- USA return to Beach Soccer World Cup for first time since Tahiti 2013
- Head coach Eddie Soto speaks with FIFA.com about the team’s outlook
- Compares this squad with the USA team at 1990 World Cup in Italy
The USA are back. After missing out on the last two editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the Stars and Stripes are ready to go further than ever before when they compete in Group A at Paraguay 2019 next week.
They clinched their ticket to the World Cup in dramatic fashion, ousting El Salvador on penalty kicks in the semi-final of the 2019 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“We were extremely unlucky not to qualify for the Bahamas World Cup [in 2017],” USA head coach Eddie Soto told FIFA.com. “That had a lot to do with an unfortunate red card to our captain in a crucial game. We have an experienced group, with players like Nick [Perera], Chris [Toth], Oscar [Reyes] and Jason [Leopoldo]. It’s a group that’s been together for awhile that understands the system and has been playing well."
Paraguay 2019 will represent USA’s fifth participation in Beach Soccer World Cup history (2005, 2006, 2007, 2013 & 2019). They have yet to advance past the group stage and into the knockout rounds.
“It’s difficult to get everyone together at the same time,” Soto said. “We all have different schedules. There’s no crazy science behind this: the more you play, the better you are. It reminds me a lot of the 1990 USA World Cup in Italy, where you’re dealing with a mixture of a few amateurs and a few professionals.”
USA's squad, in Soto's words
Regionally speaking, USA trail only Mexico in World Cup participations from Concacaf, with Paraguay 2019 being El Tri’s sixth world finals. So how does coach Soto compare his 2019 group with the one he led in 2013?
“We’re a little bit older, so we’re not as dynamic,” Soto said. “We possess a lot better. We’re a group that’s more patient. We like to set the tempo and build, rather than being direct and look to play patterns. It’s still part of our DNA to do that, but at times now we have to be a bit more wise and manage the clock better and pick our moments to be urgent and pick our moments to be patient. That comes from having an experienced group and one that understands the game, especially at the international level, much better.”
Soto is bringing along five players to Paraguay 2019 that were on his Tahiti 2013 squad in Nick Perera, goalkeeper Chris Toth, Alessandro Canale, Jason Leopoldo and Ryan Futagaki. He will be hoping the team will learn from their 6-2 defeat by Mexico in the Concacaf final that saw them concede all six goals in the third and final period within a span of six minutes.
“We want to win the World Cup, that’s why we’re here! We need to execute. We’re a team that creates a lot of scoring opportunities. We’re very good going forward. So it’s about us finishing our chances. We need to hold on to leads and not give up costly goals in important moments of matches.”
USA played Tahiti and Italy during their preparations for Paraguay 2019 and took 3-0 leads against both of those sides only to lose in overtime on both occasions.
“We need to be comfortable in those uncomfortable moments with things like the pressure of a World Cup and maybe getting a bad call against us. That all comes with experience and hopefully our group has learned their lesson.”
Soto’s bite-size analysis of USA’s group opponents
Switzerland: "They’re extremely well-coached. Their coach [Angelo Schirinzi] is one of the best in the world, who has a lot of experience at World Cups. They’re going to be prepared and ready. But I don’t think he has a lot of film on us. Maybe they’re not as dynamic, where we can maybe exploit. They’re a team that’s definitely beatable."
Japan: "They have one of the best players in the world in Ozu Moreira. He’s a threat as a deep player. He can go forward, he can defend, and they have players who are quick and dynamic. Like Switzerland, they’re a team we’ve played in the past and we’ve beat before, so those are two teams early on, I couldn’t have asked for better opponents."
Paraguay: "This will be the most difficult match, playing the host country. I don’t know them very well. We haven’t played them. And the fact that they’ll be playing at home means they’ll have that sixth-man advantage."