LAKEWOOD RANCH, Florida - The word of the night was unacceptable. U.S. U17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth uttered it multiple times in describing the 1-5 loss to Netherlands at the 2017 Nike International Friendlies.
The U.S. was played off the pitch for most of the game. A late strike from Alfonso Ocampo Chavez gave the U.S. a positive to hold onto from the outing, but the night would better be classified as a learning experience or a punch in the mouth for a young squad that did not look up to the quality needed to play at the international level.
“I learned a lot, to be fair, and I learned that we have a lot of work to do,” Hackworth told TopDrawerSoccer after the game when asked what he learned from that performance. “We have some young players that we needed to give an opportunity to to see if they were ready for this moment. Clearly, the moment got the best of them. I don’t think that was a good performance especially the start of the game. Until they go through that experience, it’s impossible for me to tell if they are going to handle it the right way or not. I feel it’s tough for them. They’re young kids. I’m sure this is a big moment in their lives. This occasion and the moment got the best of them.”
The night started terribly for USA with a mistake from goalkeeper Kashope Oladapo giving the Netherlands an indirect free kick from the center of the six-yard box. The visitors converted on the set piece inside three minutes. It didn’t get much better for USA after that.
Netherlands extended the lead in the 20th minute on an unmarked header off a cross. USA could not get their footing and fell behind 3-0 on a deflected shot in the 30th minute.
It nearly got completely out-of-hand at the end of the first half when Netherlands picked off a pass in the center of the field and looked free on a breakaway, but Mason Judge did well to recover and block the shot. A minute later, the USA gave away possession in the defensive third and required a good stop from Oladapo to keep it 3-0. He had to make another save in the 38th minute as Netherlands was again running free at the U.S. goal down the right channel.
“The key is that the players who were on the field tonight need to reflect and have some resolve and answer,” Hackworth said. “We will have to look at it very hard to see the specific areas where they need to take the step and improve. The hard part is we play Brazil so another really hard test. Hopefully we can put on a much better performance because that was unacceptable.”
The U.S. starting line-up on Friday featured many new faces compared to the group that played on Wednesday against England. After the loss to England, USA coach John Hackworth mentioned that he wanted to get a look at new faces during this game. The result from the opening 40-minute half was not positive as they lacked much cohesion and struggled to keep the ball against Netherlands during the first half. The frustration, and the 3-0 deficit, had the USA subs warming up in the 32nd minute.
“That was a good team,” Hackworth said about the opponent. “You can’t gift a team at that level the kind of goals that we did. The first two goals were completely unacceptable. They have some really good quality. Their fourth goal was exceptional. They’re a very good team. That’s what we want. That’s what we need to test ourselves against. From that regard, it’s great to have opponents like that come to Nike Friendlies. You can see what a big difference there is [between the two teams] at this point. It’s a challenge to our coaching staff and the players themselves. We have a lot of work to do.”
Diego Lopez had a chance to pull one back early in the second half but the Netherlands goalkeeper made a good diving save to keep USA off the scoresheet.
Netherlands extended the lead minutes later with another goal from the top of the 18-yard box with little pressure on the dribbler and a clean look on the net. Damian Las, who came on to start the second half, did not have a chance on making the save. Netherlands scored their last goal in the 64th minute.
USA managed to pull one back in the 74th minute when Alfonso Ocampo Chavez scored on a nice finish to salvage some positivity from the rough night.
“Just to try to get these guys to forget about this a little bit,” Hackworth said about his approach for Sunday. “I don’t think they are playing their best (through the first two games of the Nike Friendlies). I’ve seen them play some really good games. I know they have it in them.”
USA is back in action on Sunday against Brazil to wrap up the 2017 Nike Friendlies. Brazil defeated England 2-1 on Friday. Brazil is 2-0 at the event and sitting in first place heading into the final day of action.