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U.S. Under-17 '88 MNT Finish Second at Ballymena Tournament, Zimmerman Awarded MVP

The U.S. Under-17 ’88 Men’s National Team got their third shutout in four matches, but ended up falling to Switzerland 4-3 in penalty kicks this afternoon in the championship match of the 5th Ballymena International Tournament in Northern Ireland.

The Under-17s '88s second-place finish ties their best showing at the tournament in three attempts, as they also took home the second place trophy in 2002. In their first effort in 2000, the U.S. finished in sixth place out of the 12-team field.

U.S. forward Preston Zimmerman was named the tournament MVP after scoring two goals and wreaking havoc on the opposition's defense in their four matches.

The U.S. dominated the taller and more physical Swiss with good ball movement and speed upfront, but couldn’t find the back of the net despite a 12-5 shot advantage. The Swiss took home their second David Cairns Memorial Trophy (they won their first in 1999) when goalkeeper Kevin Pickentscher saved Carlos Borja’s penalty shot. It was the first time in the history of the Ballymena International Tournament that penalties decided the championship match.

“I am very proud of the way the team has come together during this tournament,” said U.S. Under-17 head coach John Ellinger. “We finished with two wins and two draws, and we only allowed one goal in four games. Bryant Rueckner and the back three of Eric Lichaj, Michael Balogun, and Ofori Sarkodie played strong through out the tournament and that gives us something to build on.  Our two strikers Quavas Kirk and Preston Zimmerman have been a handful for every team, and with continued experience at this level they will begin to become consistent scorers.”

The U.S. pressured Switzerland’s backline right away and had the first opportunity on goal as a 3rd minute header from Kirk just missed the frame. Throughout the first 45 minutes Kevin Alston, Ryan Soroka, Borja and Kirk all had opportunities on goal, but couldn’t bury it into the net.

The U.S. defense again came up big, limiting Switzerland to few chances on frame. On their lone opportunity in the first half, Alessandro Ciarrocchi was able to nutmeg Lichaj and put a shot on goal, but Rueckner was able to get an outstretched hand to knock it wide.  

In the second half, Switzerland made a few changes and brought on three forwards in an attempt to add some firepower, but they didn’t find much success.

The U.S. was able to create a number of chances in the second stanza and it appeared it was just a matter of time before they took a lead, but nothing seemed to fall for them.

The USA’s best chance came in the 52nd minute as Alston managed to get past three defenders on the left wing and get free in the penalty area before pulling the ball back to Kirk at the 6-yard box. Kirk hit a one-timer, but what appeared to be a sure goal rolled past the wrong side of the post.

Zimmerman had a chance in injury time to give the U.S. the deserved victory, but his 12-yard strike was saved by Pickentscher with a diving one-arm stab.

In the penalty shootout, the Swiss shot first and made all of their first three attempts. Kirk, Zimmerman and Nik Besango kept the U.S. even, finishing the team's first three penalties. With Switzerland converting and Ryan Soroka missing over the bar on the fourth attempt the U.S. fell behind, but were given a chance to stay in it when the Switzerland’s fifth shooter missed wide left. Unfortunately, Borja was stuffed by a sprawling save from Peckentscher to give the Swiss the victory.

The U.S. advanced to the final after going undefeated in their first three matches to finish atop Group B.  The U.S. opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Belgium, and then defeated Scotland 2-0 a day later before finishing group play with a 1-1 draw against Austria.

The first Ballymena International Tournament took place in 1999 and included only four teams, but just a year later the tournament was expanded to 12 teams, which included the USA’s first involvement. In 2001, the tournament was cancelled because of travel restrictions resulting from an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, but returned in 2002 to the current structure of eight teams, while a four-team girls’ tournament was also introduced.

Trophies were awarded for each of the four placement matches and were presented by the Ballymena Borough Council. The championship trophy is in memory of David Cairns, who was born in the Borough and had served as manager of the Northern Ireland Schools’ Under-15 team for 20 years and was Chairman of the Northern Ireland Schools’ Football Association.

- U.S. Under-17 '88 Men's National Team Game Report -

U.S. Under-17 ‘88s Men’s National Team vs. Switzerland
Competition: Ballymena Tournament
Location: Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Date: May 3, 2004
Weather: Brisk and chilly, 40 degrees

Scoring Summary:    1st    2nd      Final 
SUI                                   0        0          0
USA                                 0        0          0

Penalty kicks:
SUI - Halimi (scored), Rachitic (scored), Elmer (scored), Pavlovic (scored), Mollet (missed)
USA - Kirk (scored), Zimmerman (scored), Besango (scored), Soroka (missed), Borja (saved)

1-Bryant Rueckner; 4-Eric Lichaj, 2-Michael Balogun, 7-Ofori Sarkodie; 5-Richard Edgar, 10-Carlos Borja, 3-Kevin Alston (15-Amaechi Igwe, 76), 11-Ryan Soroka, 16-Nik Besango; 9-Preston Zimmerman, 6-Quavas Kirk.

SUI: 12-Kevin Pickentscher; 2-Remo Staubli, 4-Samuel Haas, 17-Raphael Mollet, 18-Jan Hartmann; 15-Damien Germanier (9-Bekim Halimi, 53), 13-Fabian Stoller (7-Fabio Klinger, 53), 8-Shkelzen Gashi (10-Ivan Rakitic, 53), 3- Jones Elmer; 14-Alessandro Ciarrocchi (6-Daniel Pavlovic, 53), 16-Moreno Costonzo (11-Francois Arona, 65).   

Statistical Summary:   SUI         USA
Shots                                   5            12
Saves                                  8              4
Corner Kick                        4              5
Fouls                                  18            11
Offside                                0               2

Misconduct Summary:
USA - Nik Besango (caution)                      28th minute
SUI - Samuel Hass (caution)                       40th minute
SUI - Daniel Pavlovic (caution)                   59th

5th Ballymena International Tournament

Group A
Team                     GP   W   L   T    GF   GA   +/-    Pts
Switzerland            3      2    0   1     6       3     +3     7
Finland                   3      1     1   1     6      7     -1      4
Northern Ireland     3      0    1   2     3       4      -1      2
Canada                  3      0     1   2     3      4      -1      2

Group B
Team                     GP   W   L   T    GF   GA   +/-    Pts
USA                        3      2    0   1     4       1    +3      7
Scotland                 3      1    1   1     3       3      0      4
Austria                    3      1    1   1     3       4     -1      4
Belgium                  3      0    2   1     0       2     -2      0

Thursday, April 29
Group A
Switzerland 4, Finland 2
Canada 1, N. Ireland 1

Group B
Scotland 3, Austria 1
USA 1, Belgium 0

Friday, April 30
Group A
Northern Ireland 2, Finland 2
Canada 1, Switzerland 1

Group B
, Scotland 0
Austria 1, Belgium 0

Saturday, May 1
Group A
Canada 1, Finland 2
N.Ireland 0, Switzerland 1

Group B
USA 1, Austria 1
Scotland 0, Belgium 0

Monday, May 3
Placement Matches
Ballymena Bowl -- Canda 0, Belgium 0 (Belgium wins 6-5 on penalties)
Larne Sheild -- Northern Ireland 2, Austria 4 
Larne Plate -- Finland 1, Scotland 5
David Cairns Memorial Trophy -- USA 0, Switzerland 0 (Switzerland wins 4-3 on penalties)