Deserve is a funny word, even in sports where the scoreboard should eliminate all doubt. Take Sunday morning’s U20 World Cup Quarter Final showdown between Venezuela and the United States. Venezuela won 2-1 in extra time and by any reasonable measure that was the least they deserved.
La Vinotinto had played four matches to reach this juncture. Germany, Mexico, and Japan had all been vanquished, and Vanuatu had been set down by a 7-0 score.
Four games, 11 goals scored, zero goals allowed. It was much of the same against the U.S. as Venezuela dominated from the bleat of the opening whistle.
U.S. keeper Jonathan Klinsmann was forced to make a brilliant save inside of the game’s first minute. The son of the former U.S.A. coach made that save and it was merely the first of many.
Venezuela swarmed the Americans, forced panicked clearances which became sloppy turnovers, which turned into more Klinsmann saves. The U.S. had gotten to this stage of the tournament without having demanded much of their keeper. Even as he earned the Golden Glove at the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers Klinsmann had operated just a little below the radar.
The U.S. hadn’t exactly won matches in spite of their goaltender but neither had the Young Yanks climbed to these heights because of the man between the pipes.
Today Klinsmann made his value to this team abundantly clear; it could be said he deserved better.
Then again, Venezuela had a ball in the back of the net in the first half only to see VAR, Video Assistant Referee, spoil their celebrations with an offside call. Did La Vinotinto deserve that reversal of fortune? If pressed I would say no, the goal should have stood.
Then as Venezuela were thwarted by the woodwork and Klinsmann’s efforts a strange thing happened as the clock came ever closer to striking 90: the Americans began to play.
In the 51st minute, U.S. coach Tab Ramos sent forward Jeremy Ebobisse in for midfielder Tyler Adams, conceding that the previously indefatigable Adams had not been a factor against the South Americans and that the 18-year-old was not likely turn it around on this day.
Ramos sent Ebobisse up front alongside Josh Sargent, another youngster struggling against the fleet, powerful, and skillful Venezuelans, switching to a 4-4-2 system. In the 83rd minute, Ramos would call for Sargent too, turning to Lagos Kunga and it nearly worked.
With Eryk Williamson driving the attack forward and covering any gaps at the back the Americans made a late bid to steal this game. Luca de la Torre, Brooks Lennon, overlapping fullback Justen Glad all came to life and with fresh legs up front, the Venezuelans were suddenly back on their heels.
Then, in what would be the final act of the opening 90 minutes, with the score still somehow tied at 0-0 the Americans had their chance. On a set piece Erik Palmer-Brown worked his way free and from six yards his header missed an empty net.
Would the U.S have deserved to see that ball ripple the Venezuela twines?
On to extra time and Venezuela finally got the goal from Adalberto Penaranda, the goal that they surely deserved. Nine minutes later Nahuel Ferraresi added a second and Venezuela were through to the semifinals, right? It would be nothing less than they deserved.
But then in the 117th minute, Ebobisse clawed one back for the U.S. It was the first goal that Venezuela had conceded in the 2017 U20 World Cup and given the effort the American players had expended, it was nothing less than what the Young Yanks deserved.
But that would be it. The U.S. battled to the final blast of the referee’s whistle, falling at the quarterfinal round of the U20 Mundial for the second time running. If Palmer-Brown’s shot had hit the target the Americans would have moved on.
Did the U.S. deserve better? Does it matter? In the Oscar-winning film Unforgiven Clint Eastwood’s character put it this way, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
Scoring Summary: 1 2 1ET 2ET F
USA 0 0 0 1 1
VEN 0 0 1 1 2
VEN – Adalberto Peñaranda (Samuel Sosa) 96th minute
VEN – Nahuel Ferraresi (Ronaldo Lucena) 115
USA – Jeremy Ebobisse (Brooks Lennon) 117
USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 3-Danny Acosta (2-Auston Trusty, 120), 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (capt.), 16-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 6-Justen Glad; 18-Derrick Jones, 7-Eryk Williamson (9-Emmanuel Sabbi, 113), 8-Tyler Adams (15-Jeremy Ebobisse, 51); 20-Luca de la Torre, 17-Brooks Lennon, 19-Josh Sargent (13-Lagos Kunga, 83)
Subs not used: 4-Tommy Redding, 11-Sebastian Saucedo, 12-James Marcinkowski, 14-Aaron Herrera, 21-Brady Scott
Not available: 10-Gedion Zelalem
Head coach: Tab Ramos
VEN: 1-Wuilker Farinez; 5-Jose Hernandez, 2- Williams Velasquez, 4-Nahuel Ferraresi, 20-Ronald Hernandez; 7-Adalberto Peñaranda (18-Luis Ruiz, 113), 16-Ronaldo Lucena (6-Christian Makoun,120+2), 8-Yangel Herrera (capt.), 19-Sergio Cordova (17-Josua Mejias, 119); 9-Ronaldo Peña (15-Samuel Sosa, 76), 11-Ronaldo Chacon
Subs not used: 3-Eduin Quero, 10-Yeferson Soteldo, 12-Joel Graterol, 13-Jan Hurtado, 14-Heber Garcia, 21-Rafael Sanchez
Head coach: Rafael Dudamel
Stats Summary: USA / VEN
Shots: 7 / 26
Shots on Goal: 2 / 8
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 1 / 9
Fouls: 22 / 26
Offside: 1 / 2
VEN – Jose Hernandez (caution) 35th minute
VEN – Williams Velasquez (caution) 57
USA – Derrick Jones (caution) 74
USA – Jeremy Ebobisse (caution) 81
VEN – Samuel Sosa (caution) 86
VEN – Yangel Herrera (caution) 90+3