By Tim Sturtridge
BUENOS AIRES- The US under-17 team were left to lick their wounds after a 3-1 defeat to Uruguay brought the curtain down on their tour of Buenos Aires.
Wilmer Cabrera’s men conceded all three goals in a twenty minute spell midway through the second half.
This emphatic reply came after the US had taken the lead following a bright start to the second period.
Not the ideal preparation for next month’s World Cup qualification in Mexico but now the US have time to fix the problems Cabrera and his coaching staff indentified.
“It’s all experience for the kids as we use these game to prepare for the qualifiers,” Cabrera said looking forward to Mexico. “We now have three weeks at home to do more preparation and the tournament will motivate the kids.”
The US tinkered with their formation for the Uruguay game and lined up with a more defensive feel. No doubt a result of the 5-1 reserved suffered at the hands of Argentina two days earlier.
Julio Arjona came in to partner Marlon Duran in central midfield and Stefan Jerome was left to play as a lone striker.
“We used today to change a little bit,” Cabrera said. “We used another formation and tried other players to see what works.”
A further change was forced after only ten minutes when Premier League target Charles Renken was forced to withdraw.
Renken pulled up in the Uruguayan penalty area after attacking a corner and went off to receive treatment. When he came back on a minute later he got caught with a tackle in the middle of the park and went down clutching his right leg.
“Charles had ACL surgery last year and is just coming back for us, he’s been doing very well,” Cabrera said about the midfielder. “We hope that it is not something serious but right now we will have to wait and see. Hopefully we can have him for the qualifiers because he is very important for us.”
The defensive line up of the US and a lack of spark from the Uruguayans led to an uneventful first half being played out. Much to the crowd’s relief the referee blew up dead on 45 minutes and the players left the field.
After the interval the sparse crowd were treated to an incident packed second period as the teams served up a genuine game of two halves.
It was Charles Renken’s replacement Sebastian Lletget who got the game’s first goal after 52 minutes.
Lletget laid the ball to Julio Arjona and continued his run into the box. The substitute’s movement was not lost on Arjona as he feed a reserve pass back to Lletget which left the Uruguay defense flat footed.
Lletget collected the ball in the box and calmly dispatch a low drive under the keeper and into the far corner.
This goal brought the Uruguayans out of their shell and in their next attack they nearly leveled instantly.
A US freekick in the opposition’s half was intercepted by Uruguay’s left winger Adrian Luna and the ball was sent up the other end. America defender Zachary Herold came over to deal with the danger but under hit his backpass to the Earl Edwards.
Uruguay’s Gonzalo Barreto was alive to the opportunity and latched on the weak pass but his shot drifted wide of the US goal.
If Barreto’s effort had been a few more inches to the right it would have been the third game in succession that the US had conceded within five of minutes of scoring at the other end.
The Uruguayans eventually broke through on the hour mark when a freekick just shy of the halfway line was allowed to find their captain Diego Polenta unmarked at the far stick.
Polenta nodded the ball back across goal and striker Santiago Gonzalez was afforded all the time he needed to head past Edwards from three yards out.
Five minutes later a mix up between Herold and US captain Perry Kitchen allowed Jhon Perez to wriggle free in their box. As Perez bore down on the US goal defender Jared Watts flew in with a crude challenge which gave referee Alejandro Derevnin no option but to point to the spot.
Barreto made no mistake from 12 yards with his shot low in the right hand corner of goal as he sent Edwards the wrong way.
After surrendering their lead and finding themselves behind for the second time in two days the US switched back to a more conventional four-four-two formation.
The States came back into the contest and gave as good as they got for the last twenty minutes. Lletget in particular had a number of chances to get his side back into the match.
“We may have lost but we finished the game putting pressure on Uruguay and creating options,” Cabrera said. “In these moments we looked sharper and stronger even though this was our third game this week.”
The final goal of the game however went to Uruguay after the US defense were left waiting for an offside flag that never appeared. Once behind the backline Gonzalez rounded Edwards and poked the ball into the vacant net.
Wilmer Cabrera and his team will take positives away from Buenos Aires and the defeats will soon be forgotten should they reach the World Cup finals.
“Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup,” Cabrera said of his expectations for Mexico. “That’s is why we are here and we will continue to work hard to achieve it.”
Tim Sturtridge is a Buenos Aires-based sports correspondent from Devon, England, who reports on soccer in Latin America.