Los Angeles Soccer: Danny Williams

U.S. aims to close gap on Mexico, the world

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
9:35
PM PT

Kyle BeckermanMarcos Delgado/Clasos.com/LatinContent/Getty ImagesKyle Beckerman of the U.S. team celebrates a goal during a friendly soccer match between Mexico and USA on Tuesday. The U.S. won 1-0.

MEXICO CITY -- The United States hopes its historic victory at Estadio Azteca is a precursor of sorts, but nobody is mistaking it as a shift in the balance within the region's primary rivalry. The gap separating the Americans from Mexico remains intact, and the only questions concern how great is the chasm and what must be done to bridge it.



Mexico's focus on youth development has created a golden generation of players and could signal El Tri's arrival among the truly elite in international soccer. Last weekend's gold-medal triumph at the London Olympics, with their under-23 team, follows successes by the U-17s (World Cup titles in 2005 and 2011) and the U-20s (third place at last year's World Cup), and the impact on the full national team -- the one that could, for real, be competing for the spoils in Brazil in two years -- has been profound.

Mexico's destruction of the U.S. at last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl, built on the sublime talent of Giovani Dos Santos, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Andres Guardado, was product of Mexico's reaction to the Americans' dominance in the series for nearly a decade from 2000.

Now the U.S. must respond in kind.

“I think Mexico deserves a big compliment,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in advance of the Yanks' 1-0 victory in Wednesday's friendly. “What they've done the last three or four years is tremendous. They’ve identified a way they want to play, and everybody dedicates themselves to that style of play. ...

“There is a gap. It would be foolish not to recognize that.”

The U.S. went 10-2-2, with both losses at Azteca and one of the victories from the 2002 World Cup, over a span of about 8½ years. That dominance, star forward/midfielder Landon Donovan notes, was while “we had a group of us together for five, six, seven, eight years, and they were kind of in flux.” The roles shifted: The U.S. team is now in transition under Klinsmann.

He took charge a year ago after that Gold Cup defeat and is working toward creating a system and a style that will emphasize attacking soccer, a necessity for success in a landscape that has been altered by Spain's success the past five years. He's also altering the makeup of an aging squad, especially at the back. The Americans' great youngsters aren't so young anymore; Donovan is 30.

Mexico's most important figures aren't yet in their primes. Chicharito is 24, Giovani 23. Defender Hector Moreno is 24. Guardado, a relative veteran, is 25. More than a dozen more first-team pool players are younger than 25.

The U.S. also has a promising young contingent -- Jozy Altidore and Brek Shea are 22, Terrence Boyd 21, Danny Williams 23 and Fabian Johnson 24 -- and several others under 25 who might or might not pan out as international players.

“It's hard to quantify a gap,” Donovan said. “We're kind of a little more in flux now, but the hope is that in two years we've closed that gap and we're [like Mexico] a well-oiled machine.”

The 2014 World Cup is the Americans' chief focus, but the real view is longer. Whatever success the U.S. has enjoyed has been about belief and power, not technical and tactical acumen, although there have been great improvement in both areas since the 1994 World Cup changed everything. Klinsmann, a legendary German striker who has called Orange County home for more than a decade, is looking to alter the foundation of how the U.S. plays, and that requires a philosophical shift.

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CHIVAS: Agudelo dropped by U.S.

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
10:29
AM PT

Chivas USA's young new star has returned the club after he was dropped from the U.S. national team roster for the “five-game tournament” that begins with Saturday's friendly against Scotland in Jacksonville, Fla., and wraps up with next month's World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.

Juan Agudelo, a 19-year-old, Colombian-born striker acquired eight days ago in a trade from the New York Red Bulls, has been a regular for the U.S. under Jurgen Klinsmann, but his failure to make the cut from 27 to 23 players was not all that surprising. He has just returned from a knee injury and is still seeking his best form, having made only his second start of the season in his Chivas debut in last weekend's SuperClasico victory over the Galaxy.

Agudelo returned to the Goats on Thursday, is scheduled to train Friday morning and be available for Saturday's night's Major League Soccer game against the Seattle Sounders at Home Depot Center.

Also trimmed from the camp roster were Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and two German-born players, Hertha Berlin defender Alfredo Morales and 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Danny Williams.

Agudelo was the only one of seven forwards in the Orlando, Fla., camp who did not make the roster for three friendlies -- the U.S. plays Brazil on Wednesday in Landover, Md., and Canada next Saturday in Toronto -- and for the qualifiers June 8 against Antigua in Tampa, Fla., and June 12 at Guatemala. The forwards on the list: Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, San Jose's Chris Wondolowski, Herculez Gomez from Mexican champion Santos Laguna, and European-employed Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd and Clint Dempsey.

Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS) is five local players on the roster. The others are Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA), Rangers defender Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA), Chievo Verona midfielder Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach), and Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS). Two San Diegans -- veteran Hannover 96 defender Steve Cherundolo and Club Tijuana midfielder Joe Corona -- also made the cut.

Here's the full U.S. roster for the five games:

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