Saturday, July 14, 2007

2007 U-20 World Cup - USA vs. Austria plus US women's action

USA vs. Austria
2:15pm ET/11:15am PT
TV: ESPNU, TeleFutura (Spanish)
The U-20 men continue their run for history this afternoon as they face a defensive Austrian team in the quarterfinals. Austria has not looked overly strong during the tournament, but they do have the means to frustrate and confuse an attack. The US is coming off a weak outing against Uruguay where they had trouble putting connecting passes or clearing the ball. If they want to make it to their first U-20 semi-final since the cup expanded to 24 teams, they will need to seriously correct these issues.

The problems on offense are somewhat new. Freddy Adu (pictured) lacked his creativity against Uruguay and only had one well-placed corner (from which the US scored). With Jozy Altidore possibly out, look for even more coverage of Adu by the Austrian defense. However, this should allow Michael Bradley and Andre Akpan (or whomever takes Altidore's place) some extra room in which to move. The Austrians have a strong backline, but they have a way of missing players coming in along the back post. If the US can exploit this, is should be a happy time.

My biggest concern is the US backline, as there seems to be communication issues all over the place. The number of times I've seen two players go for a ball in the box with neither of them getting it due to a collision or other such event is crazy. Add that to the times the keeper is about to grab the ball only to have a defender pop a head or leg in and you've got a problem. Then you have the issue of the bad clearance. You cannot give a team multiple chances at your goal, but a weak boot of the ball to the center of the pitch will result in just that. Austria is not a heavy attacking side, but if you give them enough openings, they will find a way through.

This will be the first meeting of the U-20 teams. The only other time these two countries met was at the U-17 Championship in 1997 where the US won 4-0.
Predictions: Me USA 3-1 Austria, Wife USA 1-0 Austria

USA WNT vs. Norway
6pm ET/3pm PT
The US women continue their tune up ahead of this fall's World Cup in China with a match in Connecticut against the always tough squad from Norway. It will be interesting to see if coach Greg Ryan uses this match as a dry run for the 18 players already named to the World Cup roster or if he gives a number of 'not-yet-named' players a chance to fill the final three spots. Either way, expect some good attacking play from both sides.
Predictions: Me USA 2-1 Norway, Wife USA 4-2 Norway

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