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Game Recap

Cody Cropper Leads U.S. to 1-1 Draw with France

The Americans managed a 1-1 tie against a talented French side and need a win against Ghana to reach the next round of the U-20 World Cup. Josh Deaver has your recap of the action.
BY Josh Deaver Posted
June 24, 2013
4:01 PM
The United States under-20 men’s national team had chances to pick up all three points but managed to secure a well-earned 1-1 draw with France thanks to a goal from Daniel Cuevas in the final minutes on Monday’s group match. The result is a big confidence boost for the Americans, who will travel to Kadir Has Stadium in Keyseri to face Ghana on Thursday. A victory against the Black Stars should guarantee enough points to see them through to the knockout round of the 2013 under-20 World Cup.

The U.S. needed a result and altered the high line of defensive pressure it employed against Spain, choosing to tackle the French with an eye on defensive discipline and the counterattack. Tab Ramos partnered Benji Joya with incumbent Wil Trapp in the central midfield. On the backline, captain Caleb Stanko was benched in favor of an unexpected pairing of Jevan Torre and returning Shane O’Neill. Mario Rodriguez slid in for an injured Daniel Garcia in attack.

The Americans managed to weather a storm of French possession for the opening 20 minutes, battering back several chances from Les Blues. The best opportunity of the first half came in the 16th minute when Arsenal-bound striker Yaya Sanogo intercepted a poorly played back pass from Joya inside the U.S box, forcing Cody Cropper to parry the attempt over the bar.

Playing more conservatively helped the U.S. limit the French but had its drawbacks as well. When the Americans were able to break on a counter, a lack of support, positioning errors, and a series of poor final balls killed nearly every promising movement of the opening 45 minutes.

It wasn’t until the final minute of the half that the U.S. was able to generate its first clear chance on goal. During a torrid end-to-end sequence, Jose Villarreal nearly scored with a downward header that was just wide of the frame. Seconds later, Luis Gil had his shot from the top of the box saved following an excellent layoff from Villarreal.

Both teams were unlucky not to find the net and entered halftime in a scoreless deadlock.

The French pushed the intensity after the break and looked intent on pegging back the resolute Americans. Only three minutes in, French right back Dimitri Foulquier charged up the field, drawing a penalty after a foul from Jevan Torre. Upon replay, Torre, who looked much better in his performance against the French, seemed hard done by the call which appeared to occur outside of the box. Cropper managed to get a hand on the Yaya Sanogo spot kick but could not keep it out of the net for the game’s opening goal.

In the 65th minute, the Americans were awarded a somewhat-dubious penalty after Mario Rodriguez drew contact and toppled inside the box. The decision had the look of a make-up call but Luis Gil’s telegraphed attempt was easily saved by the French keeper.

After some late adjustment from Ramos—which included bringing on Daniel Cuevas and shifting DeAndre Yedlin to midfield—the U.S. was able to put together some threatening spells of possession. The breakthrough finally came in the 84th minute. After Rodriguez earned a dangerous free kick, a fortunate deflection inside the box fell to Cuevas who buried his chance with a leaping left-footed effort to draw the Americans even.

The U.S. now have everything to play for against Ghana. A win on Thursday (1 EST on ESPNU) will send them to their first World Cup knockout round since 2007.

  • The performance of the defensive line was much improved on Monday. Dropping Stanko certainly led to some questions considering the teams’ lack of reliable center backs, but on the whole the back four responded positively. Torre’s penalty was the low-light on an otherwise competent performance.

  • The key tactical shift of the match was swapping Oscar Sorto (who entered at halftime for Alonso Hernandez on the right wing) and Yedlin in the game’s final third. With Sorto handling defensive responsibilities, it allowed the free-wheeling Yedlin to bomb forward and create chaos for the French. The Sounders man looked comfortable in midfield and did not hesitate to take defenders one-on-one. Might we see more of this strategy in upcoming matches?

  • Both Villarreal and Hernandez had quiet nights. Villarreal rarely saw the ball playing as a winger and will need to impose himself more for the U.S. to succeed. Hernandez had several gaffes in the first half, which likely led to his removal at half time for the second game in a row.

  • By virtue of a second half yellow card, midfielder Joya will miss Thursday’s game against Ghana.

    Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.
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