The Kids Are Alright?
What Can We Learn from the U17's Failure?
The teenage American squad fell to Honduras 3-1 and the search for answers has begun. Josh Deaver weighs in with a few lessons we can learn from the latest Stars and Stripes youth soccer debacle.
April 15, 2013
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For the third time in 25 months, a U.S. youth team has failed to qualify for a major international tournament. On Sunday, the under-17 squad lost 3-1 to a skilled Honduran side, ending a 28-year streak of qualifying for the World Cup. After giving up an early goal, the Americans fought back thanks an equalizer from Joel Sonora, but were unable to provide an answer for two spectacular second-half tallies from Los Catrachos. In the end, the Stars and Stripes looked tired and lost. Honduras played as if a World Cup spot was on the line and sent the U.S. out with a humbling defeat.
THREE QUICK THOUGHTS
Flores ignored and more questionable in-game management
Poor player selection hurt the Americans on Sunday. After going down 2-1, instead of injecting life into a shell-shocked U.S. side with creative players like Junior Flores or ’97 forward Mukwalle Akale, head coach Richie Williams inexplicably went with more conservative selections. While Justen Glad performed well enough after coming on at halftime for Tyler Turner, the insertion of Sebastian Elney and Alan Winn in the second half in favor of Christopher Lema and Joel Sonora, who was arguably the best player on the field, was puzzling.
Williams’ leadership questioned
Almost immediately after Kevin Alvarez’s free kick put Honduras up 3-1 and the game out of reach, the comments started. In a torrent of Twitter messages, former Residency players and those involved with U.S. Soccer wasted no time excoriating Williams for his lack of vision, leadership, and overall managerial acumen. The majority of frustration centered on tactics, but some focused on player selection and more deep-seated flaws in the Residency program itself. The failure to qualify will likely see Williams out of job, but the question remains: What will it mean for the future of the U-17’s?
Residency program in jeopardy?
The program, which houses 30-plus U-17 prospects in a boarding school-like environment, has continually come under fire as counterintuitive for American player development. Professional environments, in MLS and elsewhere, now offer superior development options when compared to player sequestration within a specific age level. This most recent failure should only exacerbate the grumbling.
Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.