The U.S. were treated to a harsh lesson at the hands of Spain in a 4-1 pasting in the first game of the U20 World Cup today in Turkey. Spain used a devastating counter attack to punish the aggressive U.S. defense, who were unable to contend with Spain’s dynamic duo of Gerard Deulofeu and Jese.
U.S. coach Tab Ramos had said before the Cup that the U.S. would not change their style and bunker in. The early play foreshadowed how the game would turn out. With play fairly even between the sides, a long ball down the wing put the U.S. backline under pressure. Barcelona product Deulofeu beat Javan Torre, the American center back, a freshman at UCLA, and crossed to Jese. The Real Madrid man scored easily and the U.S. were in trouble.
Following the early goal the U.S. settled down and began playing some good soccer, led by Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil. Gil was pulling the strings for the U.S. team that actually was leading the possession battle 51% to 49% at the 35th minute. But the American attack had little bite, and the possession yielded no real first half goal chances.
The Americans paid the price when Spain struck for two late first half goals. Deulofeu struck a brilliant curler from the top of the box for the 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute and Jese followed that with a 45th minute backbreaker.
Deulofeu made it 4-0 with a long breakaway when a frustrated Cropper came too far off of his line and made it easy for the Barca starlet. To their credit the U.S. kept battling and Gil, the Yanks best player, was rewarded with a great goal in the 77th minute. Gil’s left footed curler found the top corner and on another day might have been the day’s highlight.
But Spain, as expected were too good. Players from Real Madrid and Barcelona proved they were better than MLS, Liga MX and U.S. college players. Aside from Gil, right fullback DeAndre Yedlin played well. The Seattle right back got forward well, even if his final pass could often have been better. Yedlin also had his moments defensively against the dynamic Spain attack.
Next up for the U.S. is France, another experienced team that figure to be a handful for Ramos’ crew. Ramos will have Shane O’Neill available after he sat out for a red card earned in WCQ. O’Neill can lend some experience in the center of the defense, but Ramos may have to reconsider his tactics. Spain shredded the U.S. backline with balls over the defense, so the Americans may have to sit back a bit.
France beat Ghana 3-1 earlier today and goal difference is important in this tournament. Of course goal difference will mean nothing if the U.S. can’t straighten out their defensive woes against France.