Friday, July 13, 2007

US-Austria Preview

What possibly could be the most underhyped of the four quarterfinal games of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup (at least from a global view) features the US and Austria, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals to take on the winner of the Spain-Czech Republic game. The US is seen as the significant favorite over Austria, however they were seen in the same light before their game against Uruguay and that was a much closer game than many people thought it would be.

Austria's roster is comprised of all domestic-based players except for one, Martin Harnik, who plays for Werder Bremen in Germany. They're led offensively by Erwin--and this is not my own bad joke--"Jimmy" Hoffer, who's scored twice in four games for his side. Austria as a team has only scored four goals in this tournament; however they've only conceded two and if they can force their tempo on the US like Uruguay did, they could pull the upset and move on to the semi-finals. Three different goalies have played for Austria thus far; Michael Zaglmair has started twice and Andreas Lukse and Bartolomej Kuru have started once. Zaglmair was in net for Austria's 1-1 tie with Congo in the first group game and for the 2-1 win over Gambia in the quarterfinals. It seems as if a rotation is in place, and if that's the case, Andreas Lukse is in line to start against the US as his last appearance was in the second group game (a 1-0 victory over Canada). One thing is for certain though: Austria's defense is led by Sebastian Proedl, who plays his club soccer at SK Sturm Graz. Proedl has played every minute of every game at this U-20 World Cup, and at 6'2", 187, Proedl is a physically imposing player who could give the US fits all night.

I'd venture to say everyone reading this preview knows about the US by this point. Freddy Adu, Josmer Altidore, Danny Szetela, and Sal Zizzo have carried the US to this stage in the tournament. However, Altidore's availability could be in question after he limped off with a knee injury in the 51st minute against Uruguay. The last thing the US needs is to play without Altidore against an already-referenced stout defense. The two goals scored in the Uruguay game were scrappy, hard-nosed goals that don't come around too often. Andre Akpan didn't show much of anything after he was subbed on for Altidore and if he has to start this game, the US could be in trouble offensively. Their goalkeeping situation also could be in doubt. Chris Seitz, the starter, got injured against Brazil and was obviously still too banged up to play against Uruguay was Brian Perk got the call. There's a huge gap between Seitz and Perk, in my opinion, and though it may not turn out to be much a factor against a team like Austria that struggles to score, I'd rather have Seitz in goal ten times out of ten. Perk looked shaky at best against Uruguay; not calling off defenders to claim the ball himself, punching balls he easily could've caught, in short, looking every bit of the 17 years of age that he is. Seitz is a steady, calming influence at the back and his presence alone would give the US a huge advantage.

Toronto, Ontario is the host city for tomorrow's game, which is scheduled for a 2:15 PM Eastern Time kickoff on ESPN U. Check back here for a full match recap, one which hopefully will be celebrating a US win.

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