Before the U.S. looks toward the world championship from November 21 to December 5 in Chinese Taipei, the U.S. will play Cuba on Saturday at 8 p.m. local time for the CONCACAF Futsal Championship gold medal.
"I am proud of the guys," head coach Keith Tozer said. "As I told them after the game, they believed in the game plan, and they went out and executed a game plan from the beginning to the end. This team didn't think about the outcome. That was the amazing thing. They all though about their responsibilities. This is such a huge victory, not only for U.S. Futsal, but for U.S. Soccer in general. To come down to play a highly regarded team in their own building, in their own country and to beat them 4-0 is an amazing feeling.
"It's an experience that I am going to remember for the rest of my life, but the job is not done yet -- we have Cuba tomorrow."
Andy Guastaferro converted his third penalty kick in three consecutive matches after Don D'Ambra was taken down inside the penalty area. Greg Howes they added back-to-back goals in the second stanza - one on a deflection and one from more than three-quarters of the court into an empty net when Costa Rica brought on a fifth attacker. Howes then set up Joel Shanker for his third goal of the tournament on a breakaway in the waning moments of the game.
Defensively, the U.S. gave up 41 shots as Costa Rica pressured and pressured, including playing much of the final seven minutes with a fifth attacker on the field. U.S. goalkeeper Brett Phillips was also rock solid on the night, making 20 saves including 14 in the second half. As icing on the cake, Phillips would also assist on both goals by Howes."This is the pinnacle of what you play for, especially for us," said Lee Tschantret, who was wearing the captain's armband as Sean Bowers sat out a second consecutive match with a calf strain. "We are going to a World Cup. We are going to Taipei and it feels great. We battled and the atmosphere tonight was unbelievable. It was just 12 guys who really came together and battled. We handled all kinds of adversity. Sean was hurt; John (Ball) missed a couple of games. We really pulled together over the last three or four days. It was unbelievable, it's a great feeling."
The game plan for the U.S. was to play defensively to frustrate Costa Rica and keep the fans out of the game. The Ticos came out and pressed as was expected, and nine of their first 11 shots had missed the target, with the other two saved by Phillips.
By the time that Costa Rica settled down and began to get more of their shots on target, the U.S. has already taken a 1-0 lead as Guastaferro converted the penalty kick. Ball, back from two games worth of suspensions, played the ball into the top of the area to D'Ambra and as he turned to shoot he was fouled.
In the second half, the Ticos came out firing and Phillips stepped up his game - saving seven of the first nine shots he faced. The the defense holding, the U.S then added a second goal before the midway point of the second half as Phillips got the ball ahead to Howes in the offensive half on the right side. He blasted a first-time cross looking for Ball on the back post, but a Costa Rican defender got a toe on the pass and it deflected it past the Costa Rican goalkeeper.
With seven minutes to go, Costa Rica put on Carlos Chaves as a fifth attacker and held the ball in the U.S. end for much of the remaining time. As Philips was making save after save, a shot by Costa Rican Michael Barrantes was deflected out to Howes midway between the six meter mark and the touch line. Howes turned and blasted a looping, first-time shot that found the back of the net with the sixth attacker still up ahead of halfway line.In the final moments, with the result not in question and Costa Rican goalkeeper Justin Wallace back between the pipes Howes and Shanker worked a perfect 2 v. 1 as Shanker scored on a cross from Howes at the left post.
The U.S. will face Cuba on Saturday at 8 p.m. for a shot at their second CONCACAF Gold in three tournaments, with the last coming in 1996. Cuba topped Mexico 5-4 before the U.S. game on a last minute penalty kick conversion to advance to the final. The U.S. tied Cuba 1-1 in group play just two days ago.
- U.S. National Futsal Team Game Reports -
Participants: U.S. National Futsal Team vs. Costa Rica
Competition: CONCACAF Futsal Tournament
Location: Palacio de los Deportes
Date: July 30, 2004
1st 2nd Final
Costa Rica 0 0 0
United States 1 3 4
USA - Andy Guastaferro (PK) 8th mintue
USA - Greg Howes (Brett Phillips) 28th
USA - Howes (Phillips) 37th
USA - Joel Shanker (Howes) 38th
USA ? 12-Brett Phillips, 7-Pat White, 4-Greg Howes, 5-Todd Dusosky, 9-Joel Shanker
Subs Used: 10-Lee Tschantret (c), 2-Andy Guastaferro, 3-John Ball, 8-Danny Kelly, 11-Don D'Ambra
Head Coach: Keith Tozer
CRC ? 12-Justin Wallace, 3-Adonai Vindas, 5-Henry Valverde, 10-Yanan Montoya, 11-Michael Barrantes
Subs Used: 2-Jason Arce, 4-Carlos Chaves, 6-Johnny Rodriguez, 7-Jefrid Ruiz, 8-Junior Rodriguez (c), 9-Mauricio Carvajal
Head Coach: Carlos Quiros
Shots 12 41
Corners 4 17
Fouls 6 5
Saves 20 4
Referee: Vladimir Maso Goitisolo (CUB)
Second Referee: Roy McArthur (GUY)
Group A Standings
GP W L T PTS GF GA GD
CRC 3 3 0 0 9 23 2 +21
MEX 3 2 1 0 6 12 13 -1
TRI 3 1 2 0 3 12 16 -4
SUR 3 0 3 0 0 10 26 -16
Group B Standings
GP W L T PTS GF GA GD
CUB 3 2 0 1 7 13 4 +9
USA 3 1 0 2 5 9 3 +6
PAN 3 1 1 1 4 10 7 +3
GUY 3 0 3 0 0 6 24 -13
Mexico 4, Cuba 5
USA 4, Costa Rica 0
Saturday, July 31
Mexico vs. Costa Rica 6 p.m.
USA vs. Cuba 8 p.m.