Sounders forward Jordan Morris and the United States U-23 team lost to Colombia on aggregate on Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas, failing to qualify for the summer Olympic Games for the second consecutive cycle.
Watching from afar in Seattle, Sounders and former youth national team coach Sigi Schmid flashed back to the 1999 World Youth Championship in Nigeria, where his United States team fell to future champion Spain in the Round of 16.
“With Jordan, the way they played down there and the way they played in the first half, they were a little bit not confident, or a little bit afraid,” Schmid said Wednesday. “He was on his own up front. Sometimes that happens with our youth teams.
“When I was coaching the under-20 team, we played Spain in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, and we got beat 3-2. We were down at halftime 3-0. They were killing us. Xavi scored the first goal. They were killing us. My whole halftime speech was, ‘What do you mean, you guys can’t jump with them because the guy’s name is Rodriguez or the guy’s name is Hernandez? You can’t sprint with them?’ That confidence factor was missing.
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“We went out in the second half and scored two goals. We hit the crossbar, we hit the post and Iker Casillas made about three great saves. But we could have almost walked away from that game winning and we lost 3-2. That was the year they won the World Youth Championship and we were the only team to score two goals on them.
“It was the same personnel that went on the field on the second half. But it was their confidence, their attitude. Even when you looked at the U.S. team last night, even though they lost the game, in the second half, their aggression and their ability to hold the ball, their ability to play it forward, all of a sudden improved. It was just a confidence thing, that ‘wait a second, we can play with these guys.’”