CARSON, CALIFORNIA – The opening few minutes suggested the Olympic team might have a chance against the more experienced full national team but
the U23s could not hold onto the sharp start and were undone by some tired legs on defense en route to a 4-0 defeat.
“I thought the performance was actually pretty good,” Porter told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “I am never going to be satisfied losing, we don’t want to die in beauty; but based on what we have been working on training, I think you saw a lot of really good things.”
Porter’s team clearly won the possession battle thanks to some stellar play in the midfield, but his side could not break through the full team’s defense.
Kelyn Rowe was recently drafted by the New England Revolution.
On the other side of the ball, his back four held on for a while, but ultimately succumbed to the exhausting onslaught of attacks from Brek Shea.
“The nice thing is that a couple of the guys that scored for them will be on our team for qualifying,” said Porter referencing Shea, Juan Agudelo, and Teal Bunbury. “I think we will be okay.”
The coach noted that he has not spent much time with the defense so far in camp, as he has concentrated on building a possession-oriented style. Over the next week, he said that he plans to tighten up the back four, which consisted of Joshua Gatt, Zarek Valentin, Andrew Wenger, and Kofi Sarkodie, to start Friday’s scrimmage.
The center back duo of Valentin and Wenger started the game brightly with good distribution and efficient tackling, but Shea managed to break through after 30 minutes.
The FC Dallas winger beat the offside trap and sent a cross to Chris Wondolowski, who drilled his shot into the back of the net for the opener. That opening goal took the wind out of the sails for the U23s, and the mistakes began to add up.
“We got our heads down a little bit and we were out of it for ten minutes. We have to cut that out.”
A few minutes later, goalkeeper Zac MacMath carelessly gave the ball away to Juan Agudelo. The striker, who left the game before half with an ankle injury, passed to Benny Feilhaber for an easy open net goal.
The rout was on at that point and Jared Jeffery’s square ball across the middle of the field, which was easily intercepted by substitute Teal Bunbury, was the icing on the cake. The former Akron Zip made it 3-0 with a classy finish under pressure.
The cherry on top came moments later when Zach Lloyd slipped in an excellent through ball for Shea who in turn delivered a perfect cross for Graham
Zusi’s lone tally of the night. The full team took its foot off the gas a bit in the second half and the game ended 4-0.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, there were plenty of positives from the Olympic team in the scrimmage.
“From box to box, in a lot of the ways, we were the team looking to control it,” said Porter. “I think you saw some good football from the guys.”
“I thought it was good,” Kelyn Rowe told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “Playing against the senior team is tough for us, but I thought we did well.”
Rowe was a bright spot of the second half, as he was slotted into the right winger role and presented some problems for the full team defensively.
“Those scrimmages are good for us, and good for the 23s,” said full team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the game. “It is a big year for U.S. Soccer with World Cup Qualifying and the Olympics.”
Porter was also looking ahead, as he talked about having full availability of the best players in the U23 age group for qualifying.
“Teal [Bunbury] and Brek [Shea] were a big reason they got four on us, so that is exciting for me knowing they will get experience with the full team before coming back to us,” said Porter. “I know that experience will make us a more seasoned team come qualifying.”
Porter is confident he will have his full choice of MLS players come March for qualifying, but he is unsure about those in Europe.
“With the non-domestic guys, it gets a little bit trickier. We probably won’t get some of the overseas guys.”
The U23s have two more practices scheduled before a rematch with the full team on Tuesday. After that scrimmage, the team travels to Costa Rica for a pair of games to close out the camp.
First half: Zachary MacMath; Joshua Gatt, Zarek Valentin, Andrew Wenger, Kofi Sarkodie; Amobi Okugo, Jared Jeffery, Mix Diskerud; Freddy Adu, Jack McInerney, Dilly Duka
Second half: Sean Johnson; Sheanon Williams, Royal-Dominique Fennell, Sebastien Ibeagha, Jorge Villafana; Michael Stephens, Sebastian Lletget, Isaac Acuna; Kelyn Rowe, Tony Taylor, Jack McInerney (’65 Joshua Gatt)