With the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team holding their summer camp in San Jose, it was only fitting they would make the trip to the Nutrilite Training Facility for a pair of scrimmage with the Earthquakes. Preparing for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to be held early next year, the squad welcomed the opportunity to get in the tune-ups with the local MLS side. Unfortunately for coach Thomas Rongen's squad, they fell 5-0 to San Jose in the first match Tuesday afternoon.
Rongen's squad has an international feel this time out, with nearly half the players playing club soccer overseas. For the Tuesday and Thursday friendlies, his plan going in was to liberally use all the players on the 24-man roster. We saw that in the 5-0 defeat, as he made many changes to a line-up that still remains somewhat of a mystery to observers. Playing without numbers on their jerseys, I was unable to identify most of the players on the field.
Needless to say, the U-20's were overmatched against the Earthquakes, so perhaps they want to keep their identities a secret for now. They showed good pace against the Quakes, who were starting the same eleven from the scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake last Friday, but never really tested Jon Busch and the defensive back four.
Looking at the game from the Earthquakes perspective, the Tuesday scrimmage gave the players a chance to get in a full speed game ahead of the visit of DC United this Saturday evening. For much of the first half the Quakes seemed content to work the ball through midfield and attempt to create scoring chances in the penalty area. Their best chance came in the 40th minute when Ramiro Corrales took a ball down the left touchline before spotting Chris Wondolowski near the top of the area. As the pass came toward him, Bobby Convey called him off, and Wondo dummied the ball in his path. Convey's one-timed blast slipped agonizingly past the far post.
As the game crept into first-half stoppage time on a hot but windy day at the NTF, the Quakes finally broke through with their first goal. Sam Cronin, who finally took the first long range effort of the afternoon, had his hot blocked by a U-20 defender, with the ball falling to the feet of Wondolowski. Spotting the run of Ryan Johnson into the area, Wondo slid a perfectly weighted ball into his path that allowed RJ to slot home the game's first goal.
Halfway into the second half, the Earthquakes made wholesale changes to the line-up, leaving in just Busch, Bobby Burling, and former U-20'er Ike Opara. The new Quakes soon were taking advantage of a tiring opponent with darting runs into the area and some nice lone range efforts.
In the 76th minute, Brad Ring received the ball just at the top of the box and ran toward goal, but he was tripped up by the goalkeeper and awarded a penalty kick. Cornell Glen calmly placed the spot-kick past a wrong-way diving ‘keeper.
In the 87th minute, with the Earthquakes enjoying the majority of possession in the U-20 half, Arturo Alvarez drove the ball toward the byline before cutting back to his left foot for a spectacular goal past the near post. For those following the senior USMNT, a certain LA Galaxy player must have provided the inspiration for that Alvarez strike.
With the game safely in hand, and San Jose pressuring the U-20's at will, stoppage time included two highlight reel goals from the Quakes reserves. First off was a pearl of a shot from Omar Jasseh, who took the ball just outside the penalty area on the left and blasted a shot off the far post and into the net. In my game notes, all I could write for that one was "DAMN!"
Javier Robles capped off the 5-0 victory with his own long range effort, as he took two touches of a Ring pass just outside the area before unleashing a shot that left the U-20 ‘keeper looking silly.
It was an entertaining game from both sides under the sunny skies at the NTF. The only Quakes not to see action were ‘keeper Joe Cannon -- keeping busy doing light training on the side -- and outfielders Eduardo and Joey Gjertsen. The latter two players are still trying to regain full fitness, so there was no need to put them out for this game.
Thursday afternoon presents a second chance for the Quakes to face the USMNT U-20's, but don't expect the starters to participate. Instead, San Jose will probably look to mix in a number of their academy players as well, which should make for a more even affair.