U.S. U-17s Edge Guatemala, Advance to Do-Or-Die Game with Honduras

On a patchy field in Panama City, the U.S. U-17 national team got a 49th-minute goal from midfielder Corey Baird and made it stand up for a 1-0 win over Guatemala in the Americans’ second game of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships.

Check out the highlights, which include some quality wing play from Rubio Rubin, and a sweet piece of skill (at the 1:56 mark) by newcomer Joel Sonora, a Boca Juniors Academy product who made his first start for the U.S. U-17s:

The victory handed the Group C title to the U.S., who defeated Haiti 3-0 in their opener on April 7 behind two goals from Red Bulls Academy player Christopher Lema.

The Yanks now move on to face Group D runner-up Honduras on Sunday (6:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer) with a berth in this fall’s U-17 World Cup on the line.

If the Americans win, they’ll advance the CONCACAF semifinals as well as to the nation’s 15th consecutive U-17 World Cup, with this year’s edition being held in the United Arab Emirates from October 18 to November 8.

MLS’s CCL Dream Deferred Yet Again

A team from Major League Soccer will win the CONCACAF Champions League some day. Just not this year.

After Seattle went out to Santos Laguna in a 1-1 second-leg draw on Tuesday night, the LA Galaxy represented MLS’s last hope for a 2013 CCL finalist. Their task was nearly identical to the one Seattle faced on Tuesday: They were playing on the road in Mexico, and they trailed by a goal after the first leg. Indeed, the Galaxy’s degree of difficulty was slightly higher, since Monterrey had scored two away goals in their first-leg win at Los Angeles.

Bruce Arena’s side had been 10 minutes away from taking a 1-0 win down to Mexico for the second leg when the visitors’ two biggest threats, Mexican striker Aldo De Nigris and his Chilean counterpart Humberto Suazo, each struck in the waning moments to send LA to a severely deflating loss. But the Galaxy have Robbie Keane and Juninho and a rounding-into-form Landon Donovan, and their fans had hopes that they could bag the two goals needed in the return match to either win the tie outright or send it into extra time.

LA generated some chances, but Monterrey ultimately showed why they’re the two-time defending champs. Highlights here:

Real Salt Lake’s narrow loss to Monterrey in the 2011 final is looking like a bigger missed opportunity with each passing year. Jason Kreis’s team got a 2-2 draw on the road in the first leg that year, only to fall 1-0 at home in front of an amped-up crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. Ouch.

Monterrey and Santos Laguna will meet for the trophy in a rematch of last year’s final. The two-leg decider is set for April 24 and May 1.

U.S.-Costa Rica Live Blog

All right, that’s it for us. Our Man at DSG got snowed in, but we’ll post any additional bon mots he has as they come in. Fascinating game, and a great result for the US, as well as a solid outing for Run DMB at left back.

Good night everybody.

95+ There it is! The final whistle. Three big points for the U.S. 1-0 in the snow. It was “beautifully ugly,” as Alexi Lalas said. The weather was unprecedented, and chances are, quite different from what they’ll face in Mexico City on Tuesday night.

94′ Kyle Beckerman on for Gomez. One minute of stoppage time left.

91′ Geoff Cameron helping the grounds crew shoveler clear the line!

89′ Another free kick for Costa Rica, but they cant lift the ball off the snow. And it’s cleared out easily by the US.

88′ Cameron gives away a free kick in a dangerous area, 10 yards off top of the box left side. US clears it away. Whew, say US fans. Not sure there was much of a foul on Cameron there but…

86′ “Eddie Johnson goes for a tumble, as if he were on a tobaggon ride,” says Ian Darke.

83′ Maurice Edu on for Jermaine Jones. Snow continues to be ridiculously heavy. Players just scuffing and banging the ball around.

78′ These conditions are barely (really, not) playable. And Costa Rica is starting to get more of the play. Guzan comes out to claim for the second time in the past two min.

76′ Eddie Johnson on for Graham Zusi.

73′ “Both sides have abandoned the idea of playing pretty football,” says Ian Darke. “They’re both hitting it long and seeing if they can control the second ball.” Yes. And the field is completely covered with at least two inches of snow, compared with the first half where there was not complete coverage. Tundra now.

70′ Costa Rica goal called back for offside! Wow. US under pressure here with 20 min to play.

69′ Jermaine Jones elbow gives CR a free kick deep on right flank. US clears it but gives up a corner. “Nervy moments for the US,” says Twellman.

MGlo: Ian Darke just said that the US looks to have a 2nd goal in them. How can he see that in these conditions?!

64′ Dempsey draws a foul in a dangerous area. Zusi takes it… foul off the ball on the US.

MGlo says: Costa rica hoping they score. Then they will go to the ref and say “come on we can’t play. This is crazy!”

60′ Saborio with a drive! Tight angle from the right. Great save by Guzan. Conditions are far worse than they were in the first half. TV cameras are getting flecked with snow.

58′ Dempsey with a chance! Just wide.

55′ They’re stopping the game! According to the sideline reporter, they’re stopping the game to try to clear the field, or … they’re stopping it for good? This is…still in doubt. Ian Darke suggests they may resume it tomorrow, when the conditions would be….worse, right? Costa Rica seems to want to continue, US definitely wants to continue and…we’re back on! Wow! How bout that?!

53′ Costa Rica free kick in a very dangerous area: right on the top of the box. Deflects out for a corner. Wow. That could have gone anywhere. Ensuing corner leads to a chance for Saborio! Second corner: that one…Guzan comes out, misses it! Ball sails out.

52′ Prison Mike says, “Jones has been very smart. He knows that the defender has no traction, so when it’s played to his feet with his defender on his back, he turns him every time.  I think Bradley is the best player on the US and he’s useless in these conditions.” Good point. Bradley has been mostly invisible tonight.

49′ Altidore does very well to keep possession in the middle, sprays a ball out wide to Zusi, who can’t catch up to it.

48‘ Snow expected to continue for “next 12 hours.” Ha. US needs another goal to keep this result safe.

46′ Second half under way. Field doesn’t look much better. Taylor Twellman echoes OMATV’s point about Zusi, saying he “has to be careful” on the defensive side of the ball.

Our Man at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: Halftime. We are better team but Cameron is our weak link at right back. Zusi not helping him.

Prison Mike says: “We win this and we’re in second, we lose and we’re in last. Altidore is showing why he needs to be out there all the time. He’s a beast. And I think Goodson deserves a spot in the back.”

Bob Ley just described the conditions as “surreal.” Let’s see how the field looks in the second half.

MGlo asks: At what point does the result stand? And if the game is called tonight, do they replay the whole game, or from where it was stopped? Good questions.

47+ There’s the halftime whistle. US 1, Costa Rica 0 after 45. The snow continues to fall. Grounds crew has work to do during the break.

Here are some catchup posts from Our Man at the Valley:

“Not much love for Beasley here in the stands, but I think he’s playing well. Lots of snow.”

“White foam on free kicks not going to work in this snow.”

47′ Saborio with a late hit on Gonzalez on that play–a corner claimed by Guzan. Hmmm. Just got a bulletin from Our Man at the Valley–from the 22nd minute. Weather-related technical difficulties….

45′ Beasley, Gonzalez and Goodson all do well to stop another CR attack. US needs a two-goal cushion in this one.

43′ Dempsey taken down in the box! No call! Then follow-up US chance goes just wide.

41′ Costa Rica getting a bit more of the play here in the later stages of the second half.

39′ Goodson with a thumping headed clearance to repel CR attack. Nice play by Goodson.

38‘ Costa Rica counter leads to good shot on goal! Guzan handles it.

32′ Conditions continue to be unbelievable. Our Man at the Valley is clearly suffering the elements on site. All action in Costa Rica’s end.

26′ Jermaine Jones was down with an ankle knock for a while, which gave the crew a chance to clear the lines a bit. Nice play by Cameron on the right flank to clear some danger, then Costa Rica gets to the endline and crosses!…Guzan has it, and it was flagged over the line for a goal kick.

24′ This is a straight up blizzard. Here’s MGlo on the goal: “Saw Altidore shoot. Saw Dempsey celebrate. Like I said, hockey.”

22′ Costa Rica counterattack off a Cameron giveaway goes for naught even though Beasley slipped in the box at the end.

16′ GOAL! US! Hard to see how it went in exactly but Altidore shot hit the post (we think) and the rebound was turned in by Dempsey! Goal! 1-0 US.

Our Man at the Valley is back in contact. Says it’s snowing really hard. Great conditions in which to host Costa Rica.

13′ US attack thwarted by the elements: Dempsey’s leading ball slides too far and over the endline.

9′ “Was dicks all out of orange balls?” asks friend of Backpost MGlo. “The yellow looks great in the closeups, shit on tv. Like watching hockey.” Beasley went down after a collision with Gonzalez. Back up and back in now.

6′ Dempsey sends Altidore into the box…but the ball skitters away and CR defender pokes it out.

4′ U.S. with a free kick 35 yards out, dead center. … Gomez lofts it toward back post… it scoots out of bounds.

We’re under way. Television visibility is poor. Hard to see the ball, and the U.S. team. 10:12

U.S. takes the field in their white uniforms…and almost disappear against the snowbound pitch. —Ed. 10:11

We should probably see the orange ball for this one. Snow is that heavy. Costa Rica anthem done, U.S. in progress. Our Man at the Valley no doubt scrambling to his seat at DSG as we type this. More from him soon. —Ed. 10:07.

The snow is surprisingly heavy. Covering the field, and the lines have been cleared by the grounds crew.— Ed. 10:05.

We’re about 15 minutes from kickoff. The U.S. will line up in a 4-2-3-1, with Guzan in goal, Beasley, Goodson, Gonzalez, and Cameron across the back (l-to-r); Jones and Bradley in front of the back four; Gomez, Dempsey, and Zusi forward in midfield and Altidore up top. — Ed. 9:58

9:55: Now playing the theme to Ghostbusters. Somehow this fits with the Rolling Rock.

9:45: Bus playlist so far: “Jump,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Born in the USA,” “America, Fuck Yeah!” … Am waiting on some Indigo Girls. Maybe Southland in the Springtime.

9:33: Spontaneous singing of “Star Spangled Banner” on the bus….God, I cant believe I used to want to drink Rolling Rock!

9:26: Big dilemma for Colorado Keeper upon boarding bus. Since there’s one free beer per passenger, do you grab one on behalf of your 7-year-old son? … Keeper decided not to. First bad move by him associated with this website since he brought in Fernando Torres for Robin Van Persie during Week 3 of the Backpost EPL Fantasy League.

9:08: The Bulldog is pssing out complimentary half-pints of Guinness. That was a good bus to miss.

8:58: Mmmmmm. Titan IPA.

8:41: There’s good news and bad news: First, the bad: The 6:30 [local time] bus from the Bulldog to the stadium, for which we have reservations, has come and gone. The good news: Great Divide is a wonderful brewery in Denver, and the British Bulldog serves their Titan IPA.

8:22: Now watching Argentina-Paraguay. Ref is using white foam on free kicks! MLS taking over the world!

8:11: Colorado Keeper of BPFL fame, just met league rival Clever and Witty. Worlds collide.

8:01: Chicken tikka masala at the Bulldog is very good.  Also very spicy.

7:54:  Suarez!  What a goal!!

7:43:  Girlfriend is here. Diego Forlan is on tv. She is happy.

7:31: At a table with arduous American outlaws from Arizona and California. We are arranged in a 3-4-2 to commemorate our perennial lack of a left back.

7:22:  Now watching Uruguay  v Paraguay. Paraguay apparently thought it was bibs v non bibs

7:08: At pub [British Bulldog]. Heaving… Lots of cheers for final whistle in Honduras. [Honduras and Mexico tied 2-2 after Honduras was controversially denied a late penatly.—Ed.] I think they are misplaced and it’d be better for us I Mexico run away with group.

6:57 ET: On way to pub. Light snow and very windy.

Good evening, sports fans!

We are about one hour from kickoff of the crucial World Cup qualifier between the United States and Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colorado. But Our Man at the Valley has been going strong, on site, for a couple of hours now.

He began the evening at the British Bulldog, the de facto headquarters of U.S. supporters group, the American Outlaws, for this match, and last we heard, was getting ready to board a bus for the stadium.

Let’s get right it.

U.S. vs Costa Rica: Countdown to Kickoff

Go time is fast approaching in Commerce City, Colorado, where the U.S. national team will take on Costa Rica at 10:00 ET tonight (ESPN).

It’s the Americans’ biggest game since the Round of 16 match against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and our sauve special correspondent Our Man at the Valley will be there, liveblogging the game for Backpost. Come back and join us for his on-site commentary and criticism (mostly of the concession-stand fare) during what should be a cracking game.

As you’re no doubt aware, there’s been some friction in the air at the U.S. camp.

How well the team deals with that, as well as with the multiple player absences, are the leading questions heading up to kickoff.

As for the controversy, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has handled the problem fairly well—he’s been unruffled and, in typical Klinsmann fashion, he found a silver lining during a press conference in Denver yesterday: “I think it’s a great sign, all the debate that is going on about soccer in this country. It shows you that people care.”

Responding to the specifics in Straus’s article, Klinsmann had this to say:

“Obviously I prefer that if you have a problem with me, come to me and talk to me about it. The so-called ‘anonymous quotes’ where we do don’t know who said it; is it a player, is it an agent, is it a fan or whoever? But it doesn’t distract us from what we’re here for or. Our focus is strictly Costa Rica…. It really doesn’t bother me that much. If it’s true, which obviously it’s still a rumor because if you say ‘anonymous sources’ then you gotta name it, then you’d rather prefer as a coach or as individual, no matter who you are, that people talk to you directly if they have something to complain about. It’s as simple as that.”

As for the player absences, there’s a lot of chatter this morning that DaMarcus Beasley could start at left back. Here’s a thought: No.

Beasley defends well from his left-mid spot, but he is not a defender. U.S. fans have found that out before, and now is not the time for them to re-learn it. But we’re all for Beasley getting a starting nod—in midfield, where he can provide much needed width and speed.

For all the stuff that’s been swirling around this week, the team seems relaxed and ready to perform. Take a look:

Bradley cracks a smile there over the ‘anonymous critics’ fallout, and Gomez points out that all the hullabaloo can be helpful in the long run, as a fallback experience for dealing with the pressure cooker of an actual World Cup game.

Whatever their mindset, they’ll need to be at their best to beat Costa Rica, a team they haven’t defeated since 2005. That’s right, the U.S. is 11-12-6 alltime against the Ticos, but have not beaten them in eight years. They’ll be hoping for a little magic of the kind Tab Ramos provided vs Costa Rica in this pivotal 1997 WC qualifier:

Enjoy the game, and be sure to tune in for Our Man’s bulletins from Commerce City.

Controversy, Personnel Shortage Hit U.S Ahead of Crucial WC Qualifiers

USbraintrust

Friday night will be edge-of-your-seat-stuff.

The fallout continues to descend in the wake of Brian Straus’s thunderclap of an article in the Sporting News.

Using mostly anonymous sources connected to the U.S. national team, the story claims that there’s widespread dissatisfaction among U.S. players with coach Jurgen Klinsmann, his staff, and his methods. 

Go read the article if you haven’t, then come back here as we take a look at four issues ahead of tomorrow night’s huge game against Costa Rica (10:00 ET, ESPN).

• Where there’s smoke …

Klinsmann has provoked this sort of reaction at every stop of his brief coaching career. It was common knowledge that Joachim Low handled the X’s and O’s when he was assistant to Klinsmann during Germany’s run to third place in the 2006 World Cup. At Bayern Munich, where Klinsmann failed to last a full season as coach, he was saddled with the same “overtraining, undercoaching” tag U.S. players describe in Straus’s article.

Munich defender Philipp Lahm famously claimed in his autobiography that “the experiment with Klinsmann was a failure. We were only working on our fitness in training. He didn’t care much for tactical stuff.”

• Anonymity is wack 

Straus’s brief “sources were offered anonymity in exchange for their anecdotes, observations and opinions” explanation sort of slipped by unquestioned when the story first hit. But it’s well worth scrolling back to it for another look. Why do they need anonymity? Why can’t they attach their name to their opinions and complaints, or perhaps more importantly, why can’t they bring those directly to the coaches or teammates involved, and work it out internally? Further, what do they hope to accomplish by bringing their complaints to the media? Click here for an interesting take on those questions, or consider midfielder Michael Bradley’s opinion:

“It’s shameful, and it’s embarrassing. I think for every guy who has ever played on a team, you give everything you have … and on every team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy. There’s going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things they wish were different…. that’s normal.

“…But you cross a line when you take those thoughts and you take your disappointments outside of the team, outside of the inner circle.”

• Endgame scenarios

Returning to the question of what the anonymous complainers hope to accomplish, well, the answer, it’s safe to assume, is that they want Klinsmann out—sooner rather than later. In fact, Straus’s article closes with the suggestion that Friday night’s game is do-or-die for the German boss—win or auf Wiedersehen.

But how likely is that? We agree that if the coach truly isn’t working out—and if the U.S. fails to get three points either tonight or next Tuesday against Mexico—a change should be made now, while there’s still time to right the ship and qualify. But that depends on USSF head Sunil Gulati and his willingness to admit he made a mistake in hiring Klinsmann. Not only would he have to swallow his pride, but Gulati would also have to have a quick trigger finger, taking decisive action, now, to address the situation. That’s a double tall order.

There’s also the question of who to bring in. The top choice would be LA’s Bruce Arena, followed by Dom Kinnear of Houston. But both of those men are under contract, and fairly comfortable, with their clubs at the moment. There’s no guarantee they’d want to give up their current contentment for an uphill battle with the USMNT.

At the other extreme, the U.S. brass could simply stick with their man and his program. This would create a situation comparable to the one Lahm had in mind in his book when he wrote, ”All the players knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann. The remainder of that campaign was nothing but limiting the damage.” But in this case the damage, to the U.S.’s standing in the world, its progress as a soccer nation, and player confidence, could be pretty severe.

What about a middle path, you say? Well, the disgruntled numpties in the U.S. camp surely have gotten Gulati’s attention. He knows they’re not happy, and if results continue to reflect that, he’ll have to address it. What if he brought in, say, a Dominic Kinnear to be one of Klinsmann’s assistants? Someone who understands the U.S. players’ perspective and who has their respect. It’s possible but again, you’d be asking a guy with a plum position to trade it in for a … less plum position. And there’s the question of people to fit this particular bill. Kinnear is just about the only one. Ben Olsen or Sigi Schmid also come to mind, or possibly Tab Ramos, but it’s not a long list.

All in all, we’d bet that some approximation of the middle path is what unfolds. Of course it depends on….

• How distracted will the team be on Friday—and who the hell is going to start?

While Carlos Bocanegra, Bradley, and Herculez Gomez have all issued some damage-control, ship-righting statements (Gomez called the controversy “cute” compared to the media scrutiny he experiences in Mexico; he also threw in a “teddy bears” and said the U.S. team will be a “better team for it”), the Sporting News story will definitely have an effect on tomorrow night’s game. Whether that effect is damaging or galvanizing remains to be seen.

It’s interesting to witness Bradley come out with his bold statement, and to see Dempsey named captain for the next two games (in the absence of Bocanegra, Tim Howard, and Landon Donovan), if only because it would appear to scratch their names off the list of 11 players who griped to Straus in the story.

The question remains as to whether their leadership will prevail and get the rest of the group to properly focus on the task at hand. Because anything less than three points tomorrow and this controversy only deepens.

Speaking of tomorrow, when you look at the U.S. roster, no clear-cut starting XI presents itself.

The backline is especially confounding. There are only two pure outside backs, Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow, and neither one has ever played in a World Cup qualifier before.

Some observers have suggested that Maurice Edu could be shifted to center back, allowing Geoff Cameron to move to right back, where he plays for Stoke City. That’s all well and good, but (apart from the fact that Cameron has never played RB for the U.S.) it would leave you with a center back pairing that’s never played together before, be it Clarence Goodson and Edu or Omar Gonzalez and Edu.

If Klinsmann sticks with the central pairing he used against Honduras—Cameron and Gonzalez—which might make the most sense, then he has to go with the two newbies on the outside.

The situation is less murky in midfield, but there’s still a good chance that we could see players out of position (either Eddie Johnson or Sacha Kljestan on the left), and a frustrating lack of speed and width. DaMarcus Beasley is a possible antidote to this latter element, but given Klinsmann’s preference for ball-winning central midfielders, Run DMB may not make the field.

There’s a lot of uncertainty heading into this game, but one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be interesting to watch.

Amid Plague of Injuries, Klinsmann Calls 23 for Costa Rica, Mexico

Klinsi

What, me worry?

Facing a must-win game against Costa Rica in Denver on Friday night, followed by the Herculean task of an away match at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday, March 26, the United States has been hit by an unprecedented injury bug.

Already missing their best player, Landon Donovan, who is taking a break from the sport, the American side will also have to do without Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Edgar Castillo, Danny Williams, Jose Torres, and Jonathan Spector.

As a result, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named a roster that includes just two pure outside backs, Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran and San Jose’s Justin Morrow, neither of whom has ever played a World Cup qualifier before.

Unless Klinsmann opts to start Puebla midfielder DaMarcus Beasley at left back—an experiment that famously failed at the 2009 Confederations Cup—the speedy Morrow, who earns $44,100 a year playing for the Earthquakes, will probably get the starting nod.

No matter whom Klinsmann chooses to start, it will be interesting to watch the patchwork, inexperienced squad respond to a high-pressure moment on Friday night (ESPN, 10:00 ET).

Here’s the complete roster (Club, World Cup qualifying caps/goals in parentheses):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa – 5/3 SO), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire – 0/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake – 0/0)

DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake – 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City – 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City – 6/0), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy – 1/0), Clarence Goodson (Brondby – 5/0), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes – 0/0)

MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla – 26/6), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake – 2/0), Michael Bradley (Roma – 20/5), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana – 1/0), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor – 10/0), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04 – 6/0), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht – 13/0), Brek Shea (Stoke City – 2/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City – 4/0)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar – 18/6), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna – 2/0), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur – 27/11), Herculez Gomez (Santos – 6/2), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC – 12/10)

Given the rash of injuries, there aren’t a lot of unexpected decisions here, but the omission of veteran defender Carlos Bocanegra qualifies as a mild surprise. Bocanegra, 33, has not been getting playing time with his club, Racing Santander of the Spanish second division, and Klinsmann opted not to call him and his considerable international experience. Here’s what the coach had to say about the decision:

“With Carlos, I have had several very good conversations over the past weeks. The reason he’s not here is because he’s simply not playing. He’s not getting any minutes with Racing Santander in the second division in Spain, so he has no flow, he has no rhythm, and he understands the situation. Carlos is still in our picture. This is not the end of his national-team career. He understands that right now he’s behind other players. He’s not in the starter picture and he understands that he gives other players a chance to show what they can prove. A very positive approach from Carlos, very professional. It really shows great character from him. We’ll play it by ear over the next couple of months, how his situation hopefully will improve. He’s on loan until the end of the season. That’s basically two more months and then he probably makes another switch in his career. This is definitely a situation where we re-evaluate it in a couple of weeks down the road.”

Here’s the coach on the outside back situation:

“It’s definitely a challenge, no doubt about it, but bringing in Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow—those are two guys that play that position day in and day out with their clubs. They’re doing very well. I had them both in the January camp so I absolutely think they have the quality to come to the next level now. But we also have other options maybe coming out of midfield. I’m comfortable that we are covered there.”

His comment about “options coming out of midfield” implies Beasley could slot in at outside back. He also suggested Maurice Edu could play in defensive midfield or at center back.

The options on the backline are either inexperienced or unused to playing with one another, or both.

Two Yoots: Pair of 19-Year-Old Americans Help Galaxy, Sounders Reach CCL Semifinals

For the first time in the history of the CONCACAF Champions League, there are two clubs from Major League Soccer in the final four. Seattle and Los Angeles both advanced to the semis this week, eliminating Tigres of Mexico and Herediano of Costa Rica, respectively, and both got key goals from 19-year-olds who came up through the clubs’ academies. That’s called living right.

Here’s the Galaxy’s Jose Villareal, who was born in Inglewood, Calif., in 1993. You probably remember 1993 like it was yesterday. Villareal is fresh from a standout performance with the U.S. U-20s at the CONCACAF Championships, where he bagged three goals in four games. Last night versus Herediano, he kept his personal momentum going, scoring the second goal to spark LA to a 4-1 win:

Go ahead, watch it again. See the stepover, the spin-o-rama, and the deadly left-footed finish to the far post. Pure class in a glass, as Ray Hudson would say.

The previous night in Seattle, the Sounders fell behind Tigres’s B squad and looked to be on their way out of the CCL. Their 19-year-old right back, DeAndre Yedlin, was beaten—some say fouled—on the play that led to Tigres’s goal and put Seattle in a 2-0 aggregate hole.

The young Seattle native—in his CCL debut and just his second appearance for the Sounders—quickly made amends, scoring a sweet equalizer and turning in an excellent, assured second-half performance.

Check out his goal:

Yedlin was not part of the U.S. U-2o team that qualified for this summer’s World Cup in Turkey, but if he keeps up his current form—he was named to the MLS Team of the Week last week, becoming the first rookie ever to earn the honor in his professional debut—you can bet that coach Tab Ramos will call him in for the tournament.

Bonus Yoot

Another player who was not part of that U-20 qualifying team, but could play his way onto it, is Villareal’s teammate in LA, 18-year-old Jack McBean of Newport Beach, Calif. A big kid with skill and a nose for goal, McBean is the youngest signing in Galaxy history, having put pen to paper with the team in April 2011 at age 16.

Here he is late in last night’s game against Herediano, taking a quick restart and curling a shot into the far side netting to make it 4-1 LA:

The MLS academy system, founded in 2006 and streamlined in ’08, is starting to bear fruit. The 2011 U.S. U-20 team featured just one academy product; this year’s edition featured four—as well as two (Benji Joya and Daniel Cuevas) who split their youth development between US academy sides and the Santos Laguna (Mexico) youth system.