BRENT LATHAM - Friday, October 2, 2009
The United States finished ahead of Cameroon in Group C but little else went right on Friday evening as they fell 3-0 against South Korea.

American coach Thomas Rongen went with the same eleven starters that had trounced Cameroon two days earlier, but the combination failed to yield dividends as the determined Koreans proved better everywhere on the field.

After a near miss off a corner kick in the 21st minute, Korea jumped ahead in the 23rd when sloppy defending from another corner kick allowed Kim Young Gwon to curl a shot off the left-hand post past goalkeeper Brian Perk for the first goal of the game.

The Americans nearly responded a couple minutes later when Brek Shea found his way into the box and sent a wormburner just wide of the post, but the Koreans regained the initiative with the wind behind them on a blustery night in Suez.

Just three minutes before halftime the Koreans would double their lead, again through Kim Bo Kyung, who found himself at the end of Park Hee Seong's cross after Sheanon Williams misjudged the cross. Kim wasted little time nestling his shot into the far corner of the net.

Rongen rang in the changes at halftime, sending on Peri Marosevic for his first action of the tournament and removing Tony Taylor, who was hobbled with a hamstring injury. The coach trashed his 4-5-1 and moved Shea up front alongside Marosevic, ordering the crew to play more directly through the air.

"We decided to go to a 4-4-2 in the second half," the coach said. "Tony Taylor re-aggravated his hamstring so we went to Peri Marosevic and tried to get some height up next to him with Brek Shea. We moved Dilly Duka over to the left where he's played for Rutgers. He's a pretty good creator out of that position and a decent crosser.

"We wanted to reverse the pressure, play in the half of the opponent and try to get back in the game one goal at a time. We had some half-chances, and I don't know if that was really a red card, then the PK really hurt so we were really chasing the game."

The move didn't pay off as the Koreans made easy work of the Americans' long ball strategy. Even with the entry of Mikkel Diskerud in the 60th minute, the Americans couldn't make anything happen.

In the 75th minute, the Asians put the game away as Koo Ja Cheol would score his own from the penalty spot, after defender Ike Opara took down the captain in the penalty area for his second yellow - which saw the teenager sent off early.

The Americans were thoroughly disappointed after a tournament that will be considered a failure barring a miracle of Confederations Cup proportions.

"Unfortunately in today's game, Korea was technically and tactically superior to the US," Rongen concluded. "You just have to move on. We're bitterly disappointed in the result. We came in with high expectations - you always set the bar high - but at the end of the day we just weren't good enough to get the result we needed. It's a harsh reality but something that needs to be said."

The US could still advance as one of the best third-placed sides after Germany beat Cameroon 3-0, but allowing three goals against the Asians put the Americans on the negative side in the all important goal differential.

"I'm not a mathematician but I guess that keeps us somewhat alive depending on other results," Rongen said. "The reality right now is that we walked away with three points out of a potential nine. To us as a group, we set high standards, and so it was very disappointing."

Results went the Americans' way in the second match Friday when England tied Uzbekistan to leave both teams with one point in Group D. The easiest way for the US would be for Costa Rica to lose Saturday to the Czech Republic by a 1-0 score or by multiple goals.

Should the Americans advance, they would likely face host Egypt in Cairo on Tuesday. If they are eliminated, it would be the first time in seven U-20 World Cups they have failed to make the second round.