadoran attack through shape and balance, American haste at winning the ball created the gaps that permitted the shot … that Sean Johnson bobbled so costly.
- The American goalkeeping situation was shockingly poor. Five goals against in two matches, with at least two the product of mismanaged back-stopping. Bill Hamid’s meek moment led to a crushing goal against Canada. But Johnson’s fumbled effort in the dying seconds Monday was equally inept. These two, remember, have been in Jurgen Klinsmann’s full national team camp. We all expected better.
- Playing three matches in five days is an absurd schedule; both teams looked spent toward the end Monday. So you have to wonder why Porter left two substitutions on the bench until it was almost too late? The Americans were dying for fresh legs.
- The United States defense was a mess from the start of the qualifying tournament, and never got any better. Not once in the tournament did center back Ike Opara look up for the job.
If you’re having a rough Monday morning, things could always be worse.
You could be PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
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On Sunday PSV’s goalkeeper scored one of the most bizarre own goals ever as he stopped a shot on the line in the 82nd minute, then as he pulled the ball into his chest while on the floor he actually carried the ball over the line.
The Goal Decision System (GDS) awarded the game-winning goal and the reigning Dutch champs lost 2-1 to Feyenoord who are the current Eredivise leaders and stretched their lead over third-place PSV to 11 points.
Take a look at the video below to see the monumental error, as the video replay showed that all of the ball was about one blade of grass over the line.
Fine margins indeed…
Since arriving on the New York City scene two years ago it’s fair to summarize Mix Diskerud’s tenure with New York City FC as a disappointment.
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While the expectations of a quick transition from life in Europe to MLS were surely massive, the 26-year-old midfielder has failed to live up to the billing of not only being one of the NYCFC’s highest-paid players but also as a potential U.S. Men’s National Team candidate.
Diskerud saw his playing time dwindle down from 23 starts in 2015 to nine this past season under new manager Patrick Vieira, and it doesn’t appear that the Norwegian-American will see an influx of opportunities during the upcoming 2017 season.
Rumors have surfaced throughout the offseason about NYCFC potentially buying out Diskerud’s contract, however, the midfielder’s cryptic post to social media on Sunday afternoon suggests that he may not be in New York for much longer.
It has been suggested that Diskerud would possibly consider a return to Europe in the event that his contract was in fact bought out, however, the difference in salaries would likely be drastic.
According to figures released by the MLS Players’ Union, Diskerud made $761,250 in 2016, which was the fourth-highest salary on NYCFC books behind only David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, each of whom were classified as Designated Players.
Gabriel Jesus was a revelation for Manchester City before suffering an injury, but even with a spot in the lineup for the time being Sergio Aguero may not be coming back to Manchester City next season.
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According to the Sun, Spanish giants Real Madrid are eyeing up a move for Aguero in the hopes that the Argentine striker will join the club at the conclusion of the Premier League season.
Prior to joining City back in 2011, Aguero played five seasons in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, where he scored 101 goals in all competitions for the Rojiblancos.
While Aguero is likely to hold his starting spot for some time due to Jesus’ injured metatarsal, manager Pep Guardiola had heavily favored the young forward over Aguero since officially joining the club in January.
Tab Ramos’ side completed their first task, but now the U.S. Under-20 national team has its next challenge lying in front of them.
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The U.S. U-20s finished second in Group B at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship after winning two of its three group stage matches.
Now, Mexico and El Salvador await the U-20s in the classification stage with a spot at May’s Under-20 World Cup in South Korea on the line.
During the classification round there will be two groups of three teams, with the top two teams advancing to the World Cup. Each group winner will meet in the CONCACAF Championship final.
Classification stage schedule
Feb. 27 — U.S. U-20s vs. Mexico
Mar. 1 — Mexico vs. El Salvador
Mar. 3 — U.S. U-20s vs. El Salvador
Feb. 27 — Panama vs. Honduras
Mar. 1 — Honduras vs. Costa Rica
Mar. 3 — Panama vs. Costa Rica