Searching for the next American striker
The United States Under-20 National Team has played four games since Sept. 6, while the U-17s have taken the pitch three times.
The results: seven matches, one win, three goals scored. Not good.
Granted, neither side ventured abroad at full strength. Thomas Rongen used the meaningless tournament in Peru to test some talent, while Wilmer Cabrera's crew was also lacking pieces. And the competition was fierce, with the older guys taking on four South American countries while the kids fought Real Madrid's youth team and Spain's U-17s.
The Stars and Stripes shouldn't win all these games. Given the missing players, they probably shouldn't win half.
But still, 1-6-0? Not good.
What's worse is the Americans' inability to find the back of the net during the stretch. This is emblematic of a bigger problem: The U.S. need to start producing talent that can finish, and this needs to happen at the youngest levels.
American strikers haven't scored in the World Cup since 2002. Forwards have netted just six of 16 goals for the senior team so far in 2010, compared to 17 of 43 the year before (and that includes players such as Freddy Adu and Davy Arnaud).
The America youth system gets blamed for its inability to develop goal scorers as clubs focus on team play rather than individual talent. That may be fair, it may not be. The point remains that there's a wealth of potential in America but, as recent results indicate, there's a disappointing a lack of finishing ability in the current crop of junior players.
This isn't to say the Red, White and Blue entirely lack men who can score. The 2009 U-17 World Cup team featured talented strikers Jack McInerney, now making an impact with the Philadelphia Union, and the New York Red Bulls' Juan Agudelo.
Tristan Bowen, Omar Salgado, Agudelo, Bobby Wood, Adrian Ruelas and a couple other guys could develop. The emergence of Conor Doyle is another nice story, although he could still play for Ireland. Brek Shea, anyone?
But overall, there aren't many players coming up who might be the next Brian McBride or, heck, even the next Jozy Altidore.
The Villarreal striker, who developed immensely during the World Cup in South Africa but still couldn't find the net, offered up a telling observation during a press conference after the Algeria match. In that game, he missed a half-volley sitter that would have put the US ahead. When asked about his thought process immediately before the attempt, he said (paraphrased) "I thought, 'I can't believe I'm about to score in a World Cup.'" Then he shanked the ball into the 15th row.
It's time to calm down and learn to finish, men.