Youth tournaments are not necessarily about winning, they're more about player development. If you're a United States fan, please repeat that mantra over and over. They lost 4-1 to Spain on Friday, but they looked about as good as anyone could have hoped doing it. They turned in a solid performance, but their inexperienced back line looked about as overmatched as everyone guessed they would.
The United States started the game by surprisingly pressing high up the pitch, regularly winning back possession in the attacking half in an impressive fashion. Sadly, it didn't take long for that strategy to backfire. Jese Rodriguez netted the opening goal with a tap-in after just four minutes, assisted by Gerard Deulofeu.
While the U.S. were arguably the better side for the next half-hour or so, spaces began to open up at the back again after a while and the first half ended in disaster. Deulofeu made it 2-0 with a stunning curler of a shot from outside the penalty area after making DeAndre Yedlin fall down while defending. Spain added a third goal before the end of the half, with Jese netting his second of the game from close range after some shambolic defending gifted him an easy chance.
The Americans were a bit less lively in the second half and Deulofeu put the game to rest by completing a brace on the 60th minute. However, the United States were able to find an impressive consolation goal, through Luis Gil. He did excellently to side-step multiple defenders before placing a spectacular strike past Dani Sotres from 20 yards.
- Luis Gil was far and away the man of the match for the United States before his goal. He was the best player in the American midfield throughout the game and set up a couple of clear-cut chances in the first half that weren't finished off. He was virtually mistake-free and had a handful of exceptional moments.
- Having said that, we shouldn't be the least bit surprised. Gil is first choice for one of the best teams in MLS and has been a regular MLS player for two and a half seasons. He has about a full season's worth of starts under his belt in one of the most physical leagues in the world. He should look good against midfielders like Spain's, as talented as they are. France will be a stiffer test for him.
- Danny Garcia was taken off injured in the second half after taking an elbow that should have drawn a red card. Hopefully he doesn't have a concussion or any other kind of serious injury. He didn't look great coming off the field.
- Alonso Hernandez exited at halftime. We'll probably find out more about his injury or lack thereof soon.
- It was a rough day for the entire USMNT back line and goalkeeper Cody Cropper. All of them were at least partially at fault for one of the goals. Yedlin probably had the roughest game of the bunch. Caleb Stanko looked the best of the five.
- I'm not going to pick on Javan Torre because it's not his fault he was thrown into the fire against the best prospects in the Barcelona and Real Madrid youth setups. It wasn't fair on him. He'll probably say he wants to play against the best no matter what and he's not going to make excuses for his mistakes. He showed potential, though, as rough as his day was.
- Jose Villarreal really drifted in and out of the game, even when the United States had 50 percent possession. He does this for the LA Galaxy too. I'm not sure if it's a matter of him needing to be more assertive or his teammates needing to get him the ball more. I'll keep an eye on that specifically in the next two games.