Happy, but certainly not satisfied
Greetings from the FIFA World Youth Championship and the U.S. under-20 national team. We have two games under our belt and are now preparing for our third. A lot has been going on. The tournament for us has been exciting, hard work and very rewarding so far.
Everything around the games has been great. The training facility is good and we have our own little following of Dutch supporters. The weather changes by the hour. Sometimes you need sunglasses as you step onto the bus for training and 15 minutes later you need rain gear as you get off the bus.
Besides our games we are also scouting games. Yesterday I went to Emmen to watch Nigeria-Brazil and Switzerland-South Korea. The games were good ... the drive was interesting. Let me put it this way: On the way home I saw every side of the stadium. It was on our left, then the right, then behind us, and then in front of us. It was also nighttime and raining but eventually we got our bearings and got home at 1 a.m.
But I'm sure what you really want to know about is our games.
I am very proud of what these players have accomplished so far. Beating Argentina is a huge win. At the under-20 level they have been a major force. I would like to thank their coach for only bringing Messi on at halftime. The Barcelona player is a handful.
Our team played with a lot of character, but most importantly we created some good chances in the first half. We played out of trouble well at times and had some good combinations. The goal, by Chad Barrett of the Fire, was set up by a good passing sequence from Hunter Freeman (Colorado Rapids) to Barrett to Greg Dalby to Marvell Wynne. The cross was deflected but the timing was good and we scored on a great header. What a feeling.
"We certainly went at them. We also should have had a penalty in the first half. Yes, I would have let Freddy take it again."
-- Schmid, on his team's match vs. Germany
When you play a team the quality of Argentina it usually happens that you chase the ball a bit. We did do that but we did a good job of forcing them into pressure and our collective defending was good. On the attacking side we wanted to go at their left back and use Marvell to get forward. That definitely worked for us. We also felt we could give their defensive midfielder some headaches by place-changing and getting Eddie Gaven (MetroStars) and Freddy Adu (D.C. United) to pop up in different places. They both had success making his life tough.
But, most importantly the win against Argentina showed that we have come a long way on the youth level.
Next was Germany. It was a special game for me and one that I wanted to win for obvious reasons. I was very pleased with our first 60-70 minutes. We wanted to stretch their defense early with some long balls and then play through midfield. We felt there were gaps in their back four we could exploit. We certainly went at them. We also should have had a penalty in the first half. Yes, I would have let Freddy take it again.
The last 10-15 minutes they took it to us. We lost the physical duels and our inexperience at managing a game at this level showed. This is where we missed Jonathan Spector because he is a leader who would have barked out some orders. It is tough to communicate with someone like Marvell Wynne when he is on the other side of the field and you have a noisy crowd.
Defensively, Freeman did a great job containing their best player (Michael DeLura, No. 7). We also wanted to force them inside which we did after about the first 10 minutes.
The results have been good. But I was most pleased with our playing mentality. We play to win. We play as a team. We play with a bit of flair -- Adu's backheel in the first game and the bicycle kick are just a few of the examples.
But right now I am a happy coach. However, I am not content and our work is not done. Egypt is next on Saturday and then we want to make noise in the round-of-16 and move on.
Keep watching and supporting us when we are on TV. The experience the players are gaining at this tournament is something they will never forget. We want to make sure that the fans in Holland and our U.S. fans also never forget this tournament.
Sigi Schmid is currently coaching the U.S. U-20 national team in the World Youth Championship. He is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.