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U.S. U-20 MNT Cruises Past Panama with a 5-0 Win

PANAMA CITY, Panama (January 21, 2007) — Already qualified for their record-setting sixth straight FIFA U-20 World Cup due to the result the night’s earlier match, the U.S. won Group A of the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament with a 5-0 victory against Panama in front of a sea of red at Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, Panama.

Haiti upset Guatemala, 2-0, in the first match of the doubleheader, mathematically advancing the U.S. and Panama to the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada this summer. With the pressure off, the U.S. dominated the hosts to go undefeated and finish in sole possession of first place in qualifying for the second straight time, and the first time ever outside the country. The U.S. pulled off the feat for the first time in 2005 in Carson, Calif., after being denied of the achievement in 1998 and 2001 when the Americans finished tied with Costa Rica on points both times but finished second due to tie-breakers.

The U.S. finished 2-0-1 with seven points and didn't allow a goal in the run of play over 270 minutes. The lone goal allowed by the U.S. was a penalty kick against Haiti.

Freddy Adu was named the Sierra Mist Man of the Match for scoring two goals on the night, including the opener in the seventh minute of the match. Robbie Rogers, Johann Smith and Jonathan Villanueva all tallied in the second half before Adu finished off the rout with a strike in the 90th minute.

“We prepared ourselves in the manner that we needed in order to ourselves through to the World Cup, regardless of (Guatemala's) result against Haiti,” said U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. “Our team was highly motivated this morning, wanted to finish the job on a high note and we did. We showed in this game what we're capable of. We are a good team that came into a very tough surrounding against a very good opponent.”

“Congratulations to Panama on also advancing, they deserve to be there, but we feel that we are one of the better teams in CONCACAF and we wanted to show that today.”

The 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup will take place in Canada from June 30-July 22 across six cities – Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria. The U.S. will find out their opponents for the FIFA 2007 U-20 World Cup on March 3 when the draw is held in Toronto. With more than 350,000 tickets already sold for the competition, the U-20 World Cup is set to become the largest single-sport event in Canadian history.

This will be the second team Rongen will take to a FIFA U-20 World Cup, having coached the U.S. Under-20s at the 2003 event in the United Arab Emirates (then named FIFA World Youth Championship), leading the team to an impressive fifth place finish.

The U.S. and Panama are the 11th and 12th teams to qualify for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada this summer and the first of four CONCACAF teams that will join the host this summer. The other two CONCACAF berths will come from Group B, which will occur a month later from Feb. 21-25 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, located on the west coast of Mexico. Competing with the hosts will be Costa Rica, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica.

Rongen inserted two new starters against Panama, both forwards, with Smith seeing his first minutes of the tournament on the right forward spot and Josmer Altidore getting his first start centrally up top after coming on as a sub against Guatemala. Quavas Kirk once again started at right back, while Tony Beltran who started there against Guatemala moved into a linking midfield position, his position with UCLA, in place of Anthony Wallace.

Adu scored on the first and last shot of the match, putting away the game-winner in the seventh minute and then closing out the scoring with just seconds remaining. On the first goal, Smith got the ball on the right flank, beat his first defender with a step over and then his second with speed before slipping the ball along the six-yard box for the unmarked Adu. The 17-year-old veteran showed poise by calmly placing his left-footed shot past the scrambling ‘keeper.

His second strike in the game’s final moments came from another quality service, this time by Rogers who slalomed through defenders inside the penalty area before feeding the captain about 15 yards out. Adu lined up his shot and hit a laser inside the right post.

After the game, Adu said: “There were 20,000 people there, everyone wearing Panama jerseys and I told the guys, 'If you don't get excited for a game like this, in an atmosphere like this, then there's something wrong with you, because as athletes, this is what we live for.’ You could just see it in the guys' eyes, they were ready to go. It was great.”

Rogers started off the second-half scoring spurt just five minutes in receiving a through ball on the left side from Adu. Once inside the penalty area, Rogers cut back and left the defender sprawled on the ground before blasting a shot under the goalkeeper from 12 yards out.

Using his phenomenal speed, Smith got behind Panama’s defensive line to register the first international goal in his U-20 career in the 61st minute. Sturgis knocked the ball overhead and Johann burned past his defender, held him off while taking a settling touch before slipping it past the ‘keeper.

During the next four minutes, Panama won two dangerous free kicks but wasn’t able to test Seitz as the frustration continued for hosts. In the 66th minute, that frustration boiled over when Francisco Casataneda fouled Rogers and earned his second yellow, forcing Panama to play with 10 for the rest of the match.

Up a man, the U.S. didn’t let off the gas as Danny Szetela looped in long ball over the backline from the center circle to second-half substitute Jonathan Villanueva. The Virginia midfielder’s first shot from the top of the box was saved, but the rebound fell directly back to him and he headed it home for the fourth goal.

Panama had only two shots on goal and created their best opportunity in the 29th minute, but goalkeeper Chris Seitz came up with one of the few saves he’s needed to make during the tournament to keep the lead. On the attack, Panama quickly pushed the ball up to captain Gabriel Torres who tried to turn Nathan Sturgis with three cut backs, but despite the coos from the crowd the U.S. defender did well to hold his ground and Torres laid it across to Josue Jafeth Brown at the top of the box. Brown pushed the ball to his right for the crashing Fernando Barber who hit a first-timer that Seitz stretched out to knock away before Szetela cleared the loose ball from danger.

Along with the host, 10 teams from Europe and Asia have already booked a place in the World Cup. Japan, Jordan, Korea Republic and North Korea qualified from Asia, while Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Scotland and Spain are in from Europe.

In Canada, the U.S. will look to improve on its disappointing 11th place finish in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, when they were knocked out of the Round of 16 by Italy after going undefeated in group play. In 2003, the U.S. led Argentina for most of the match until an equalizer in the final moments and a penalty kick in overtime ended their chances for their second appearance in the semifinals of a U-20 World Cup. The only appearance in the final four of a U-20 World Cup by a U.S. team was in Saudi Arabia in 1989 when current MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller helped lead his team to a best-ever fourth place finish.

- U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team Game Report -

Participants: USA vs. Panama
Competition: CONCACAF Group A Qualifying Tournament (Final Round) – Game 6
Location: Rommel Fernandez Stadium; Panama City, Panama 
Date: January 21, 2007
Weather: Warm, 80 degrees

Scoring Summary:   1   2   F
USA                              1   4   5
Panama                       0   0   0

USA – Freddy Adu (Johann Smith)                    7th minute
USA – Robbie Rogers (Freddy Adu)                  50.
USA – Johann Smith (Nathan Sturgis)              61.
USA – Jonathan Villanueva (Danny Szetela)    71.
USA – Freddy Adu (Robbie Rogers)                   90.

USA: 1-Chris Seitz; 6-Quavas Kirk (13-Ofori Sarkodie, 46), 16-Julian Valentin, 5-Nathan Sturgis, 2-Tim Ward (3-Bryan Arguez, 70); 7-Danny Szetela, 19-Tony Beltran, 11-Freddy Adu (capt.); 9-Johann Smith, 12-Josmer Altidore (10-Jonathan Villanueva, 53), 8-Robbie Rogers
Subs not used: 4-Amaechi Igwe, 14-Anthony Wallace, 15-Sal Zizzo, 17-Preston Zimmerman, 18-Brian Perk, 20-Andre Akpan
Head Coach: Thomas Rongen

PAN: 12-Luis Mejia; 3-Luis Ovalle, 2-Eric Vasquez, 5-Marvin Mitchell (17-Antonio Leslie, 58), 14-Christian Vergara; 7-Javier Gonzalez, 4-Josue Jafeth Brown (13-Pablo Gonzalez, 46), 6-Francisco Castañeda, 8-Luis Jaramillo; 9-Gabriel Torres (capt.), 16-Fernando Barber (11-Armando Cooper, 57)
Subs not used: 1-Guillermo Murillo, 10-Nelson Barahona, 15-Miguel Gonzalez, 18-Davis Wallace, 19-Celso Polo, 20-Manuel Aparicio
Head Coach: Julio Dely Valdez

Statistical Summary:     USA     PAN
Shots                                    9           5
Shots on goal                      6           2
Saves                                    2           2
Fouls                                    31         16
Corner Kicks                        9           1
Offside                                   4           1

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Josmer Altidore (caution)                3rd minute
USA – Quavas Kirk (caution)                       14.
PAN – Francisco Castaneda (caution)      34.
PAN – Francisco Castaneda (caution)      66.
PAN – Francisco Castaneda (ejection)      66.
PAN – Armando Cooper (caution)              79.
USA – Julian Valentin (caution)                   81.
USA – Danny Szetela (caution)                    87.

Referee: Joel Aguilar (SLV)
1st Assistant: Francisco Perez (MEX)
2nd Assistant: Edgar Mora (CRC)
Fourth Official: Manuel Glower (MEX)

Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Freddy Adu

2007 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament Results / Standings
Team   GP   W    L    T    GF  GA   GD  Pts.
USA       3      2    0     1     8     1     +7     7
PAN       3      1    1     1     4     7      -3     4
HAI         3      1    2     0     4     7     -2      3
GUA       3      0    1     2     1     3     -2      2

Wednesday, Jan. 17
USA 4, Haiti 1
Panama 1, Guatemala 1

Friday, Jan. 19
USA 0, Guatemala 0
Panama 0, Haiti 0

Sunday, Jan. 21
Haiti 2, Guatemala 0
USA 4, Panama 0