3113_u20s_isi_usmntu20022013140 David Leah/isiphotos.com
ASN Weekly Debate

How Vital Was the U-20s Reaching the World Cup?

The United States youth team reached the age level World Cup in Turkey with a 4-2 victory over Canada. Ryan O'Hanlon and Noah Davis debate the importance of the achievement.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
March 01, 2013
2:00 PM
Noah Davis: Okay Hanlon, 1 to 10 scale, how important was it that the United States U-20s qualified for the World Cup? And if you say 4-6, this conversation is over. 2013 is for picking sides.

O'Hanlon: Damn you. I'll say 7, then. If only because the youth national teams haven't really won all that well since that Bradley-Adu-Altidore team. Them qualifying stops a bunch of pointless conversations before they even begin.

Davis: I'll say a 2 in the grand scheme of things, but an 8 right now. The U-20 tournament doesn't mean anything in the long run. Sorry, it doesn't. But man, it had been a long time since the youth level teams had done anything worth writing about, right? That said, the whole narrative about this team turning around the fortunes of the U.S. on the international level is beyond absurd. And yes, fortitude, comebackativeness, etc. etc., but the squad went down an early goal to Canada.

O'Hanlon: That's cheating, because those average out to a 5, but whatever. I completely agree. It basically means nothing. Sure, it's not at all a bad thing if the U.S. wins the U-20 World Cup—that'd be pretty cool—but it doesn't really tell us anything re: the full national team or The Future of American Soccer.

Davis: But yeah, it means shockingly little, right? I was surprised when Alexi Lalas started tweeting about how basically 1-3 players from each of the past cycles made an impact on the full team. That seems really low to me, and I wonder if it's similar to other countries. Granted, the cycles are every two years, not four, but I would still think that more than two-ish players from every two years would become regulars in the senior team 18 or whatever. That leads me to believe that people should stop freaking out so much. Granted, this is my general worldwide view, so I'm not sure how instructive that really is.

O'Hanlon: It doesn't seem like it's something that's necessarily predictable with the tournaments only happening so often and with injuries and globalization and etc. This is U.S. Soccer, though, so freaking out in one way or the other is the default mode.

Davis: Which I really don't understand, but that's just me. Here's what surprised me about the U-20 team: The individual players were obviously more skilled than the other teams, but they didn't play like it as a collective, with the exception of the last hour against Canada. Should we be asking more?

O'Hanlon: In youth soccer, way more than at the professional level, doesn't speed/strength often overpower skill? Things even out as you get older—as smaller guys get bigger, and more importantly, even better—so couldn't this apply to the U20's, too? It's not as easy to take over a game with possession at that age, I don't think.

Davis: I'm so tired of hearing about possession as if it's the answer to everything. I, too, can pass the ball around the back. It's not hard. Scoring is hard. Creativity is hard. And I guess the U-20s found it at the end, but why does every American team look like the members met each other on the plane flight down?

O'Hanlon: Isn't it because they sort of have? And doesn't that get back to, like, The Big Questions of American soccer. Most national teams, even, don't always play these great team games every time out—because they're only "teams" in the loosest sense of the term. The two best soccer-ing countries in the world—Germany and Spain—are that way, in no small part, because they have a general system/style of play that all of the guys grew up with/are now used to, so they can slot in and play like a team that trains together every day. The U.S. isn't there yet, but not many are.

Davis: But they had a training camp before the tournament. And one before that. I refuse to believe it's that hard. A midweek match in Honduras maybe, although even then..., but these teams that play together, train together, and still can't figure it out? I don't know.

O'Hanlon: I thought we said these games didn't matter?

Davis: They don't much, in the context that individual results in a U-20 tournament aren't important. And I think reaching the U-20 World Cup is overrated in terms of development of the players. But if the goal of the youth program is to improve the senior team, and the youth teams are trying to play in a similar style to the senior team, then yes, I think it is important when they get on the field and look like they have no freaking clue what their teammates are going to do.

O'Hanlon: Maybe they should go back to the residency program, then?

Davis: Maybe we should just fast forward 20 years to a time when everything is perfect.

O'Hanlon: Sounds good to me. I'll be living on the moon, eating a steak dinner in the form of a chewable tablet, and sending you emails with my mind.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. Sometimes, there's anger.

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