by Sheldon Cipriani
I looked at a game last night in Orlando. The US U17 B team played a club team from Orlando and lost. The A team was in Phoenix and they tied Brazil 0-0 on Friday. Brazil finished the game with 9 players. My question is should a National team lose to a club team from a single city in a single state? It should not matter whether the team is A or B. You would think if a coaching staff has the best players in the country at their disposal, then they should be able to beat any club team in the country. Well, there were some alarming differences between the two teams I saw last night.
The Nike Rush team were much better physically. They were faster to the loose balls, tougher in the tackles, and seemed more motivated to play. The US team struggled to establish a rhythm, they seemed intimidated by the physicality of the club players, they could not string passes together, there was very little communication between them, they attacked with very few numbers and there was no visible leader on the pitch.
Having said that, neither team kept the ball very long. They both tried to get forward as quickly as possible to no avail, as players in advanced areas lacked support and were not good enough to deal with a numerical disadvantage. The bright spots in the game came from players in wide areas with the ability to get to the end line and provide service, but even then the services lacked the finishing touch it deserved. This was the theme of the first half.
The second half saw the game open up a little. The pace slowed and the players were afforded a little more room to play. The US boys created some more opportunities, but lacked conviction and confidence in front of goal. The substitutions favored the US as they were the deeper team. The quality of soccer did not change much though, even though the US had the better players collectively on the field for the last 15 minutes of the game.
It is only fair to mention that some of the US team members seemed at least two years younger than their opponents, so their was an obvious difference in physical maturity. The field was also much smaller and the grass was thicker, so the pitch was slow. This helped the club team close the US boys faster. I think a bigger pitch would have made a difference, but I am not sure who it would have benefited.
The US players were very good on the ball individually, but seemed to lack chemistry and creativity in the final third. They did manage a few looks at goal that required some very good goalkeeping, but you would expect that a National team would create chances. Based on the balance of play, the club team deserved to win.
I am sure it was a great experience for the players from Orlando, but I was hoping they would leave the field with the realization that there was difference between a national team and club team. Not the result, but the game intelligence, passing sequences, movement, creativity and cohesion.