These USA vs Italy matches have gotten to be quite something. The U- 17 World Cup match today was no exception. A missed penalty made the difference.
The USA had their chances including a penalty awarded for a handball on Federico Mannini in the 17th minute. But Jack McInerney saw his penalty kick saved by replacement goalie Francesco Bardi. It proved costly as Italy went ahead through Giacomo Beretta in the 29th minute as the striker became the recipient of Pietro Iemmello's header straight into his path.
Nick Palodichuk had a big match for the second time as he headed the ball after the resumption of play for the equalizer. The US dominated proceedings and controlled the ball with McInerney unable to finish Luis Gil's good approach work. The Italians struck again as Iemmelo this time became the goalscorer with his one touch strike. The USA had a golden chance before the end of play to draw level with substitute Victor Chavez dragging his shot wide of Bardi.
Wilmer Cabrera has done a great job with these kids. The US was profligate in not finishing off chances but what is heartening to see is the first genuine signs of understanding the importance of ball possession. There is a tempo, a nascent pacesetting quality that one saw in these matches.
In this match the USA retained the ball 55% to Italy's 45%. This is quite startling because possession stats usually favour Italy. Compare that to the far poorer ball possession/ control of the USMNT in the Confederations Cup and you can see why Brazil was able to come back.
The Slam! Bam! Wham! Thank you, Donovan! style is very pleasing at its counterattacking best. The rest is an after thought:The ability to slow down, retain control, and make the other team earn possession. Against quality opposition this proves to be an Achilles heel. It is too late for Bob Bradley to take the emphasis away from the pedal to the metal approach for the upcoming World Cup but in the junior teams there seems to be a better balance. I fully envision a multifaceted 2018 World Cup team that will be a force to reckon with.