In a heartbreaking turn of events, the US U23 Men surrounded a 3-2 lead with 3 minutes to play to tie El Salvador. The US team, after overcoming a 2-1 deficit and an early injury (requiring them to use a precious sub early), surrendered a last second goal to level the match and costing the US U23 team an advancement spot.
Heartbreaking. The team was just seconds away. Some will take this result and call for Porter’s head. Some will continue to criticize the current soccer regime in our country. I disagree. If we don’t concede a 30 yard goal in waning seconds (if the keeper isn’t fooled by a bounce), no one has this discussion and everyone today is talking about the plucky comeback win.
Caleb Porter is emphasizing possession in attack. Was he hurt by the early injury? Absolutely. He is running a 4-3-3 scheme that depends on subs later to keep fresh legs on the wings. I am not making excuses for him. Possibly Porter’s more difficult tactical mistakes came in the Canada game, but Porter is pushing soccer where it needs to be pushed — mastery over the ball and possession. I hope he survives this loss and is not another in a long list of former U20 US coaches who get fired based on a tournament result. Again, how funny that if the keeper saves the ball, the US win 3-2 and advance an no one is talking about this today.
Us v El Salvador Highlights
I am interested in Caleb Porter and his success in our U23s. I love the philosophy he has – winning with possession. In Goal.com’s writeup of Canada’s stunning 2-0 upset of the US Men’s U23 team, Porter talks about the tactical difference Canada used, their switch to a 4-3-2-1 to clog up the midfield and frustrate the US possession-attack approach. Here is what Porter said:
“They set up in a Christmas tree, 4-3-2-1, and it’s not a shape they’ve used…That’s a shape you use to really stop a team and they did that to shut us down.. . It was essentially 3 vs. 5 in the middle.” (Post-game news conference)
If you ever wondered how tactics and formations can shape a game, this would be a good example. I have noted on this blog Jonathan Wilson’s great book Inverting the Pyramid where he chronicles the changes in soccer tactics and formations. As he states, many tactical and shape changes are made in response to someone else’s success. In this case. Canada, after watching the US U23 Men thrash Cuba 6-0, decided on a new formation to counter the US success. If you are wondering what the perspective of the successful US midfielder was, here is Joe Corona’s post-game observation: “They had the two center backs there, two holding midfielders right in front of me, so it was tough to get a rhythm in the middle of the park.” He also mentioned that the formation by Canada enabled the US to have 2 v. 1 on the flanks but that they did not exploit that well enough. Corona said: “In that type of game, if the team is going to play that way then you have to beat them wide and I didn’t think we created enough.”
The US Men are now in danger of not qualifying for the Olympics and need a result against El Salvador tonight. Check in and support these guys. Here is the information for tonight’s game: The US Men’s U-23 National Team plays its critically important last Group A game in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. With Saturday’s loss to Canada, the US must defeat El Salvador to advance to the semifinals. Kick off is set for 8:00 p.m. CT Monday March 26 from LPF Field in Nashville, Tenn. The match is televised live on the Universal Sports Network, Mun2 and CONCACAF.com. Fans can also follow the match live via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
Quotes from post-game conference taken from this article on goal.com: http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/1679/us-national-team/2012/03/24/2990070/caleb-porters-usa-u23-side-caught-off-guard-by-well-drilled. And here is a link to my prior blog post reviewing Jonathan Wilson’s superb book Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics (Orion, 2008): http://soccerthought.com/2011/11/18/gaining-territory-v-possession-part-i/.
Caleb Porter, the USMN U-23 team coach, is implementing a possession-attack oriented offense at the US Men’s U23 levels. He is also currently the head soccer coach at Akron, a college soccer powerhouse. While our senior team has beaten Mexico before, we seldom do it while dominating possession. His system is based on possession, attacking, and pressing. Sounds like Ajax in the early 70s or Barcelona today. Ives Galarcep, a senior writer for Foxsoccer.com and a person who covers the MLS and the US National team, wrote some nice pieces about Caleb Porter and the style of play he teaches. He quotes Porter:
“I think everybody’s scared to attack, and scared to play, and scared to have the ball and not score, and scared to press…I think if you just take the easy way out and you sit behind the ball and defend, that’s the easy thing. That’s what everybody’s done and tried. I’m going to try something new, something different, and I’m confident that it will work. He continued: “To play this way you have to be technical. To play this way you have to want to have the ball. . . You basically have to have 11 guys on the field that are comfortable on the ball. Eleven guys on the field that are comfortable with pressing. It takes a well-rounded player, but I think there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be effective.” You can add the word “here” after “effective” to add emphasis.
Here is another gem: “The essence of this style is that you are the deciding team. I would rather be the deciding team and be proactive and go into a game trying to control it than to flip a coin and sit back and hope you can hit a team on the counter. . . We need more of that because we’re not helping ourselves by just defending and destroying and sitting back. Even though you can win that way, it’s not going to help grow the sport.”
Wow. I seriously love this guy. If you have read any of the postings on this blog, you will know I prefer a possession-based soccer attack. The new US Youth Soccer Coaching guidelines also favor it — as I have noted and published here. It is great to see our national teams winning with possession.
Porter’s U-23 men’s team recently beat Mexico’s U23s handily 2-0, dominating possession. Yesterday, they handed Cuba a 6-0 defeat while starting their qualifying run to the Olympics.
Here is a link to Galarcep’s pre-Cuba game article: http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/caleb-porter-united-states-olympic-squad-eager-to-break-from-old-american-traditions-032212. And here is the link to the post-Cuba 6-0 win article: http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/usa-6-0-cuba-olympic-qualifying-group-stage-match-review-galarcep-032212. In the Cuba game, the US out shot the Cubans 7-1 (on goal) while also recording 17 goal attempts to the Cubans 4.