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U-23 Men Surrender Two Late Goals and Settle for 2-2 Draw vs. JFL Side Rosso Kumamoto

KUMAMOTO, Japan (February 23, 2007) - The U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team spent 82 minutes controlling the match on the field and on the scoreboard before surrendering back-to-back goals that led to a 2-2 draw against JFL side Rosso Kumamoto. Adam Cristman netted a pair of second half goals off deliveries from Sal Zizzo to seemingly give the U.S. command of the match, only to see goals in the 82nd and 83rd minutes erase the lead and force the team to settle for a point. The U.S. finished their two-match tour of Japan with a 0-0-2 record, having tied the Japan U-22 Men’s National Team, 0-0, on Wednesday evening.

“For our team, it is disappointing to lose a two goal lead in the last 10 minutes of the match,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “Some of the play to get the lead was quite good, but we didn’t show a good mentality in finishing off the game. Give credit to Rosso Kumamoto for staying in the game and coming back. Overall, we have made some progress with this group over the last two weeks, and have a built a foundation for our work together in the future.”

The U.S. controlled the tempo from the opening whistle, and nearly put points on the board before the game had breathed to life. In the second minute, Arturo Alvarez whipped a free kick across the six-yard box where Rob Valentino had out-jumped his mark. However, the six-foot defender failed to make a solid connection as the ball skimmed off his forehead and out of bounds. The teams traded chances in the first 10 minutes, but it was clear the U.S. held the upper hand. Throughout the first 45 minutes the USA were able to combine through the midfield and find space down the flanks, but a lack of precision in the final third kept the score even going into halftime.

The U.S. came flying out of the gates to open the second half, and their persistence was rewarded almost instantly. Off a quick counter, Alvarez wedged a great through ball past a pair of defenders and hit a streaking Sal Zizzo who had timed his run perfectly. In one on one, he had picked out the far post only to see the ‘keeper make a fine kick save. The rebound fell to Cristman, who had alertly followed the play, and he calmly put home the game’s first goal.

The U.S. continued to probe the Kumamoto defense with runs through the middle of the park, and the Cristman-Zizzo partnership would once again pay dividends, this time sparked by the vision of Sacha Kljestan. The team captain cleverly laid a ball behind the back three and Zizzo used his superior pace to blow past several markers to reach the ball first. Turning the corner near the endline, he laid a perfectly weighted pass across the six-yard box that eluded goalkeeper Hiroki Kobayashi. It then became a foot race to the spot, with Cristman outworking his marker and sliding to knock the ball into the back of the net.

While still maintaining superiority in possession, the U.S. began to ease off on the pressure. Nevertheless, the hosts did not create any real scoring opportunities until back-to-back free kicks in the final 10 minutes, a stretch that would come to haunt the U.S. team.

A foul just outside the area set the table for substitute Daishiro Miyazaki, who calmly curled a bending free kick to the upper left corner in the 82nd minute to pull Kumamoto within a goal. Before the dust had settled, they had earned a seemingly innocuous free kick near the left sideline 40 yards from goal. The well-placed delivery finished its arc around the penalty spot, and defender Yusuke Suzuki won the challenge between Valentino and the on-rushing Justin Hughes. His glancing header sailed easily into the center of the net, setting up a frantic final 10 minutes as the U.S. pressed for the game-winner.

Two golden opportunities would come their way, both landing on the shoulders of midfielder Sean Franklin. With two minutes remaining in regulation, a quick USA counter put Kljestan in command of the charge. He slipped a ball wide to the hard charging Franklin, who found himself in alone on goal at the top right corner of the box. Choosing to take aim, he drilled a right-footed blast over the crossbar. Then with the final seconds ticking away, a clever combination between Kljestan and Zizzo in the area opened up space for Michael Harrington on the far left. Teeing up a cross, he picked out Franklin, who had raced across the goalmouth. His header from three yards out was miraculously foiled by substitute goalkeeper Yoichi Futori, who had scrambled back across the goal line and managed an improbable kick save to preserve the draw.

The draw keeps U.S. head coach Bob Bradley undefeated at the international level, combining two draws on this trip with victories against Mexico and Denmark as the head coach of the senior team. Bradley and assistant Peter Nowak will next get back to work with the full team at the end of March, convening a training camp to prepare for the upcoming friendlies against Ecuador (tickets) on March 25 in Tampa, Fla., and Guatemala (tickets) on March 28 in Frisco, Texas.

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

Match-up: U.S. Under-23 MNT vs. Rosso Kumamoto
Date: February 23, 2007
Competition: Friendly
Venue: KKWing Stadium – Kumamoto, Japan
Kickoff: 7 p.m. local time
Attendance: 2,010
Weather: 48 degrees

Scoring Summary:
                                     1      2     F

USA                               0     2     2
Rosso Kumamoto      0     2     2

USA – Adam Cristman (Sal Zizzo) 46th minute
USA – Adam Cristman (Sal Zizzo) 57.
RKO – Daishiro Miyazaki 82.
RKO – Yusuke Suzuki 83.

USA: 24-Justin Hughes; 14-Hunter Freeman, 4-Patrick Ianni (5-Nathan Sturgis, 61’), 3-Rob Valentino, 20-Michael Harrington; 6-Quavas Kirk (15-Sean Franklin, 68’) 17-Sacha Kljestan (capt.), 7-Peter Lowry (2-Ryan Solle, 73’), 9-Arturo Alvarez; 16-Adam Cristman (12-Tim Ward, 73’), 11-Sal Zizzo
Subs not used: 1-Chris Seitz
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

RKO: 21-Hiroki Kobayahsi (1-Youichi Futori, 87’), 4-Yusuke Suzuki, 16-Daisuke Yano (18-Naoya Ootaki, 46’), 22-Takumi Morikawa; 15-Atsushi Ichimura (14-Kenichi Kawano,46’), 26-Syohei Yamamoto, 28-Kosuke Yoshii, 5-Takeshi Yagamuchi (10-Kiyoshi Saitoh, 57’), 17-Masahiko Kumigai (27-Daishiro Miyazaki, 46’); 29-Yosuke Kobayashi (9-Yoshio Kitigawa, 46’), 30-Yuichi Yamauchi (24-Masahito Endoh, 70’)
Head Coach: Tomoyoshi Ikeya

Stats Summary: USA / RKO
Shots: 11 / 10
Saves: 3 / 8
Corner Kicks: 2 / 7
Fouls: 8 / 22
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
RKO – Daisuke Yano (caution) 21st minute
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 31.
USA – Arturo Alvarez (caution) 86.
USA – Rob Valentino (caution) 90.

Referee: Mr. M. Watanabe (JPN)
1st Asst.: Mr. J. Kashihara (JPN)
2nd Asst.: Mr. K. Murakami (JPN)
Fourth Official: Mr. T. Aiba (JPN)

Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Adam Cristman