The US U-23 Men's National Team scrimmaged the Senior Team twice over the last week before a crucial stretch of friendlies in Costa Rica. The 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying begins in March and Caleb Porter will use these upcoming friendlies to evaluate key elements of his young and ambitious system.
The U-23s lost the first contest 4-0 with goals from the senior side by Wondolowski, Feilhaber, Bunbury and Zusi. Much of the second half, however, was dominated by the U-23s and the final score was not representative of the entire match.
Two days later the stern test continued for the U-23s, but this time they managed a 1-1 tie vs. the senior squad. Goals came from Zusi and McInerny respectively, as this match resembled more of what Caleb Porter had been working to implement during his time in Los Angeles with the Olympic hopefuls.
It’s clear Porter’s men were experiencing a sharp learning curve with the implementation of the 4-3-3 system and thus the two scrimmages on the whole were used to evaluate progress within this new, possession based philosophy. Adding to the confusion were player adjustments on an individual level, as the squad worked to complement each other’s strengths within the Klinsmann-centric system.
The U-23s are a talented side with experienced players who play in some of the top leagues in the world, and a side that includes a healthy mix of US based players as well. With their time together limited, learning the box-to-box tactics from one camp to the next has been important to the squad's progression. This sentiment was echoed by manager Caleb Porter.
“I want to have some continuity from camp to camp so that we can really build this team,” said Porter.
Making a trip to Costa Rica will allow the U-23s to play against similar competition to what they will face when qualifying comes around. It also allows players to perform in the new system and implement some of Porter's tactics in match situations.
Right now the roster spots are all up for grabs, but the process of selection for Porter rests in which players begin to understand the system most effectively. This means playing individuals in multiple positions in an attempt to identify which players feel the most comfortable playing within the system and together as a unit.
The real game situations began with scrimmages against the senior USMNT and will carry over into Cost Rica but outside of those two games and another camp in February, Caleb Porter is working under a constricted schedule. It was refreshing to see the JV play the Varsity, so to speak, because it added a sense of collegiality which Jurgen Klinsmann has brought to US Soccer.
Caleb Porter is obviously working very closely with Klinsmann and I think before all is said and done, we might even see some players from the senior squad begin play with the U-23s during qualifying. If there was one thing that was most apparent, there wasn't too much separating the two squads, during this camp, other than the color of their uniforms.
Which players from the senior squad do you see playing with the US U-23 MNT during Olympic qualifying? Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.
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