USA off podium at U-20s; North Korea win

The Equalizer Staff December 3, 2016 78
North Korea players react to final whistle after winning U-20 World Cup (photo: FIFA)

North Korea players react to final whistle after winning U-20 World Cup (photo: FIFA)

Mami Ueno connected in the 87th minute to secure third place at the U-20 World Cup for Japan and knock the United States off the podium, 1-0. Combined with the U-17 side being knocked out of their group and the senior team losing in the quarterfinals for the first time ever, the result completes the worst year ever for U.S. women in terms of global results from top to bottom.

In the final, North Korea routed France 3-1 to add the title to the U-17 hardware they captured in October. It was North Korea’s second U-20 title and they became the first country to win both major women’s youth tournaments in the same year.

For the U.S., Michelle French’s side nearly took a second half lead when Jessie Scarpa had a free header but she drove it off frame. Most of the afternoon though, was spent chasing a technically superior Japan side that dominated possession.

“Anybody that watched the games knows that Japan is absolutely world class,” French told “Being able to track and manage their movement off the ball is something that’s very difficult. We did our best. I couldn’t be more impressed with Japan as a team, but on the flip side our players took every single punch that they threw until that goal at the end. We almost found a way, as we’ve done all tournament, to get a goal and get back in the game.

“To sum up the entire tournament for us, I would use just one word: passion,” said French. “The passion that this group payed with every single game, never quitting, the resolve and resiliency they showed, was massive. That’s the identity of this team. Absolutely, we could have played better soccer, there’s no doubt about that, and the players know that. But as I said, they gave everything until the very last second.”

  • kernel_thai

    That would be the half full evaluation by French. Half empty would be US was outplayed by every team except NZ. They were constantly over matched in the midfield and were out shot by a margin that is unfathomable. Yes the US played hard but that doesnt overcome being badly prepared by USSoccer. This was an embarrassment. Development wise the US is a third world nation. Considering the huge player pool and the amount of money thrown into this program I really cant even imagine how much worse it would be if the US was forced to compete on a level playing field. Heinrichs and Ellis should be mortified by what we saw in PNG. Their efforts since taking over development in 2011 amount to nothing more than stealing money from the USSF If they had any shame at all they would both resign and never show their faces again in Woso. Big sigh.

    • Som Termanni

      For a fun thought experiment, replace “Ellis” with “FIFA World’s Best Women’s Coach”.

      Anyway, Gulati needs to go. Pronto. Keep him on in a marketing role if you must, but take away his hire/fire powers over the soccer side and clean house.

      • kernel_thai

        Change his title to Glad Hander

        • Steglitz49

          2016 draws to a close and US women’s soccer is in tatters if not ruins. It would be maximal irony if Carli and JE got those voted for awards.

          Meanwhile, we wait to learn what Alex has decided. After 4 years of loyalty to the NWSL, will she plow her own furrow?

          Christen Dress turned up in makramé to press the flesh and give a speech.

      • Steglitz49

        of which year?

      • Terry Lash

        He is way past his sell by date.

      • nwslfan

        you misapprehend the politics. Gulati not going anywhere. USSF likes WNT to the extent it is a nice revenue source. USSF keeps MLS in favored position. Nearly all the USSF board members or their spouses have a direct financial interest in MLS business. Dapper Don will keep running the business at USSF and at MLS for his own personal gain.

      • jdee26

        Dislike for Ellis not supported by facts. She became coach in 2014 and won World cup in 2015. If anything she is the only one breaking with anachronistic US soccer stereotype: the strong athlete who can run and chase organized opponents but short on technical and dribbling skills. You chase until you run out of gas if you cannot possess the ball.

        • kernel_thai

          And what job did Ellis have before being gifted the NT job? She was second stooge to Heinrichs in development. All the gushing pride u felt watching Japan and others make the US players look like they were picked out of the match day crowd can be attributed to Heinrichs/Ellis. Hell, before the u17 WC both Ellis and Heinrich were featured in articles touting the brave new world of development they had created. They built the Titanic and should go down with it but I doubt it happens. Instead we’ll waste another cycle while they flip thru the idiots guide to soccer development.

          • jdee26

            Dislike for Ellis still not supported by facts. While she had a hand creating soccer development structures she did not select current players who performed poorly in both U-17, and U-20 world cups.Coaches failed to select technical players who can dribble and possess the ball. American players were stiffs who could not perform this basic task. In fact Mexican-American players who played for Mexico would have helped US win the cup had they been called to US camp.Time to select players based on ability.

          • calvester

            Did anyone stop to think that maybe the Mexican-American players who played for Mexico were better than their American counterparts precisely because they were not coached by French? Maybe they had a coach who actually knows how to coach a tem. The US obviously did not spend any time in training learining how to play as a team. I suspect all they did was scrimmage against each other.

        • #1Fan

          She has been part of this system for a while and WON with the very same players. No idea why people willing to give her a pass on the Youth issue

      • HOFCToDi


        Sunil Gulati does not give a damn about the women’s program. Sunil is still counting the money earned at the Copa América Centenario.

      • HOFCToDi

        soccer … marketing …

        Better start pointing the finger at the sexist, misogynist organization named FIFA for the lack of marketing in the women’s game.

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    • Oregon

      Yes, what was it — 25 shots to 2?

  • kernel_thai

    On the half full side side, Murphy had a brave match and the defense never gave up despite it being women against girls.

    • Steglitz49

      Always look on the bright side of life. Jessica Diggins won the 5 km race in Lillehammer today, defeating such luminaries as Weng, Björgen, Flugan and Falla.

      Every cloud has its silver lining.

  • mejenga

    It’s time to drain the US Soccer swamp.

  • smallbatches

    2017 might be the wake up call that was long overdue for US Soccer. The results of both men’s and women’s programs this year could not be more dire. Something has to change. They need new blood and maybe it begins with Gulati.

    There are some good players at U20 that will move up. What surprised me is the overall lack of team speed, something that can make up for a lack of technical talent and something that the senior team features.

    The way they were outshot shows how completely clueless they were against an organized defense. It was like watching USA vs Sweden this past summer but in reverse. USA bunkered but you knew in back of your mind Japan would get one. The US not nearly enough chances. Even had they somehow managed to win the game itr wouldn’t have felt satisfying. This is just not the USA style of play and enough in my mind to remove French of her duties.

    Murphy showed me something. She had me thinking Hope Solo with some her quick reflex saves. She could be one to watch. I like her size. She needs more strength, more tough matches and experience. I like Fox too. She has the whole package. Very determined, great technical skill, solid build and speed. One to watch. Sanchez is intriguing though she didn’t do much in the tournament. She is still physically immature and needs some time to fill out. Pugh had some nice movement with the ball and was fearless but really had no help.

    • Steglitz49

      Japan scored in the 87th minute, not 25 minutes earlier.

      Murphy would be a fine signing. Maybe a spell in Avaldsnes or Göteborg would do the needful.

    • FawcettFan14

      Murphy waited until the 3rd place game to have a great match. In all the prior ones I thought was only mediocre, maybe good in one or two. I didn’t think her quick reactions stood out in those games before. If anything I thought she looked tentative and slow to react. Last night was a welcome surprise! Her height is an asset. If she can develop consistent quickness and better distribution she might be in the running with Campbell, Smith et al.

      • Steglitz49

        The US lost in the SF to the eventual winners and by the narrowest of margins. The boys on Madison Avenue should be able to conjure up a moral victory out of that result.

      • kernel_thai

        It was easier for Murphy as she got good looks at the shooters as they were never any defenders between them and the goal. : )

        • JL

          That made me laugh, something I needed today.

  • newsouth

    pugh should have been a level above the competition b/c of her senior team experience. basically, pugh and sanchez are the wiggers and thaisa of the american u system. pugh will have minimum development in college, and they can send sanchez to the mexican nt right now.

    • JD

      Why should someone be above competition when having senior team experience?

      • Steglitz49

        Please, do not look for logic where there is none.

      • Soccer fan

        Because NT has the best coaching, technical, tactical and physical, and coaching is supposed to make you better, and all of this is supposed to be obvious.

    • Oregon

      True, Sanchez disappeared this game; Pugh the bright spot for team…

      • kernel_thai

        As things kept deteriorating u could see Pugh looking around for help. I wonder if she was looking for Morgan or Lloyd : )

        • Guest

          Hang in there, Mal. You’ve got a long road ahead of you in college.

          • #1Fan

            amazing how willing people are to give the Captain and so called best U20 player on the planet a total pass on what was a miserable team effort.

      • #1Fan

        weird how people see different things. What exactly did Pugh do in this game?

    • #1Fan

      how so? i could put one of several fast wide players on the US team and they will do OK. I mean how many of the newer additions failed miserably. Ohai scored in seconds, Sullivan was fine. I don’t agree at all. I think I saw that when asked to play a bigger role something went wrong. Maybe coaching, maybe skill set. Not totally clear. NT experience does NOT make you an automatic better player.

      • sudeep das

        The full USWNT newcomers shone against much lesser teams TBH. In a reversal of role the US U20 played against good teams as a tomato can. The difference was so much that it was akin to asking the Ohais and Williams of Romania / Switzerland to pull it off against the USWNT
        Sullivan is a real find & should have been a starter in Rio. Wonder why Ellis gave her a miss. Her comfort on the ball is great to watch.

        • #1Fan

          Her comfort on the ball is the norm for a modern player. The fact it stands out on the US team is the real issue

          • sudeep das

            At last we have found one thing to agree upon after weeks of haranguing.

          • Steglitz49

            Congratulations. Take a second bow, please.

          • Gary Diver

            So you don’t rate Andi Sullivan’s ability and performances above “normal for a modern player”?

            Why are there so few good American midfielders coming through the system?

          • #1Fan

            I wish people would simply read what is written.

            I said comfort on the ball is the norm for the modern player. Where did I say i don’t rate her performances or ability above normal ? A modern player should be comfortable on the ball. Cousins is a great example. Read the threads abut u20 team. Some people think her play is great, other think its utter trash. Why? Because she is comfortable on the ball and just links play.

            I don’t think comfort on the ball and movement without it are valued by the US youth system. Coaches prioritize other things because we don’t tend to play a pass and move game. We play a “get it to the fast kid and see what happens” game. We prioritize results at every level. Possession requires several players to buy in to it, the other more direct styles don’t

          • Steglitz49

            Atalba, our comrade-in-arms on this forum, has in another comment-string cited this article about the changing face of US WoSo:

            It makes fascinating reading, well worth the effort. Others have made much the same observations on the EQ over the years but the article is well researched and written.

          • Gary Diver

            Out of curiosity, what is your view of Katie Cousins’ talent. I watch parts of the NCT Invitational Tournament and was not impressed with her play.

            Somebody earlier made a comment about how few times US women U20 team made 3-pass combinations during WC16. To have an effective midfield, isn’t it essential to make 3-pass combinations?

          • #1Fan

            TDS rated her the #1 player in her class. She has talent, but I don’t think she suits the run and gun game the US were playing. Needs a slower tempo , slower build up type of team. She is one of the few US players who could play for Japan. I don’t think players exist in a vacuum so i would not play her with that personnel.

            To retain the ball you have to secure good possession and them keep it. You have to provide close support to the ball carrier. US don’t do that. We are a poor pass and support team. Not just MF ..all over the field. the LB RB are supposed to play a big role but in PNG they were constantly pushed back leaving the US outnumbered.

          • Gary Diver

            Interesting soccer food for thought. Thank you.

          • Steglitz49

            The European Championship in handball is in full flow. Nobody in Europe cares about WoSo when there is HaBo to be had.

          • Steglitz49

            “I am the very model of a modern WoSo player …
            “I never go out drinking with my cronies and my buddies …

            etc etc

        • Steglitz49

          JE could only bring 16+2 players. Some contend that she brought 15+2+0.001293 players.

    • jdee26

      Soccer is the ultimate team sport: not susceptible to individual heroics by a couple of players. Pugh played both defense and offense, and a particular pass she made to Scarpa after initiating the drive from her own half of the pitch could not be reciprocated, even though she was wide open to score the first goal against Japan. Pugh and Sanchez could not recede to their own half to defend and still initiate scoring drives from deep in their own half of the pitch again and again.

      • sudeep das

        That pass showed her quality as a great reader of the game.
        She played a similar pass down the left in the dying minutes of the game against NK – her teammate ran central instead of staying in the channel. Pugh’s reaction has been caught in several photographs as she vented her frustration at her mate’s incompetence.

  • jdee26


    1.US-20 WNT performance was not unexpected. Their pre-tournament record was awful and could not be saved by addition of Pugh or Sanchez.
    2.The college seasonal playoffs also meant the best college players were not available for the world cup roster.
    3.Michelle French’s anachronistic soccer meant the change being promoted by Ellis has not permeated to the junior ranks.
    4.In soccer, you are forced to chase the opponent if you cannot sustain possession of the ball.
    5.Though athletic, US players were too tired to challenge opponents after playing the two consecutive games in their half of the pitch.
    6.Coaches should be allowed to select players with technical skills and athleticism. Clearly possible that US would have won the cup if the Mexican-Americans who played for Mexico represented the US.They exhibited better technical skills than the stiffs fielded for the US team.

    • #1Fan


      2. They were available. some decided not to go. most went. We can argue over “best” but many of these kids played leasing roles on College teams last year

      3. French is part of Ellis team. Ellis ONWS the whole thing. In theory ALL her YNT coaches are preaching the same coaching philosophy

      4 ,5 and 6 are just not points. The US could have chosen some of those player. In fact they did and passed on some.

      I think you are wide of the mark as to what is going on here.

      • jdee26

        4,5 & 6 are the main reasons why US lost: even to the casual soccer observer. I played soccer at both collegiate and pro levels. And I learned to play outside the US.

        • mockmook

          I believe Sullivan missed the eligibility birth date by about 12 days.

          While there are probably SOME players I would want over the ones there, I don’t think there was a huge drop-off any where.

          Care to name all these great players you wanted?

          Regardless, I see it more as the coaches allowing players to revert to what is comfortable. The players should have been forced to ATTEMPT to play possession soccer, or shown the door if they weren’t willing.

          • Steglitz49

            Born on 20-Dec-1995. You are correct.

          • ARED

            I think they would have been better if told they can take no more than 2 or maybe 3 touches on the ball. Remove any thinking or self-reliance from the team. Sadly, this is true for the senior team as well. For better or worse, but I think generally the team would play faster and more together, even if they aren’t good enough to win. But at a youth level you shouldn’t mind so much to not win, eh?

          • Steglitz49

            Your last sentence is nonsense. The truly great always hate to lose. Also U20 is hardly youth, seeing that most of the players are 19 and 20 years old, iow old enough to vote and in some states be put to death to boot.

          • ARED

            Haven’t been here in awhile, so glad it be welcomed right back inside by Steglitz telling me I am posting nonsense! ; p

            The nonsense was in the context of the entire post, suggesting that perhaps the USA youth team could play differently to promote growth down the road. One would argue some growing pains at the u-17 or u-20 level would be worth some rewards at the senior level. No? You reap what you sow, and if you sow a win now at all costs method, you cannot be upset when one of those costs is developing your players in the better, more rounded senior players.

          • Steglitz49

            S49 types from the shoulder. He plays with a straight bat.

            U17: yes. U20, did OK for themselves by any standards.

          • ARED

            Types from the shoulder means to fire like a gun? (Sorry, I am ignorant I fear…lol). Also don’t know the meaning of straight bat….

            U20 they did ok in their result, but I’d be concerned if I were a fan (or a player on that team). At somepoint it is nice to play well and win, instead of only winning because you have heart. USA can aspire to do both.

          • Steglitz49

            if you speak straight from the shoulder, you speak directly and honestly, as in: “I gave it to her straight from the shoulder. You are garbage.”

            English English contains a lot of idioms and expressions from cricket, such as “hit for six” and “bowled over” for example. The traditional association of cricket with fair play and good sportsmanship has given rise to expressions such as “play with a straight bat”, meaning to behave honestly and decently, and “it’s just not cricket”, to refer to any behaviour that flouts common standards of decency and fairness.

            The French WNT play elegantly but 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 gives it you straight from the shoulder.

          • ARED

            And here I thought I had been taught English English….lol. Perhaps not the parts of cricket.

          • Steglitz49

            Glad to have been of assistance.

          • DNG

            The problem is that the youth teams seem to resort to going long when they are faced with a real challenge. That’s not they way they should be solving problems on the pitch. If the U20 team had tried to play against France, Korea DPR and Japan and lost but appeared to be making progress in terms of a consistent style, that would be fine. Instead they sat in and tried to exploit Pugh and Sanchez’s speed up front in a way that screamed to me that they weren’t good enough to compete with the best.

          • Steglitz49

            Your last sentence — “… that screamed to me that they weren’t good enough to compete with the best” — does not make sense.

            The US U20s lost in the SF by the narrowest of margins (ie 1 goal) to the ultimate winners. In their group game they tied with France, the losing finalists.

          • ARED

            I agree, especially when Pugh was actually playing as a midfielder (sometimes a defensive one) and so they were actually trying to spring other players behind instead. The USA announcer would get excited sometimes -but for me that just showed the problem even more. It would take a big mistake or luck for that to have worked, and if that is your only hope, I’d say it’s that is not a good thing….

        • ARED

          Ironically Katie Cousins was/is one of the few players in the starting 11 who is decent and attempts to play a smart, quick-passing game which can lead to possession and smart attacks instead of just relying on physical and individual strength. These are the points indentified here as weak spots, no (#4,5,6….).

          Let’s be honest, it takes no genius to say Cousins is overmatched physically, and if her role is reduced to just chasing and defending she will struggle. Her game is best when her team is holding and moving the ball. The USA didn’t try/succeed in playing that way very often. So again, look to the management for sending out mixed messages both in words and in lineups. It’s done at almost every level of US Soccer.

  • Cat Tonic

    How old are those NK women? Really. They remind me of the “women” gymnasts in the Beijing Olympics. 13 yr old girls with fake documents supplied by the corrupt commies. The NK situation is the opposite. 24 yr old women on PEDs. The fraud can’t last though: real NT tournaments weed out the cheaters.

    • Ashley C

      Or maybe they’re just good and you’re making excuses. I guess for you it’s easier to be racist and sexist.

      • guest

        I mean, I don’t think that’s racist or sexist. Would you actually be shocked if NK was playing overage players or cheating in some other way? I wouldn’t be. Five of their players were caught for steroids during the World Cup: And also this happened:

        That said, US lost because of poor coaching. You don’t get outshot 105-38 over the course of the tournament because NK might have used overage players.

        • ARED

          Exactly. It can be both. The USA was bad and deserved to lose, NK deserved to win, and NK also might even have been breaking rules, but it’d be presumptive to state that as fact right now.

          I will say NK got away with many lucky calls, especially against the USA. They needed a lucky “handball” call to score, and got away with many bad challenges which should have led to yellow and eventually red cards. Still, even so, they were the better team. It is not just one thing or the other -there are many elements to every game.

    • Jean Perroni

      I share your doubts. But somehow i think USA gave them quite a match in the 1/4 final.

    • ARED

      North Korea won because they played smart and as a unit, and while I wouldn’t be shocked if they did bend the rules as they have in the past, I hardly think that is a good takeaway for the opposing teams.

      The USA, especially, should know that they lost because they were a bad team. A few good players, a few ok players, but it didn’t matter because they could not play together even to make 4-5 passes in a row -a bad team. Maybe NK using older players could help them be more mature and smarter in their play, but I think the USA will lose that battle anyway, as we see with their senior team.

  • VinyMon Ortiz

    If we’re losing ground on handling the ball, practice more the give an go, put more impetuous in dominating the ball and controlling it at will. Both women and men NT have fortitude and speed, but this is not enough to win games, unless they got it down what it takes to beat one on one basis. It is looming but not late to learn some tricks, even the seniors who don’t know sometimes what to do with the ball.

  • MFanalytics

    Ball poss.: Jap 63 – 37 USA
    Attempts: Jap 29 – 3 USA
    On-Target: Jap 8 – 0 USA
    PASSION: Jap ? – ∞ USA

  • Soccer fan

    Seriously, USSF is a corrupt organization that reeks of nepotism. Michelle French and Ellis both should go, but above all should the ring leader, Heinrichs.

  • jdee26


    Chasing the other team around in your own half of the pitch is the only option if you cannot sustain possession of the ball when you win it from your opponent.Even great athletes run out of gas after chasing opponents for 90 minutes. And Pugh and Sanchez cannot recede to their own half of the pitch and initiate scoring drives again and again.This happens when the midfield is non existent.

  • ARED

    I think this is the expectation for this team really, and it will be interesting to see how France, Japan, and maybe even North Korea continue on with these player from here. They are maximizing their talent at this level, but I am not sure it will be enough at the senior level with a few more “cracks” or “gamebreakers”. We see Japan could do it in 2011 with Sawa and a shaky USA team, but in general there is still difficulty if you cannot create the winning moments and goals from your otherwise great style of play.

    The USA meanwhile, continues to focus on the gamebreakers who can just “put the team on their back” and score or win games. I think it is silly, and I think all USA teams are struggling in some ways from this, especially the women who could be truly a thing a beauty. You need a strong team effort, in a strong team plan or system, and then the cracks can make the difference. But you cannot skip the first two.