The US U-17’s fell 4-1 in their opening group stage match against Senegal in the 2019 U-17 World Cup. The United States actually got off to a very good start in the match. Early on, the match was open and the chances were coming. In the 3rd minute, Danny Leyva found Joseph Scally in space on the right wing. Scally then delivered an excellent cross and Gianluca Busio finished with a fine header to open the scoring.
Just a couple minutes later, Gio Reyna found space in the box and had Ricardo Pepi at the back post, but he elected to test the keeper himself.
The proceedings deteriorated for the US after that. Senegal began to slowly grow into the game with the US struggling to connect passes and struggling with poor decision making. Finally, Senegal tied the score just before the break on a simple long ball that was flicked on. Souleymane Faye then ripped a terrific left-footed strike to beat Damian Las.
The US U-17s improved a bit to start the second half, but the wheels started to fall off around the 60th minute. In the 72nd minute, Senegal went in front for good after some horrible defending. Following a US corner, Senegal went quickly with a long goal kick and the US defense was completely out of position. Damian Las showed his indecision and although he eventually saved the initial chance, Senegal easily finished off the rebound to make it 2-1. Just four minutes later, it was 3-1 when Amete Saloum Faye finished off a lovely cutback pass after the US defense was cut open once again.
The American nightmare wasn’t over. More indecision defensively (this time from Tayvon Gray) led to a Senegal attacker clean in on goal and Gray compounded the mistake by pulling him back. The foul produced a deserved red card, which will rule Gray out of the next match against Japan on Wednesday. Then Senegal put the icing on the cake with a wonder strike free kick from Pape Matar Sarr in the 88th minute to seal the 4-1 win.
What went right?
The US did control possession for long stretches of the match. Nearly all of Senegal’s danger came in the counter attack after the US had been throwing numbers forward trying to create offense. They consistently looked to build from the back, which is good. The point of these games at this level is to have the players playing the right way and the US tried to do that consistently in this match. The result makes little difference at the end of the day.
What went wrong?
The US really struggled in midfield, particularly defensively (particularly on the counter-woof!). Danny Leyva came into this tournament needing to play well for the US to succeed. He didn’t have his best match by any stretch. He struggled with his decision making with the ball at his feet and he was too easily bypassed defensively. Adam Saldaña was nonexistent for large parts of the game. Gianluca Busio got off to that great start in this game and scored a nice goal, but he really struggled to create offense for his teammates. The US backline was always seen as a point of weakness with this group, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see them struggle, but it wasn’t pretty. It was an absolute mess.
The US will need to get over it quickly and will have to get points in their next match. Raphael Wïcky has his work cut out to restore confidence in this group if they hope to advance. The US U-17s take on Japan on Wednesday night (7PM ET on FS2). Hit the comment section to discuss the performance and what you want to see in the next match.