By Andrea Canales
Would that one could simply say that the USA under-20 team had first-game jitters, that small lapses of concentration that can be easily tightened up cost them their opening game of the U-20 World Cup.
However, it was Germany who missed the majority of the chances in the first half before ratcheting up two goals in a couple of minutes.
The U.S. had one golden opportunity, if only Brian Ownby had been able to get a foot on the ball to redirect it.
"Those are goals that don't return," said the announcers on Galavision (in Spanish, of course).
A 2-0 lead doesn't seem so terrible when a team has been able to create chances, but the USA got forward so few times that even that the pair of goals seemed like a huge mountain.
In the second half, there were a few rays of hope for the Americans. Mikkel Diskerud came up short in a one-on-one duel with German goalkeeper Zieler. Jared Jeffrey hit metal, not net, on a sizzling strike from distance, but it was a dangerous attempt.
Yet Germany reasserted itself with another goal in the second half, almost without really exerting themselves.
At this level of the game, it simply isn't enough for USA coach Thomas Rongen to sing, "Ya Gotta Have Heart" to his charges.
Heart is important, of course, but skill, ability and fitness are just as vital, and the U.S. team simply didn't look like it had reserves of any of those elements in abundance.
Granted the U20 tournament before a World Cup tends to be the more overlooked one - and the U.S. had top-tier players who were eligible who chose not to participate. Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore would probably have changed the plot for the Americans, but the what-ifs and maybes won't cut it.
It doesn't do much good to blame the lack of Major League Soccer's reserve league, either. It's water under the proverbial bridge - the bottom line is that this is the team the U.S. has now, for better or worse.
So far, it seems as if it is definitely for worse, however.
There didn't seem to be a cohesive game plan for the Americans.
Evidently, the U.S. simply didn't put that as a high priority, given that most of the players were at less than top-level physically.
"It's hard to feel confident about playing 90 minute games when so
many players have had so little recent experience," said Rongen before the opening game. "We've had to focus on fitness when we'd rather be working on tactics."
Sadly, the lack of tactics was evident as the goal deficit wasn't challenged in any meaningful way by the USA team.
Perhaps, though, the slap delivered by a team that is one of the tournament favorites will push the U.S. players to dig deep and raise their game.
To bounce back from a comprehensive defeat like the one in the opening match takes a mental toughness that isn't easy.
Rongen may be terribly optimistic, but he does believe that his players might just have what it takes.
"I do feel good about this group because they have the right
mentality," Rongen said. "We're here to win this, not just to participate."
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com North America
For a full preview of the U-20 World Cup, check out a sneak peak at Goal.com Magazine.