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U.S. Under-23 MNT Draws With China in First Match of Preparation For CONCACAF Olympic Qualifuing

CHANGSHA, China (December 13, 2007) — The U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team dueled their Chinese counterparts to a spirited 0-0 draw at the Changsha He Long Sports Center in the first of two meeting between the sides. More than 30,000 boisterous fans witnessed a lively contest that saw both teams hit the woodwork and create several scoring chances in the first match for the U.S. under head coach Peter Nowak.

Chris Seitz made several key saves throughout the contest on a crisp evening in Changsha, while both teams enjoyed periods of momentum in the high-paced encounter. The Chinese team, already holding a place in the 2008 Olympic tournament as hosts, fielded a full-strength side that included three overage players.

“It was a very difficult task tonight. Both teams played for the win,” said Nowak. “From our end, we had difficulty finding a good rhythm in the first half. At the same time, we did not make many mistakes. In the second half we had a better rhythm. We started to find good openings and were a little bit unlucky with our finishing. It was a great atmosphere in the stadium tonight, and I thought this was a good start for our preparations for qualification.”

The newly formed U.S. team started out on the defensive against a Chinese side that came out flying while spurred on by the raucous crowd. However, the U.S. settled in quickly and by the sixth minute had already gotten two quality strikes on goal off the foot of Stuart Holden. His efforts from distance would remain a theme throughout the night for the United States, who sought to attack through quick passing and combination play in the middle of the field. On the defensive side of the ball, the U.S. stayed disciplined and compact, closing down space while trying to create turnovers.

The Chinese nearly drew first blood in the 17th minute when a cross from near the left corner flag pinballed to the top of the area where Shen Longyaun sat lurking. The available time and space conspired to make him a bit over-exuberant and his uncontested shot sailed high and wide. Throughout the contest, the Chinese used precision diagonal passes over distance to create one-on-one opportunities against the U.S. flank defenders.

The best chance of the opening stanza came at the 25-minute mark and began with a U.S. miscue at the top of its own area. Both Seitz and defender Patrick Ianni closed on the resulting loose ball that rolled towards the top of the six yard box, only to have the ball escape both of them and trickle towards the endline. Chinese midfielder Du Zhaenyu beat all players to the punch and curled a cross back to the middle of the goal, where Zhou Haiban’s wide open header caromed off the crossbar.

Momentum shifted back towards the visitors shortly thereafter, and the U.S. got another great look at goal in the 31st minute when Sierra Mist Man of the Match Dax McCarty patiently waited for a high-bouncing rebound before unleashing a rising blast from 25 yards that goalkeeper Liu Zhenli struggled to collect. When not contributing in the attacking third, McCarty spent the night doggedly pursuing the Chinese attackers and linking the USA’s backline to the forwards. Both teams continued to probe for the icebreaking goal but entered halftime scoreless.

“I thought it was a pretty well played game from both teams,” said McCarty. “Once we settled into the match, we created problems with them through our possession and quick passing. All that we really lacked was the finishing required in front of the goal.”

The U-23s began the second half by turning up the heat, stringing together several passes while putting the China defense under serious pressure. After earning a corner kick just four minutes in, Hunter Freeman’s delivery to the top of the six yard box found the head of Maurice Edu, who out-jumped the Chinese ‘keeper and directed a header that skimmed the top of the crossbar. The U.S. kept up the pace for the next 15 minutes, creating its best scoring opportunity of the night right on the hour mark. The sequence began with a series of quick passes through the midfield, with Sacha Kljestan eventually finding the feet of Josmer Altidore 30 yards from goal. The imposing striker spun on his mark and proceeded to beat a trio of defenders to find himself one-on-one in the box to the left of goal. With the goalkeeper charging, Altidore slid a low shot that appeared pegged for the far corner, only to be denied by the right post.

That missed opportunity rejuvenated the listless crowd, the building suddenly erupting with energy. For the next 30 minutes both teams took turns applying sustained pressure. The U.S. injected fresh legs into the attack with the additions of Robbie Findley and Robbie Rogers, while Hunter Freeman and Marvell Wynne continued to cause problems with their overlapping runs on both flanks. With both teams displaying more enterprise than finishing ability, the entertaining affair seemed destined to end without a goal.

The Chinese would create one final serious scoring opportunity that came in the final minute of play. A quick one-two at the top of the box sprung Wang Yongpo alone on goal. With Seitz charging, Wang pulled the trigger on a low blast that struck the outside netting.

The U-23s will conclude their two-match tour Sunday afternoon when they face China in Guangzhou. Kickoff at the Yue Xiu Shan Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m. local. The U.S. team will then go on hiatus for the holidays before regrouping at the IMG Academy for a two-week training camp from Jan. 6-20 in Bradenton, Fla.

-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --

Match-up: U.S. Under-23 MNT vs. China U-23 National Team
Date: December 13, 2007
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Helong Stadium – Changsha, China
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. local time
Attendance: 30,000
Weather: 50 degrees, cool

Scoring Summary:
           1   2   F
USA   0   0   0
CHN  0   0   0

USA: 1-Chris Seitz; 17-Marvell Wynne (21-Mike Randolph, 74), 4-Maurice Edu, 6-Patrick Ianni, 9-Hunter Freeman; 15-Stuart Holden (12-Robbie Rogers, 72), 16-Sacha Kljestan (capt.), 19-Dax McCarty, 2-Arturo Alvarez (13-Michael Harrington, 80); 7-Charlie Davies (14-Tim Ward, 88), 3-Jozy Altidore (8-Robbie Findley, 68)
Subs not used: 18- Zac MacMath, 10-Jon Leathers, 11-Aaron Hohlbein
Head Coach: Peter Nowak

CHN: 18-Liu Zhenli; 2-Wan Holiang (16-Zhao Yuri, 64), 5-Li Weifeng, 8-Zhou Haiban, 3- Sun Xiang; 17-Shen Longyaun (Yan Xiangchuang, 66), 10-Du Zhaenyu, 15-Dai Lin, 19-Wang Yongpo; 11-Zhu Ting, 9-Jiang Ning (12-Lv Zheng, 73)
Subs not used:1-Qui Shengjiong, 4-Lv Jianjun, 6-Lu Lin, 13-Yang Shanping, 14-Yuan Weiwei, 20-Wang Xialong
Head Coach: Ratomir Dujkovic

Stats Summary:
                          USA   CHN
Shots                 7         8
Saves                5         5
Corner Kicks    2         4
Fouls                16        5
Offside              2         2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 16th minute

Referee: Tao Rancheng (CHN)
1st Asst.: Liu Qingwei (CHN)
2nd Asst.: Su Jige (CHN)
Fourth Official: Li Bo (CHN)

Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Dax McCarty