BLACKBURN, England (August 2, 2003) - The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team got three second half goals from Freddy Adu as they downed the U-18 Blackburn Rovers 4-2 today at the Blackburn Rovers Academy. The match was the first of four preparation games the team will play this week, before it travels to Finland for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship. The U.S. will next play fellow World Championship participant Australia on Monday at Everton FC’s training ground.
"I’m pleased with the team’s effort today, especially in the second half," said U-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Ellinger. "We struggled a bit in the first half, but we ended up finding a rhythm and were able to get a number of good looks on goal. These are the kinds of games we need to play to help us get prepared for Finland."
After only garnering a 1-1 tie in the first half and being outplayed with a line-up consisting of regular starters and usual reserves, Ellinger made six substitutions - including Adu - to start the second half. The fresh legs made an immediate impact as the pace of the game picked up and the U.S. began to pressure Blackburn’s backline from the opening whistle.
After only getting a few touches early in the half, Adu made his presence felt in the 54th minute. From about 25-yards out, Adu ran beneath a Blackburn defensive clearance that was deflected high into the air, trapped the ball and turned to face the goal. Using the space in front of him, Adu dribbled towards a collection of three Blackburn defenders and fellow teammates. As the defenders made their challenge, he pushed the ball to his left, getting just inside the 18-yard box and effortlessly ripped a shot inside the right post past the keeper.
Four minutes later, Adu notched the eventual game-winner by taking advantage of a defensive miscue by Blackburn central defender Luke Humphrey. Humphrey misplayed a back pass, knocking the ball off his shin to the open area in front of him. Adu pounced on the loose ball, dribbled directly towards Humphrey and used his speed to push the ball to his left, past the lone defender. With just ‘keeper Steve Drench to beat, Adu again slotted the ball into the right side of the goal with his left foot.
The U.S. continued to dominate the second half getting numerous chances, while deflating most of the offensive attacks by Blackburn.
Despite the lopsided play, Blackburn was able to cut their deficit to 3-2 after ‘keeper Quentin Westberg was called for a trip in the box in the 68th minute. As midfielder Sergio Peter ran onto a through ball from Tareck Sakali on the right of the penalty area, Westberg charged off his line to challenge. Westberg slid on his side and tried to snag the ball before Peter could get a foot on it, but may have gotten a piece of the midfielder’s boot, sending him tumbling and triggering the referee to call a foul. Sakali finished the penalty, knocking it to his right as Westberg dove to the opposite post.
Adu finished off the scoring 10 minutes later off a beautifully crafted play that started from the U.S. backline. Central defender Jonathan Spector dribbled into space near midfield before laying the ball off to his left to midfielder Corey Ashe. Ashe pushed the ball to the middle and used his speed to collapse towards goal, drawing multiple defenders at the top of the penalty half-circle. With a light touch, he flicked the ball inside the box to Adu, who buried the ball into the back of the net despite being flanked by two defenders.
The three-goal output gives Adu 17 on the year, putting him in second place for most goals scored behind Guillermo Gonzalez (20).
In the first half, Blackburn had the upper hand as they continually were able to break through the U.S. defense and get shots on goal. The backline particularly had trouble keeping forward Keith Barker, whom at 6’4" towered over most of the U.S. player, in check. Early in the contest, Barker got a good look from about 10 yards out, but his low blast went wide right.
Blackburn did finally get on the board in the first half, breaking open the scoring in the 5th minute off a corner kick. The U.S., which struggled to mark up during almost every free kick in the first half, failed to challenger defender Gavin Peers as he whipped a wicked header that caromed off the crossbar and dropped in.
Despite being outplayed at the time, the U.S. was able to get an equalizer less than a minute later. Danny Szetela started the U.S. attack with a nice lead ball to Eddie Gaven on the left flank. Eddie chased the ball down and curled in a low cross that was appeared would be snatched by the keeper, but Watson was able to slide in front and get his foot on it to knock into the net.
During the first half, Watson was a terror on the U.S. frontline, creating numerous other chances. In the 20th minute, Watson collected a through ball from Gaven after making a nice run through the Blackburn defense, but his first touch was a bit too much and the keeper was able to pounce on the loose ball. Five minutes later, Watson again collected a pass off a run to the left side which left him with an open shot, but his attempt went just wide of the right post.
- U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Game Report -
Participants: U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team vs. Blackburn Rovers U-18
Competition: World Championship Preparation Match
Location: Blackburn Rovers Training Academy
Date: August 2, 2003
Weather: Warm; 65 degrees
1st 2nd Final
United States 1 3 4
Blackburn U-18 1 1 2
BLK – Gavin Peers 5th minute
USA – Jamie Watson 6th
USA – Freddy Adu 54th
USA – Freddy Adu 58th
BLK – Tareck Sakali 68th
USA – Freddy Adu 78th
Subs not used: 1-Phil Marfuggi, 28-Steven Sandbo, 6-Jacob Peterson
BLK – 1-Steve Drench (13-Joe Anyon, 69); 3-Andy Taylor, 5-Luke Jones, 6-Gavin Peers (14-Luke Humphrey, 56), 2-Paul Weaver; 11-Sergio Peter (16-Boubackar Kebe, 65), 4-Joel Byrom, 8-Peter Corvino (12-Jim Hoyle, 58), 7-Tareck Sakali; 10-Clark Walsh (15-Andrew Reid, 68), 9-Keith Barker.
Shots 11 4
Saves 2 6
Corner Kick 5 6
Fouls 6 17
Offside 1 0