Monday Morning Centerback: Why did the U.S. Under-20s fail?


Whose fault is it?

That is the question some U.S. national team fans are asking after the U.S. Under-20 national team's early exit from the Under-20 World Cup. Who is to blame for the failings of a collection of what is supposed to be the best Under-20 players this country can produce? Is it as simple as the pointing of a finger at head coach Thomas Rongen, or do the issues that plagued this team go far beyond a coach or his roster selection?

Rongen will face some heat, as he should, for a team that seemed to lack discipline as much as it appeared to lack talent. It is a thankless job coaching a youth national team in a country with few real opportunities for young players to get professional caliber experience, but Rongen was always going to be judged on results and he had to know that with every Korean goal came the increased likelihood that he will wind up paying for this early tournament exit with his job.

With that said, how much of it was Rongen's fault, and how much of it was the product of a weak Under-20 pool?

Rongen gets some blame for sticking with a 4-3-3 formation when he simply didn't have the players to make it work against disciplined teams. He also gets the expected blame for his roster selection because we all know when a team of chosen players fails, the players who weren't chosen were always the right ones. In this case though, Rongen will face even more heat for his selections after Bryan Arguez, a player who wasn't initially chosen but who came in as an injury replacement, wound up being one of the team's best players in the tournament.

Roster nitpicking takes attention away from one very fair question. Was this cycle of players good enough? Consider that the last U.S. Under-17 national team finished 1-3 at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, advancing to the second round on goal difference after going 1-2 in group play just as this Under-20 team did (and that team's coach, John Hackworth, also paid with his job).

Yes, there were players missing, with Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu focusing on their club careers, but the same could be said for almost every other team in the tournament. A truly full-strength Under-20 World Cup wouldn't exactly favor the United States in this cycle, even with Altidore and Adu, not with teams from Italy to Brazil to England being able to call on established teenage pro standouts.

So why does this particular tournament exit hurt so much for some USA fans? The disappointment also stems from the fresh memories of the 2007 U.S. Under-20 team, a stacked team by USA standards that upset Brazil and gave so many signs of promise. Ultimately though, what may have been forgotten by some is that each team is its own entity, and you can't expect continued improvements in results from one youth team generation to the next.

That doesn't make the U.S. team's performance any easier to accept, particularly not when we consider the final group stage match against South Korea, an opponent that also featured college players but still managed to play like a cohesive, disciplined and skillful team. The losing wasn't the worst part for U.S. fans who took the time to watch this generation of American youngsters, it was the way they lost, by being thoroughly outplayed and looking lost, uncreative and undisciplined for stretches.

Those are the reasons why Rongen stands a good chance of paying for this performance with his job, but blame can certainly be pointed elsewhere. You can point to some untimely injuries, a tough group draw, and you can point to the closing down of the MLS reserve division, which limited playing time and development for key Under-20 players. The need for for top American teenagers to have an alternative to college for regular playing time is something that MLS needs to work on addressing, but that alone isn't why the USA came up so short this time around.

In the end, what we had was a pool of players that just wasn't as good as the previous group, and one that just wasn't equipped to do much in this tournament. We can delude ourselves into believing that a different coach, and a few different roster choices, would have meant a deep tournament run, but that is wishful thinking.

When we saw a disappointing Under-17 team struggle at the World Cup two years ago we should have known this was coming. Some different decisions might have made it less ugly, but we should at least consider the possibility that this U.S. Under-20 cycle simply wasn't good enough.


What did you think of the U.S. Under-20 team's performance at the Under-20 World Cup? Writing it off as a weak cycle, or do you see it as evidence of a worrisome trend?

Share your thoughts below.

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84 Responses to Monday Morning Centerback: Why did the U.S. Under-20s fail?

  1. KyleFeller says:


  2. alexarmac says:

    Progress is not always upward and good players come in cycles. Let’s hope this was a downward cycle in a long term upward trend. But it seemed strange the respect that we gave other teams especially Korea. It almost looked like we bunkered from the beginning. Strange. Coach looks like he either is a smoker or drinker. He turned me into a drinker!

  3. pepewicho says:

    Let us be honest. The coaches pride got in the way. There were game breaking players missing such as Bernardo and Felix Garcia. Yes Garcia had a personal situation that had him leave the Houston Dynamo but he was tearing it up before that. Should have been given a chance to redeem the immature mistake.Players did not like Rongen and probably skipped playing for the USA because of the coach. We need a coach that understand that we need to stop playing basic soccer. We need our talented players to be given a chance. The whole USSF mentality needs to change and we need to play our talent not depend on defense. Lack of playing time? Well lets give them playing time by actually calling them in and playing them in these important tournaments. Same goes for the US National team. Bradley continues to use favoritism over talent. How can us chose Sasha, Beasley, Bornstein over proven full time players that play in a way better league than the MLS such as Torres, Castillo and Orozco. I personally think he is Prejudice over Mexican Americans. Play them and you will see how better off the USA will be. We need to play to win not bunker down and let people attack you. We are not in shape for that. The best defense is a controlling the midfield offense with talented offensive minded players instead of no skill on the ball defensive minded players.

  4. CSD says:

    The find it hard to believe that the talent pool of the US has gone down so substantially that they don’t have the skills to keep possession with two consecutive passes. There was no link between the strikers and the defenders. These young players were put into a position to fail by what appears to be arrogant and ignorant coaches. Who in the World plays with 3 strikers?

  5. green says:

    My reasons. . .

    1. Youth teams are always going to be inconsistent.

    2. We’re still behind a lot of nations in regards to technical ability and game intelligence in this age group.

    3. Tough group. We knew that before any games started.

  6. Patrick says:

    Losing is one thing. Getting played of the field is another. Rongen should go but, who replaces him?

    Do we let Cabrera coach his group of U-17’s as U-20’s? Then who replaces Wilmer?

    October 26 vs Spain, should be fun.

  7. Niccollo says:

    i second kylefeller.

  8. Toninho says:

    Can people PLEASE shut up about Vincenzo Bernardo? The kid is a myth created in his own head. Anyone who mentions him in these conversations is an idiot. He’s never done a thing except score a Napoli youth contract. Has he ever come close to playing first team anywhere? Nope. People think he’s good because he spends all his time floating BS stories about himself to the media.

    Not calling in Arguez from the beginning was a joke, but Bernardo? The kid is a myth.

  9. Deuce says:

    Soccer is a tricky game.

  10. elmatador says:

    is not as easy as “this U.S. Under-20 cycle simply wasn’t good enough. MLS reserve division is important, look at Peri Marosevic for example, I think he’s better than Tony Taylor but doesn’t get any playing time with F.C. Dallas, he could benefit from playing in the reserve league. But now instead, he’s no where near of being game fit for any kind of competitions. Also the Brandenton Academy if we do a in depth study of the “elite” players that have come out of Florida and are now fully USMNT standouts we would be dissapointed. Take for example that our best forward now is Charlie Davies, players that go overseas contribute way more to the USMNT.

  11. JSC says:

    The problems lie within the fact that once these U17’s leave Bradenton, if they are unable to score a European or increasingly a Mexican contract, they don’t get consistent games. We can indict MLS all we want for dropping the reserve division but the real problem is that the MLS teams are slow to find an alternative. Reserve league games were a joke from the start with teams consistently calling in front office staffers to fill the rosters. What is really curious is why more teams haven’t gone the RSL route with Alex Nimo and send those at the end of the bench to USL. Set up one month loans so these players get 4 or 5 games. If injuries occur, call them back in. It’s ridiculous to send players like Chris Seitz to Portland for one game. Financially it would seem to make sense as well as both the MLS and USL teams would only pay a portion of the salary for the months these players are away.

  12. r.benjamin says:

    4-3-3 says it all. This team had no business playing that formation with the players it had.

    Player selection and substitutions were also very questionable.

    The coach’s job is to maximize what he has. There are too many reasons that point to Rongren not doing this.

    And for me.. Add this to his biggest failure. Failing to select a player who 20 months later was starting in the bundesliga.

  13. brad says:

    First-off I enjoyed watching USA’s youth team. Certainly the results and development wasnt there, but atleast we were able to see who is up and comming..

    Our youth system will continue to get better. We are now investing more then many prominant international teams. I think the future is bright, despite these results..

  14. BellusLudas says:

    Bottom line….Education minded America hurts player development. Would I tell my kid to forgo college to become pro? Not for 30K contract!

    Until MLS is investing serious dollars into player development and we are signing players to contracts that will make a college less attractive we will get these results…and no, Generation Adidas is not nearly enough.

    One of our greatest strengths as a nation, creates a real problem for player development….pick your poison.

  15. chan says:

    I agree with r.benjamin. Barcelona plays a 4-3-3, but if your midfield has Xavi and Iniesta, you can do it. This US team did not have the players to do this. I really did not follow this WC carefully, but my first shock was that Rongen was the coach.

  16. Mig says:

    Coach has to go. It’s not that the US didn’t advance, but instead, as Patrick said, because they got played off the field. The talent may not have been deep but the coach stuck with one formation and couldn’t even get them to play that well.

    His selections, his formation, lack of discipline…there is just nowhere to hide for Rongen after this.

  17. arkjayback says:

    Would a different coach had led them to a DEEP run in the tournament? No? Better than 1-2 with two ugly 3-0 losses? Yes. His roster selections wreaked of stubborness.

    Look at where the team’s weaknesses were and the roster omissions:

    LEFT BACK – Nazzani. Wallace getting injured really hurt, but Flores was no true LB backup.

    CENTRAL MIDFIELD – Arguez. Where would this team have been if injuries hadn’t gotten him on this roster.

    WIDE PLAY – Ibrahim. Shea’s inconsistent performance aside, there were no true wide midfielders out there. Cruz provided energy against Cameroon, but the shape reflected that of the team that got beat down by Costa Rica at Saprissa at June.

    CREATIVITY – Bernardo. The guy really gets too much hype, but he couldn’t have been worse than Powers and Ownby. We know he is a creative attacker and he really really really wanted to go to this tournament.

    Even past the roster selections and bad tactical decisions, Rongen always does an abysmal job of rotating young players. I point out Cruz who both himself and Rongen said before the tournament that he lacked match fitness, but he was supposed to provide a ton of energy twice in 3 days.

    Rongen’s teams are always gassed by the 3rd or 4th game, making it harder and harder to keep any momentum going.

  18. PetedeLA says:

    1. as has been said 4-3-3 was a mistake. You only play that formation when you have proper wingers and a proper target forward. We had none of the above.
    2. As someone who lives in South Korea, I’m not surprised at all that they blew us out of the water. Baseball may be the more popular spectator sport here, but soccer is played on the grounds of every school–with a very high skill level. My taxi driver had the game on in his little small screen TV/GPS gizmo.
    3. Just sack the guy. I didn’t see one good thing about the US play. It was an embarrassment.
    4. Personally I would have formed the whole team around the talents of Duka and Arguez. I didn’t watch every minute (I ain’t a masochist), but those two stuck out for me.
    5. As a side note, the Koreans have a good skill level, but their bodies are terribly frail. I’m sure that if they played a bit dirtier (not stupid dirty, but clever dirty …ie. shoulder checks, not two footed tackles), they would have had more of a chance against the Koreans.

  19. CapeCodFutbol says:

    Why? They weren’t good enough.

  20. Xander Crews says:

    I would say Ives’ analysis is pretty much spot-on on this. Part of the result (since the team wasn’t expected to do much, I can’t exactly use the word ‘blame’) from this tournament lies on Rongen’s shoulders, and part of it lies on the players.

    Still, Ives pointed out a key problem plaguing the US program – a lack of discipline. That’s evident in the senior squad with the rash of reds during the Confed Cup, and it was evident in the Olympics – and it’s evident here.

    US Soccer needs to take a long, hard look at this trend. It’s easy (but naive) to say that referees have it out for the US. The fact of the matter is the discipline level is left wanting – not just with fouls and cards, but with tracking back on defense and overall team play.

    That said, I’ve mentioned before that Rongen’s ability to continually find jobs with US Soccer is stunning… He’ll turn in one outstanding match followed by two clunkers, regardless of the team he’s working with. Great coaches select a team strategy based on the strength of his players – Rongen tries to make those players fit his formations and tactics in the old ’round hole, square peg’ scenario. I’m wondering what kind of compromising photos of Gulati he’s got.

  21. pepewicho says:

    Hey Toninho. its pretty close to “tontito” which is what you are calling those that mention potential talent. The matter of fact is that our talent is not being used and we need to stop going with those that don’t get the job done!!!!

  22. Conor Casey's knee says:

    Well, you have to remember how terrible this team was in the their U-17 tournament as well.

    This generation is just not very good. We also still have very bad coaches. Combine those two and we get these results.

    The U-17 team will do well, because they have tons and tons of talent. However, they will not win the U-17 World Cup, because we just don’t have the right coaches yet.

    Look at South Korea for example. Those kids were not their best U-20’s, those were their college kids mostly. They were so much more technically skilled than us, why? Because they hired foreing coaches since the early 90’s and they have grown into a pretty good soccer country. They just lack the size(player’s actual size, not country size) to compete. Look at Japan who had Arsene Wenger coach there. We need to get away from American coaching, it isn’t good.

  23. JoeW says:

    1. I’m not wild about the 4-3-3. But given the US’ failure to develop wide players and the real value of the U17 and U20 teams is not to win titles but to be development of talent and feeders that compliment the full National team, I could see a situation where BB says “we need more true outside players in the USNT pool–DMB is flaming out so basically we’ve got Rogers and …..? Develop me some wide attackers.” And if that’s the case (and it’s absolutely true that in USSF, coaches get some direction from the NT coach about the overall program and what kind of talent they’re looking to grow even if it is long-term) than the 4-3-3 isn’t so wild. Agreed that we didn’t have the talent to play the 4-3-3 well but I’m not sure the formation would have made a difference. And frankly, with a team that shows a lack of sophistication and a tendency to panic, then changing formations and roles is a prescription for disaster.

    2. South Korea is the worst team we could have played. There are better, more talented sides out there. But ROK runs hard, is quick and plays plenty of high pressure. For a team like Brasil and Argentina or the Netherlands, they eat that kind of soccer for breakfast and then say “that’s all you got?” But for a technically naive team that doesn’t think quickly or handle pressure well, ROK is a mess for us.

    3. Folks may complain about “Why not Duka?” or “why not Diskerud” for more games. But the bottom line is that you’re going to go 1-2 (or 0-3) when our backline and D-mid plays like they played this tournament. I don’t think most folks would have a problem with Ike Opara starting for the US–he’s one of the best defenders in the US college system with a big name program and he had some dreadful moments this tournament.

    Rongen may not be a great tactician or brilliant coach. But our talent just wasn’t up to par. Lost in some of the fun memories of US male tournament performance (U-17, U20, full men’s side) is barring Concacaf or Gold Cup stuff, the US just doesn’t have many instances where we go 3-0 with a superior goal differential in the first round.

  24. DC Josh says:

    The only player I can see making a senior level CAP is Ike Opara. He is legit. The rest of the players looked horrible.

    Rongen needs to go. We don’t have Subotic thanks to him, WHO COULD HAVE PLAYED IN THIS TOURNAMENT.

  25. Chase says:

    Anyone that listens to Rongen drone on like a moron as a color commentator for DC United’s Comcast telecasts knows he’s just another European carpetbagger disguised as a so-called expert. After he helped lose Subotic he should have been gone…

  26. Eugene says:

    Rongen should be fired, he really mismanaged this cycle. I don’t know why you take a bunch of college players when there are pro players available at some key positions. I think Rongen was buying into himself too much after the 2007 cycle.

    Was there much overlap in players between this squad and the 2007 U-17 squad mismanaged by Hackworth? I didn’t think there was…

  27. Rekro says:

    Here’s the biggest difference…..
    Their players play for FC ( fill in the blank)….

    Our players play for UC ( fill in the blank).

    It’s hard to evaluate players when you never see them play. The reason people were apathetic about this u-20 team is because a lot of us had never even heard of some of these players. By getting rid of the reserve division , MLS is not helping the growth and development of U.S Soccer.

  28. ELAC says:

    Pepewicho for PRESIDENT!!

    Most likely, overrated U-20 talent.

    Also more than likely, underrated Mexican-American talent. Flores played out of position.

    Rongen costs us Subitovic, this time he cost us a chance to win.

  29. Conor Casey's knee says:


    Well you could also say that by players going to MLS instead of acadamies, that has also stunted the growth and development of US Soccer.

  30. Timber Nick says:

    maybe it’s just me, but i haven’t thought rongen was a good coach for about 10 years now. he did well with tampa and i thought that he was solid then. after botching jobs with DC, new england, and then chivas, what was his reward? U-20 coach. makes sense. i have always thought his player selection and tactics were highly questionable.

    if he gets canned, i’m sure he’ll get offered the u-23 job or something like that. us soccer seems to like keeping these guys around.

  31. Dave says:

    Why is the USSF so fascinated with Rongen? He has a 20+ year track record of mediocrity as a coach, do they just assume because he is Dutch he knows what he is doing? I am sick of seeing US teams not being able to hold their basic shape.

  32. PetedeLA says:

    Also… US youth development is pay to play.
    Korea and the rest of the world is play to get paid. Professional coaching at the youth level in S. Korea is as ubiquitous as it is inexpensive.

  33. Jose A. V. says:

    Coach is to blame.

    First is formation 4-3-3 instead of 4-4-2

    Secnod players choosen to play. Why was Davies on the bench? Why was Williams on the bench on the first match? Jeffreys seem lost most of the games. Why was Taylor all alone up top?

  34. RLW2020 says:

    at least we can look on the (somewhat) bright side…
    Opera, Duka, Shea, Taylor, Cruz, etc. will be playing in the MLS next year.

  35. ravb says:

    The U-20 World Cup was icing on the cake. Rongen has been subpar over his entire reign. I realize that developing talent is the first priority for a coach at that level and results are second, but this team showed very little of either. Place the loss of Rossi (which probably can’t be blamed on the US system) and the loss of Subotic (which can directly be attributed to Rongen) and the result is a condemnation of our Youth system. I realize that ESPN Soccernet spent the better part of last year pandering to the so-called “improvements” in our youth system, but I don’t see it, and in the end the buck stops with Rongen.

  36. Jmula says:

    The reason for the teams failure wasn’t the players it was the fact that the coach pride got in his way & he left players like Bernardo, Garcia, Wallace, both Garza’s brothers, Ellis McLoughlin, Alfredo Morales, Terrence Boyd, Brandon Manzonelli, Alex Nimo and countless other off the roster without giving them a fear chance in favor of going with unproven inexperienced college players and the mls not having a reserve league is no excuse anymore because the youth player pool has grown so much that we could easily assemble a roster with only pro to go to this tournament but once again we blew a perfect chance to taken advantage of weakened tornament

  37. Paul says:

    What more must Rongen do to lose his job? The general talent level out there is out of his control, but on things within his control — player selection, tactics, discipline — he has shown himself to be wanting. And these aren’t supposed to be lifetine gigs anyway.

  38. Angel says:

    well not only Rongen cost us Subotic, But Rossi,& Castillo too. But soon it will cost us more players like “Vincenzo Bernardo, Nazzani, Diskerud and maybe some more players that are playing oversea. Yeah I know some of you guys say that Bernardo or maybe the other guys that play in aboard don’t even see the field or maybe don’t play in the Senior team but they are getting train by good coaches and learning a good system. How can you compare some of our collage or maybe MLS & USL coaches to the one in Europe. I keep saying the lack of US youth system is in the lack of no good scouting. We have to start looking in to deep in this Country for Up coming kids that play in the neighborhood playground, or are in Junior or maybe high school games. We have to send good scout to see players that are playing in Europe kids that are Dual nationality that can come and represent our country USA. Cabrera is doing a great job with the U17 and if this team does a good job in the U17 WC he should be promoted to take over the U20 for the next U20 World cup because this will be a team in progress to growth together and make become our base team for the Senior going toward world cup 2014. Yes we do need to hired foreing coaches and implement a new style of football soccer that can give us a better & new indentity. Not as the one with have with Rongen and Bob Bradly. Every in the world of soccer look the USA as a Defender team that plays quick passes Defend and play the long pass for the acounter attack. That very awful football. We have to thank this all awful football soccer to not only our coaches but the one who hired them. Like Mr. Gulati that the only one thing that he did right is the hire of Cabrera for the U17 and like I say he give a different style of soccer than the U20 – senior Team.

  39. Angel says:

    The reason for the teams failure wasn’t the players it was the fact that the coach pride got in his way & he left players like Bernardo, Garcia, Wallace, both Garza’s brothers, Ellis McLoughlin, Alfredo Morales, Terrence Boyd, Brandon Manzonelli, Alex Nimo and countless other off the roster without giving them a fear chance in favor of going with unproven inexperienced college players and the mls not having a reserve league is no excuse anymore because the youth player pool has grown so much that we could easily assemble a roster with only pro to go to this tournament but once again we blew a perfect chance to taken advantage of weakened tornament

    Posted by: Jmula | October 05, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    @Jmula WOW you are the man and it look like you hit this right in the nail. Rongen and Bob Bradley are made with the same stone. They both have their personal choice of players and both are stuborn not to mention big egos.

  40. timF says:

    Rongen rode Adu and Altidure to the final 8 in 07, while Hackworth took his u17 team full of terribles, that are now the 09 u20s, to a 1-2 record and second round loss to an excellent german team. Hackworth was lynched out of a job by the soccer community, despite his 2005 u17s winning their group that had Italy in it. If Rongen doesn’t get fired for this undisciplined mess of a team, then Hackworth is owed an apology.

  41. Mike Caramba says:

    It’s funny to me that 1-0-2 with a -2 goal differential in the Confederations Cup is so much better than 1-0-2 with a -3 goal differential in this tournament. The only difference is that we didn’t manage the miraculous escape from the group this time around. Just a thought.

    The results in this tourney wouldn’t bother that much if the team looked good in the process. They looked really, really bad out there. It wasn’t just a matter of talent. It was a matter of organization, motivation, discipline, and management. Surely you can’t blame everything on Rongen, but I think it’s safe to say that our youth could be put in better hands. Like I said, I’m not too hung up on results–I felt this way after the last U-20 WC, which most regard as a huge success–but you have to look at the aspects of the game that Rongen has control over and see that he’s never done a very good job. It’s time for a new coach.

    (SBI-Not sure there is “only one” difference Another difference would be that in the Under-20s, USA played two decent teams, whereas in the Confederations Cup the USA played an almost full-strength Brazil and a full-strength Italy, as well as the champions of Africa. Slight difference there.)

  42. tom v says:

    rongen should have been gone a long time ago. even the last U20s run was simply propelled by great individual play by altidore and adu. even then, we were incredibly lucky to get by Brazil and Paraguay. not to take anything away from those guys and their great performance in the tournament, but even that team lack cohesion and discipline.

    also, wasn’t bryan arguez called in late? i dont get how a coach can go from not having a guy on the roster even to calling him in late and then playing him regularly. same thing with like holden, beckerman, and conor casey with the national team. this isnt a knock on any of those players, but if a guy is good enough to play in the game he should be on the roster. all of these players have either been called in late and then started/played major minutes or have been in their first camp and managed the same. doesnt make sense. i dont think capello would call in someone like jenas now to the ukraine camp and let him play. he might call him in, but he wouldn’t play serious minutes in a serious game.

  43. zongzap says:

    Why is Rongen even around anywhere anymore? What has he ever done? Being Dutch and having played there I guess. He’s basically bombed every coaching job he’s had starting with MLS.

    I think US Soccer better look at it’s staff form top to bottom and review the results. This tournament is nothing more than a preview of next years tournament with the exception that they one one. The senior team won’t beat anybody with the team BB’s building

  44. Sean says:

    Rongen is surely to blame. He left Neven Subotic out last cycle, and built an attack around Brek Shea this cycle. Who is his supplier? Because I need some of what he’s been smoking.

  45. Angel says:


    hey pepe my apology I cause I skip your comment that you posted and you are absolutely right. you, Jmula and others one like me have been saying that about our national coaches not to mention the lack of management from the USSF.

  46. tfina says:

    Until Soccer House gets a rather large dose of Semtex we will never be as good a soccer country as we could be. All the larger problems – lack of tactical smarts, total lack of close ball skills, complete inabililty to pass the ball around without kicking it to the other team – can be laid at the feet of an Amateur organziation top to bottom that is somehow tasked with trying to produce professional players. Disgusting.

  47. ELAC says:

    The USSF is a sinking ship with a semi-talented first team. The rest are either away in Europe or too green to make an impact.

  48. gerald says:

    There are some good points in these posts but some of you are missing a few facts

    Subotic – probably would not have been released by his German club if he was playing for the USA

    Wallace – Hurt before the tournament, didn’t travel

    Williams – Hurt before the 1st match

    Davies – was injured in the 1st match so Rongen probably didn’t think he could go 90 vs Korea

  49. Juan from L.A. says:

    Seriously how long has Rongen being there and I have seen zero to null progress. With or without talent like Ives notes. Still the same situation. Rongen needs to go!! He is hurting our development. The bad situation though is that Gulati and company take forever in not making changes when its so obvious!!!

  50. Brian says:

    When we would do well at these youth levels, a cadre of people would scream that these matches aren’t important and “real” soccer nations don’t care how the youth teams do.

    Now our doesn’t do well and all of a sudden, it’s a crisis. I love the American soccer fan.

  51. mike says:

    alot of you guys are clowns.

    Claiming european youth players (who you’ve never seen play) are better than the talent we had out there.

    Rongen saw them, he monitored them.

    just because your in europe doesnt make you better than someone whos not.


  52. Conor Casey's knee says:


    Just because you play in the US does not make you better than the Euro-based talent.

    MLS/American snob

  53. Felix says:

    Part of it is on Rongen who made poor roster selections, chose poor formation for this squad, did not coach the team up enough in terms of discipline. But also, it was a poor cycle of players. There is no way getting around it, especially in light of the ’07 squad.

  54. Angel says:

    you just prove are point that Rongen Suck as a coach, he took players from the college & MLS base player and he didn’t do any better or did he? Please you sound stupid calling people eurosnobs only cause we asking to call players that in europe. How can you compared the style of coaching, the style of playing they are getting in Europe compare to the Collage,MLS & USL level. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that we don’t have any talent here but the system of trying it reflect on what you saw in this U20 World Cup. a quote from tfina “lack of tactical smarts, total lack of close ball skills, complete inabililty to pass the ball around without kicking it to the other team – can be laid at the feet of an Amateur organziation top to bottom that is somehow tasked with trying to produce professional players. Disgusting.” Please

  55. Josh.2 says:

    I think someone said it best earlier, the problem with youth development in the US is that it’s pay to play. They’re so many good young players, especially in the inner city who are of immigrant decent who never go past playing high school, because they don’t have money. The ODP system which is supposed to showcase the best young players in each region, costs something like $2,000. And the worse part, is that some of these coaches often pick players they already know. When I was growing up in the DC area, I heard stories of kids going to ODP trials and being told that the coach already knew who he was picking. It’s nice to have a relationship with players, but sometimes players are out of shape, or their skill lever hasn’t improved and If you close your eyes to other players, you miss out and they miss out. There was a player by the name of Erwin Diaz who was just phenomenal to watch, and he was being tracked by Atletico Madrid, and he went to one of the US youth tournaments, and sat on the bench. The Atletico recruiters were there, but he didn’t play. Not every phenomenal youngster is going to be the real deal, but US Soccer needs to start funneling money down to the youth leagues and regional leagues, so that players who actually want to play the game won’t be turned away just because they don’t have the money. There are tons of mexican-Americans, and other foreigner’s kids who are raised within a culture that demands appreciation for the game, and a lot of them dream of being like Ronaldinho and Messi, but then they either don’t have the money to pay in order to play, or their grades aren’t good enough to play college soccer. US Soccer is certainly not recuiting at the parks.

  56. Angel says:

    @josh: Well said, you are in one of my good Post comment friend list. And yes that is one of reason we don’t have phenomenal players and believe me in this country that is so big there have to be at least about 100 of them. But we don’t have a good scouting system and good coaching staff.

  57. James says:

    Two groups are at fault.

    First, Rongen. His only success has been on the backs of others. His reputation is only because of other people putting teams together and him riding the waves.

    Second, Rongen is right about one thing – the “black hole” that is pro soccer once these guys leave Bradenton. Whether it is the crap that is college soccer or those people who are in MLS without a reserve division, these guys go from being really pushed to be great players to practice players.

    I put Rongen first because if that isn’t fixed, even if you bring back the reserve division, you’ll still have major tactical issues that will hamper the team.

    But both need to be fixed.

  58. usadcu says:

    Felix Garcia? I am not a Rongen supporter, but he would have been nuts to bring Garcia who has basically dropped off the face of the soccer world. Let Garcia get his act together in general before he gets called in to any sort of NT camp.

    Adding to Gerald’s point on the facts, Sam Garza was on the team, he blew out his knee and had to be replaced. Rongen cost us Rossi? Since when? Castillo? Nazzani and Bernardo – are they being called up by Italy, even for a youth team? Diskerud just played for the Rongen team and was, at best, OK. He might play for Norway some day, but it won’t be because Rongen didn’t pick him. It might just be that the pool is deeper at the full NT level for the US than for Norway – in fact, that’s pretty likely at the moment in midfield.

    I do think Rongen needs to go because I don’t think he got enough out of the mediocre talent he had, but I don’t think Cabrera or Fabio Capello or anyone else would have gone much further with this team, or one with more Italian Americans, or Mexican Americans and certainly not Felix Garcia. Out of pool play, maybe, but not much more.

    The whole debate about college soccer/pay to play and all the rest is a related, but much bigger topic. Get some sponsors and form your own team of players missed by the current system. Scout the Rec and other non-travel leagues/Middle School/High Scool, etc… It doesn’t cost that much in most places where soccer is popular like Cali/DC Metro, etc to join a competitive local league and play in tournaments that don’t require expensive travel. If your beef is about (low) representation of Latino players, get your local Salvadoran or Honduran or Mexican businesses to put up some modest sponsorship money and go win some tournaments – you will get attention that way and the players will get a look for college or MLS academies or Mexican teams – and the NT programs. Don’t just complain, do something.

  59. Dudinho says:


    Pay to play is exactly the problem and also not to mention the power those afluent suburban club teams have. Thats their selling point to potential players hey were expensive but we get you into ODP. thats why you get a ton of suburban kids playing on the national team. They have too much sway over whats happens at the youth level. its their money train and dont want that changing anytime soon. its why they refer to Wilmer Cabrera as an outsider and want him to fail. because hes calling up kids from all kinds of Club teams not just the ones with money with ties inside the USSF. Look the the pool of players at the 17’s that team has soo much character. And different types of styles

  60. Dudinho says:

    and anyone who thinks we dont have gems in the inner city is either a fool or dont want things changing. I challange anyone who thinks its a myth to drive into the Lower income communities and take a stroll through the public parks. And see how much passion and footy is being played every weekend. footy gets played so much that parks litterally are putting up no footy signs due to the lack of grass growing. ive seen 7 year kids in these leagues trap balls gain control and make a simple pass to an offensive player. Go to an Ayso game in the burbs and all you see are 22 kids running around chasing a ball.

  61. Austin says:

    stupid question…..all rongen

    that simple

  62. Mike Caramba says:


    I just thought it was interesting how fine the line is between a great success and an epic failure. You’re right that “only difference” is an overstatement, but there are an awful lot of similarities: In the Confed Cup, we lost 3-1 to a traditional European power. In the U-20, we lost 3-0 to a traditional European power. In the Confed Cup, we beat the African champs 3-0. In the U-20, we beat the African runners up 4-1. Comparing Brazil to Korea isn’t really fair, but we lost both 3-0. In the Confed Cup, we were plagued by red cards. In the U-20, we gave up a penalty in all three games (and suffered a red). In the Confed Cup, we scored 4 goals and gave up 6. In the U-20 we scored 4 goals and gave up 7.

    I just thought it was interesting how close our biggest success of the summer (Confed Cup) was to being on par with one of our biggest failures (U-20).

    (SBI-Yes, it was interesting from a purely results standpoint, but the comparison isn’t nearly as close as you wanted to make it, even with your follow-up attempt to equate the two. Compare a full-strength Italy senior team to what was clear and away a Germany Under-20 B team? Not close. Comparing a two-time African Nations Cup champion to a team that finished runners-up in a U-20 qualifying tournament with no Under-20 stars playing in it? Not close. Brazil, the best team in the world, or a Korean Under-20 team made up of college kids? Not close at all.

    It was a good initial point Mike, my original issue was simply that you took some liberties with the comparison in order to make a stronger point when you didn’t need to.)

  63. advocat says:

    There is little encouragement for the technical players. look at Baggio for the Chicago Fire. he can make the critical one-touch passes that few can make. And where is he? On the bench collecting a paycheck. His skills will suffer or fail to develop properly. And the US future talent pool diminshes as a result. The US hasnt produced a player anywhere near Landon Donovan for over 15 years. WHy?

  64. advocat says:

    There is plenty of talent in the suburbs. It needs to be encouraged with better coaching. Lets not turn US soccer into a ghetto game. We could become the NFL and NBA which have become unwatchable and unentertaining. TV ratings for both are in a 20 year decline. This would be a tragedy for US soccer; and its people.

  65. Mike Caramba says:

    Fair enough. Maybe I got carried away.

  66. r.benjamin says:

    Only because in a Rongren conversation it can’t be brought up enough.

    Nevin Subotic was not chosen by Rongren for the 07 tournament. His team would have let him go because the tournament was in June/July.. not like this year.

    By October of that year, Nevin was already touted as a good standout on a Bundesliga2 team that eventually won promotion. One year later he was a starter in the Bundesliga.

    Rongren’s job is to assess and develop talent. How did he miss aguably the only US player ever, who had the chops to be a bundesliga2 standout at basically the same time?

    Forget that we eventually lost Nevin (boy we could us him now), can you really ever trust his assessment of talent after that?

  67. Aquaman says:

    I think a lot of players were left off this team other than the more popular mentions. I don’t know their age situation, but European players like Greg Garza, Ellis McLoughlin, Nazzani, Matt Luzunaris, Alfredo Morales and probably several other young MLS players who could have helped out but were left off the team.

  68. Angel says:

    that is a dumb statement. Do you know that in the Ghetto of what ever you call it, That where the passion of the game really is. Have u ever been to places like in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador or any other places where football soccer is the main sport and have u ever played street soccer. That is where u learn to dribble, make cuts to left or to the right, learn the street tricks, and freestyle and that where u learn to play a beautiful game. And when you go to play academy or a to a team you learn the main thing and that is Discipline, Tactics, to be technical and the rules of the game. Suburbs yeah you probably find good talent too but they too Robotic. So please when you said US going to turn into a ghetto game WOW that means you are calling Argentina or worst the Brazil a ghetto team. Well I rather the USA become ghetto.

  69. gerald says:

    Well said Angel

  70. JP says:

    A few have already mentioned it, one of the problems with US youth soccer is that it is TOO ORGANIZED… Now I undertstand that some of it comes from being a more developed society but we need to come up with ways to broaden the reach of youth soccer recruiting in this country and develop more creative players…

    How can our kids compete with kids in Brazil who play on the streets for 3+ hours DAILY when ours come to practice twice a week and play on the weekends? These “not-for-profit” youth clubs are a disgrace and they are everywhere. Try to get in an open field for a pick up game and the odds are that some duffus with show up saying that some youth club has the rights to it and you can’t play there… Then they have these 11 year old kids under contract and treat them like prisoners. You cannot even go have a pick up game with another team without your coaches consent?! Who does that protect? I say the lub, not the kids…

  71. usadcu says:

    Dudinho and Advocat are both over the top with their arguments here. There is nothing wrong with continuing to improve the quality of what is going on in the “suburbs” while ALSO finding ways of reducing the impact of cash on people’s ability to progress in the game (and therefor helping those in inner city and less well off ‘burbs to participate).

    Personally, I am not a big NFL fan but it is simply not true that they are on a 20 year decline. In fact, it is a strength of the NFL that their appeal crosses ethnic and economic categories both from the persepctive of marketing and attracting players. In the US, building soccer means doing some of the same, even if most of the details will be different.

    We are not about to be Brazil tomorrow with the game played everywhere by everyone (including the middle class and rich, by the way), but we can build on what we have and draw strength from it rather than critizing “AYSO” and “soccer moms” or, on the other hand, ignoring what ethnic communities can bring to the game as they always have in US soccer, going back to when these ethnic groups were Germans or Italians 100 years ago.

    The difference today is that we have a chance to combine a stable professional league (with all its faults) with players from the burbs AND the ethnic poplulations, whether Latino, more recent African immigrants, or whatever.

  72. Josh.2 says:


    I’m sure you were joking. I grew up in DC and our team of inner city kids, always did well against teams in the suburbs. One of the best youth teams in recent years, Casa Mia Bays, was a suburban team, made up largely of inner city kids. I think Angel already handed you your ass on a plate. Rio de Janeiro is probably the most dangerous ghetto in the world, and look at how many great players have come through there. And just because someone is from the city doesn’t make them ghetto. I have no problem with suburban soccer players, in fact, I would love it if more businesses and parents in the city would put more money behind teams from the city so they can have exposure. My point was that when it comes to the ODP level, money because a big issue. The kids from the inner city just don’t have the means to pay for it. Even if a kid from the city was to bypass the prejudice and get a coach to pick him over a player the coach knows from his contacts, chances are that he can’t afford to pay the fees. I don’t think US Soccer has to pay for all youth clubs, I think communities need to step up their grassroot efforts, but when it comes to regional teams like the ODP programs, I think the US Nats would benefit in the long run if US Soccer had some money available to help players who can’t afford it. There’s a lot of talent out there, but not everyone in this country plays for FC Delco.

  73. alex says:

    You guys are beating this pay to play to death without acknowleding that many teams have cut out the costs, NYRB academy is free, Houston Dynamo is free there are a lot that MLS clubs are doing to help develop the talent the problem is that its happening now and the benefits won’t be until maybe 5 or 6 years down the road, Secondly lets end the class warfare, Soccer is a game loved by many it doesn’t matter where you grew up its like math its the same in every lanuage, but lets be factual we don’t live in the streets in this country nor would you raise your children in the streets, I keep hearin this argument that our kids don’t play in the streets they don’t want it enough cause there not poor, its absolute crap! Kids find all sorts of ways to define themselves to excel at what there good at, with more direction and a clearer path more kids would choose soccer if they new it would lead to a better life and thats whats missing, the clarity. If all of us want it to be better in this country then support your local MLS club and the youth teams around you.

  74. Andrew says:

    Not to say that we should have expected this team to advance, but youth teams are all inconsistent. We played three teams of approximately equal strength, lost two games by 3 goals, and won one by 3 goals. Also recall the friendly tournament in South Korea a couple cycles back where our U-20s lost 5-0 to the hosts in the first game, then beat an Argentina team featuring Messi and others in the next.

    We’re not the only inconsistent team either. Argentina didn’t qualify at all; Tahiti qualified over New Zealand. In Group F, Hungary got thrashed by Honduras but won their other two games easily, while Honduras lost to the same two opponents. Spain cruised past Nigeria and Venezuela (in addition to blowing out Tahiti), then got knocked out by an Italian team that was decidedly unimpressive in the group stage. No matter what country they come from, the players in this tournament are teenagers, there are no steady veterans among them.

  75. madmax says:

    75/25 Rongen. And with his dismal track record it should be hasta nunca gringo.

  76. joe hamilton says:

    The repeated references to “suburban” players smacks of racism against whites. Dunce-dihno; did you watch the games? Your reference to AYSO was also racist. Do believe only non whites should represent the USA? It is BS that if only the USSF rids the teams of those untalented rich suburban white players, the US would be another Brazil.

  77. joe hamilton says:

    Josh 2 you obvious have no idea what you are talking about. Brazil being successful has absolutely nothing to do with ghettos. Brazil and Uruguay (which has more division soccer players per capita than any nation in the world) young players play futbole salcao .They don’t play on regulation fields usually until their early teens.

  78. kriz says:

    Do you think that this means we can expect a drop off of fully national team talent in the near future?

  79. Josh.2 says:

    Joe, no one is saying anything racist on here. If anything you’re the one being racist by claiming that all suburban kids are white. They’re plenty of non-whites living in suburbs. Perhaps you should read the comments carefully before you respond. And no one claims that Brazil is successful because of their ghettos, you’re simply not getting the argument. What I was saying is that people like Ronaldinho came from the ghettos, but not every Brazilian player is from Rio. Someone had said earlier that US Soccer should simply continue recruiting from the suburbs and not the inner city because they didn’t want the Nats to turn ghetto, now that smacks of racism.

  80. SJ says:

    Not only should Rongen fall on the sword, it’s time USSF step up and take responsibility for it’s (lack of) actions to improve all levels of NT players.

    It’s becoming more apparent that the state of US soccer is not on an upward trend–at least developmentally. We are on par with S. Korea in terms of soccer tradition. However, after watching the disparity in technical ability, the USSF is not developing the same technically sound/skilled players or is failing to identify them and bring them into the fold.

    I’m like everyone else–not sure what the answer is, but becoming frustrated. What the answer isn’t is what is being done right now. I don’t think anyone expects overnight changes, but we would like to see perceivable forward progress in the development of the future USMNT player pool.

    Gulati should also step down and USSF be overhauled to get rid of the prevalent air of mediocrity which has seemed to creep in. I’m afraid the USSF is taking on an IOC-esque mentality (not as bad as Uncle Jack, yet).

    Ives, I’d love to read your assessment of the current USSF player development process.

  81. advocat says:

    Kaka, Ronaldinho, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Deco, Cristiano, Ballck, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole, Beckham, Donovan, Totti, Pirlo, Gilardino,etc etc. all from middle class to upper middle class families; some actually from extremely wealthy families. They grew up in mainly suburban style environments. It worked for them. And we can make it work for the US. I dont want to replicate the NBA or NFL which are actually losing money and have become devooid of any value or entertainment. My interest is in promoting the US suburbian kids; that is my demographic and loyalty.

  82. soccer_007 says:

    I believe the us soccer needs to scout more in europe for US players.
    I saw 3 pretty good under 20 players when I was in Germany lately. Lukas Martinen (Kiel), Parker Walsh (Karlsruhe) or Terrence Boyd (Berlin). They impressed me and would improve the us squad.

  83. celangto3 says:

    Talent was not the isue for our loss, but the formation. I would have put Taylor and Marosevic up front. Marosevic is more settle and Taylor is crafty and creat goals. Maybe put Duka in one wing and ibrahim in the other wing, Arguez in the mid. Really, I saw this team play before and Marosevic is a different player than Taylor, Taylor is more dangerous but they complement each other. Taylor need to have the ball on his feet and the midf. was taking to long to deliver it. I dont think Rongen made a bad choice on roster but perhaps a bad formation. But with Tayor, Marosevic, Duka, Arguez, we are getting close to what we are looking in players. We just need a coach who understand this playes and how to play them. Duka on the other hand needs to consentrate in moving the ball foward faster and not try to be a foward himself. He will be more productive this way. Like I said the midf crowd the front to much. The foward didnt have space to work. The mid was all over the place. In the end, soccer is a game of rythem and the team have to have it in order to produce. Americans dont understand this rythem, they think passing and running is it, but it takes more then that. Just look at Brasil. They get it. With the players I mention we are getting closer than before. But it will take a whole culture chance to undertand this game, and I dont think we will ever get it, is easier to blame it on Rongen , but Rongen got it for the firt time with the selections of the players I mention, it just will take more time.

  84. brb says:

    Why didn’t Mexico’s U20 team even qualify? Bad Coach? Down Cycle? Bad formation? Or is it because they don’t focus on soccer, or don’t let the inner city kids play? Or don’t select the minority kids who are obviously better players? Or do they need to cross the border and nationalize some o our college players so they can at least qualify.