Skip to content

U.S. Olympic soccer dreams suddenly in grave danger; serious flaws now revealing themselves

Mar 24, 2012, 9:35 PM EDT

Lucas Cavallini, Doneil Henry

Building an Olympic team is tricky business. Because you’re constructing a team more or less from scratch, and focusing all efforts into a very limited number of meaningful games.

By the time any major flaws have been identified, it might be too late. Because flaws proving more significant than originally believed can turn fatal, and right quick.

There’s no sugar-coating it: the United States is in a dark corner after Saturday’s surprising 2-0 loss to Canada. Caleb Porter’s team must win Monday against El Salvador to ensure passage into the critical semifinals in Kansas City.

A draw against El Salvador, a tiny nation now inspired by the massive Olympic opportunity in front of them, probably won’t be enough for the U.S. under-23s.

So, about those “flaws:”

Dynamic formations and shrewd, fluid arrangements of so much attacking talent doesn’t mean a thing, as we can see, if the old-fashioned elements of leadership and want-to come up missing. Or, perhaps, were never there in the first place. Without the benefit of meaningful matches to test these elements over the last few months well, you never really know until you know. You know?

Saturday, “urgency” went on holiday on the U.S. side. The Canadians ran and ran and poured everything they had into the night. Too many American players might be asking if they did the same Saturday.

Going into the match, you could say there was definitely still a little bolt-tightening to be done in the U.S. defense. Seeing things unravel so spectacularly against Canada, it looks now like more than that. The problems start with center back Ike Opara, who just never looks completely comfortable or very smooth back there. His timing and positioning aren’t as astute as central partner Perry Kitchen, but that’s not the least of it. Some nervous indecision near goal nearly turned disastrous as Opara almost sneaked one past Bill Hamid at the near post in the first half.  He got all turned around on a Canadian break midway through the second half, and then completely lost his mark on Canada’s second goal.

Opara can definitely can be a bother on offensive set-plays. But that’s not enough, and that spot looks like a real doozey of a U.S. problem.

The first Canadian strike was clearly on goalkeeper Bill Hamid, whose inexperience became a crusher. He was way too timid in claiming what should have been a routine ball into his six-yard box. By failing to grab the floating corner kick at its highest possible point (Goalkeeping 101) and not attacking the moment with authority, he turned a fairly benign cross into a fiasco.

Freddy Adu isn’t playing badly, really, but he’s sure not anything to shout about, either. Bottom line: he’s not doing enough. The U.S. captain (and most experienced international man) must press the game more and ask further questions of defenders in front of him. He’s quite competent in helping the Americans keep possession in the middle third. But he’s not stretching defenders the way Brek Shea did on the left (for a half Saturday, anyway). And when Adu came into the middle after the break, he was even less effective, never establishing himself as the playmaker Porter apparently asked him to be in a halftime tactical adjustment.

Speaking of that tactical adjustment: it didn’t work. Not at all. Joe Corona, Thursday’s three-goal scorer, wasn’t finding the spaces that he did against Cuba’s awful defense. And, as noted, Adu wasn’t having his best night on the right wing. So Porter removed Corona, switched Shea to the right, redeployed Adu to attacking midfielder and added Joe Gyau to the left. Result: things got worse. Only in the last, desperate 10 minutes did the Americans begin seriously threatening Canadian goal. Down by two at that point, it was too late.

Latest Posts
  1. FIFA says World Cup will stay in Russia, “can achieve positive change”

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    FBL-WC2022-FIFA-QATAR-LABOUR-SLAVERY-UNIONS Getty Images

    It can be the soccer tournament that changes Russia forever (so implies FIFA)

  2. Arturo Vidal may not stay at Juve; Shuts door on Manchester United

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    FBL-ITA-SERIE A- JUVENTUS-PALERMO-SCUDETTO Getty Images

    The 27-year-old Chilean is very much in demand, but also happy at a Champions League club.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT

    Olmes Garcia

    Olmes Garcia’s second half double lifted RSL.

  4. DaMarcus Beasley, introduced in Houston: I see myself as a left back

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    DaMarcus Beasley

    Introduced to the media in Houston, Beasley said he’s move on from midfield.

  5. Wenger talks Zelalem, gets taste of U.S. obsession for potential international

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    With Wenger interview, SI had to get Zelalem out of the way first.

  6. Henry, on Suárez sale: ‘We needed more depth’

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-US-FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Reds’ owner does not want a repeat of last year’s weaknesses.

  7. Barclays Premier League LIVE: Select U.S. theaters to show games during the 2014-15 season

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Premier League logo

    NBC Sports and Fathom Events are taking Premier League soccer to the big screen.

  8. 11 Things From AC Milan’s Training Session in New York

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT

    mario-balotelli-cosmos-1000

    Balotelli, Honda, Muntari, and more from the Rossoneri’s N.Y. training.

  9. Jorge Luis Pinto will not return as Costa Rica head coach

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT

    jorge_luis_pinto AP

    Pinto will depart after failing to come to new terms with the federation.

  10. Everton adds 21-year-old Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic

    Jul 24, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT

    muhamed_besic AP

    After appearing three times at Brazil 2014, Besic is set to add depth behind Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.

  11. Serbian club FK Jagodina set to sign Freddy Adu

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Credit: Blackpool Gazette Credit: Blackpool Gazette

    Adu close to joining the 10th club in his 11-year career.

  12. U.S. prospect Rubin suffers broken nose, concussion with Utrecht

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT

    rubio rubin

    After seeing time with the senior squad, 18-year-old prospect will be sidelined indefinitely.

  13. WATCH: Radamel Falcao’s batting cage cuts send pitcher diving

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.45.37 PM

    The Colombian striker takes a few hacks before AS Monaco’s friendly in Miami against Atletico National.

  14. Andy Carroll’s out a week, or four months (depending on who you trust)

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    article-2704570-1FCE5BED00000578-747_634x382 Getty Images

    Limited to just 16 matches last year after his big transfer from Liverpool to West Ham, Carroll is battling another ailment this season.

  15. Jay DeMerit’s retirement letter is as grateful, humble and classy as you’d expect

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    South Africa Soccer WCup US Algeria AP

    The rags-to-riches defender steps away from the pitch, at least as a player, while reflecting on his career journey from North America to Europe and back.

  16. EXCLUSIVE: Manchester United’s new signing Ander Herrera focused on success

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy AP

    Herrera chats exclusively to PST: “If we are a humble team and we work hard, we will achieve our objectives and we will win trophies.”

  17. Son of Mexican national teamer says he’ll represent United States

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Twitter.com/ferarceJr Twitter.com/ferarceJr

    His dad played for El Tri, but California-born Fernando Arce Jr says his U-20 bow with the States makes him an American player “forever”

  18. Premier League on tour, Weds roundup: Five play, only Liverpool loses

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

    Aston Villa, Manchester United and Manchester City all cruised, while Spurs had to find a late winner after coughing up a two-goal lead.

  19. Serbian boss: Freddy Adu sought by Europa, UCL clubs in Serbia, Cyprus

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    150px-FK_Jagodina_Emblem

    Goran Milanovic is hoping the former American prodigy chooses to revitalize his career with FK Jagodina in the Serbian top flight.