BRENT LATHAM - Sunday, September 27, 2009
The US put in a half-baked performance in Suez yesterday and a professional German team thoroughly punished them for their effort. The result was predictable and unsurprising - nor is it surprising that fans have jumped all over Rongen and the team.
True, this may not be the greatest US Under-20 team ever, but some of the commentaries I have seen are ridiculous. The failure of this team in one game does not mean that the development of US Soccer, or the game in the US, has failed. This team is not going to be the full national team tomorrow.
Look at the national team now. Players range in age from their mid-thirties all the way down to the teens - let's say 16 years range (eight two-year cycles). With 23 players on a full roster, and each U-20 comprising a two-year cycle, an average of three from each cycle would make the national team at any given time.
Certainly this team might produce that many - there are half a dozen with plenty of potential to do that - and there are plenty in the U-17 cycle to make up any difference. So relax. No matter what happens in Egypt, the future is intact.
The next few games
What you do have to question is the system that puts Rongen in a situation where he has the option to choose players without even much college experience to face off against Bundesliga professionals. Without rubbing it in for the kids, Powers and Ownby looked really outclassed against the Germans. Tellingly, with Opara and Perk, those were the college guys in the starting lineup yesterday.
When Bryan Arguez came on, the difference was night and day. As much as Arguez has been criticized, I was convinced yesterday, if I wasn't before, only very special college players - Opara and Duka for example - can hang with the pros at this level.
Coach Rongen says it's not so, but it seems pretty clear to me that a professional environment yields a superior player to the college one, even when that player doesn't see the field with the first team. For the next cycle, I think I'd just take all the pros I can find, sprinkled with just a few of the best college prospects.