As U23 Olympic head coach Caleb Porter knows, one of the biggest benefits of friendly matches is finding out how your squad deals with adversity and there was plenty of it today for the United States as they faced FC Dallas. The Americans found themselves behind after 15 minutes, allowing Andrew Jacobson to head home Dallas' first chance off a corner, despite dominating the run of possession.
"We made a mistake on a set piece, I thought they had two chances the entire half and they punished us on one. To be fair, we haven’t worked on set pieces a lot, we’ve been together for two days but no excuses," said Porter. "It’s a big part of the game, we lost a runner and we’re down 1-0."
As would be the theme all morning, the Americans quickly responded with a goal from Ike Opara just four minutes later and went on to dominate the rest of the first half.
"I’m pleased with the response, we turned around and pulled a goal right back and I thought we controlled a majority of the rhythm and the tempo. We need to continue to be a little more direct and purposeful at times with our possession so that we’re creating more chances," Porter continued. "We had a couple good actions where we got Brek in once and Juan in once, Juan missed a breakaway. Those little details will come but overall I thought first half was good, we were organized and we’ve just got to clean up the moments."
After taking the lead through a Brek Shea strike off some fantastic service from Freddy Adu, the US would be sternly tested by some refereeing decisions. Shea and right back Kofi Sarkodie, who both picked up deserved yellow cards in the first half, were show rather harsh yellows in the second half and given their marching orders.
"Part of it is silly yellow cards in the first half and now in the second half you put the ref in a position where he can do that. We’ve got to be smart with those little details," said Porter on the decisions. "The game, a lot of times, is won and lost psychologically and how you manage it and how individually and collectively you fight through those moments of adversity, those lulls in the play. I thought our guys for the most part dealt with it as well as they could’ve."
The Americans did very well, moving to what became, in essence, a 4-4-0 formation for the last 15 minutes. As you might expect, FC Dallas held the vast majority of possession and peppered the attacking goal, but Sean Johnson and the US defense held strong with a little help from the post. Coach Porter saw this as a learning experience for what they may see in Olympic qualifying.
"Yeah you know it’s interesting because as much as it was maybe disappointing, some of the calls, we’re going to get that. There’s no guarantee we’re going to get a great ref every game and you never know what you’re going to get when you’re in an international tournament," said Porter. "So for our guys to be able to fight through that adversity and manage the game and still be able to come up with 3 points, most teams get zero points or 1 point in that game if they’re lucky and we ended up still getting three points."
With a friendly on Friday evening against the San Antonio Scorpions before the all-important showdown with Mexico on Wednesday, Porter can take a lot of positives from the 9-man victory. Though I'm sure he'd prefer victory against Mexico with all his players on the pitch.