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Post-Match Quote Sheet: U.S. U-17 MNT 1, Cuba 1

U.S. Head Coach John Hackworth
On the midfield struggling tonight:
“It’s not just our midfield. I don’t think our defenders did enough to help our midfield out by giving them a ball in any kind of position where they could deal with it.”

On what he told the players:
“I told the guys after the game that they have to keep their heads up, take this for what it is, learn from it and we still control our own destiny on Saturday night. We can still play better soccer and that is the good news. This team has played very good soccer leading up to this tournament and we need to make sure we go back to basics and do a good job (against Costa Rica).”

On the match against Costa Rica:
“I think you’ll see our team play the kind of soccer we’re capable of playing. We’re not going to walk out there with any other objective than to get a result that gets us into the World Championship.”

On if the early goal may have almost hurt the team’s play:
“As a coach as soon as you see that early goal go in you think, ‘please guys don’t change anything.’ But it is very natural (to change). You get up a goal and you start to defend a little bit and that’s what we did. It can be a negative sometimes and tonight I think it was.”

On the defensive play:
“We actually played very good defensively for the most part. We didn’t allow a shot on goal until they scored. Soccer will humble you like no other game and it only takes one. Unfortunately for us, we found that out the hard way tonight.”

Midfielder Nikolas Besagno
On why the team seemed to struggle:
“I think we were trying to rush it. I think we were trying so hard to win that we weren’t playing our style of soccer and we were just kicking the ball down the field instead of keeping the ball. We also couldn’t finish.”

On getting a draw:
“It happens, you have to deal with it. We’ll have to come back and get a win against Costa Rica. It just wasn’t happening today.”

Midfielder Kyle Nakazawa
On the goal:
“It was actually my first touch of the game. It came across and kind of took a weird bounce, and I just saw the goal and took the shot. It felt really good to get up that early.”

On how they played after the early goal:
“I think the early goal also hurt us a little bit as after that we kind of let down a little bit. Maybe we thought we had it in the bag already.”

Defender Ofori Sarkodie
On why the team struggled:
“For the defense, it was a problem with organization. We had talked about it before the game and maybe guys were a little confused with their roles when the pressure was actually on. We should have done a better job of organizing that in the first half.”

On the team’s play:
“I think there was a bit of a letdown (after the U.S. goal). I think even more than a letdown, we started playing timid and relaxed. That’s when Cuba stepped up their game and put us under a little more pressure.”

On the match against Costa Rica:
“I think right now our focus is definitely on Costa Rica. This game is in the past right now. Points, goal differential, it really just comes down to us beating Costa Rica and that is what our focus is right now.”

Goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner
On Cuba's goal:
"Ofori (Sarkodie) tried to clear the ball and it went right to their guy. There was a guy in front of the guy with the ball so I couldn't see the ball. He just took a quick shot and I didn't see it until the last second. I couldn't get there."