GUADALAJARA, Mexico (February 7, 2004) - Forward Alecko Eskandarian notched his first hat trick at the international level and picked up Chevrolet Man of the Match honors in helping the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team defeat Honduras 4-3 today at Estadio 3 de Marzo in their final group match of the Final Round of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Needing just a draw to win Group A, the victory gave the U.S. a perfect 3-0-0 record against a difficult trio of opponents and made them the only team in the tournament to earn a full nine points out of their opening round matches. The USA's 10 goals scored is also the highest of any of the eight teams in the tournament.
The U.S. is now set to face Mexico, who finished behind Costa Rica in Group B after a 1-1 draw last night, in what is sure to be another epic battle in the intense rivalry on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at Estadio Jalisco at 8 p.m. (local/CT) live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The last time the two teams met at the U-23 level, the U.S. walked out of Estadio 3 de Marzo with a surprising 3-1 win and almost 10,000 fans whipped into frenzy after a fluke 85-yard goal by forward David Testo into an empty net in the 92nd minute delivered the final result on May 14, 2003.
The U.S. started the match with six starters -- goalkeeper D.J. Countess, defender Chad Marshall, midfielders DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Brad Davis, and forward Landon Donvoan -- on the bench, either giving them a chance to rest for the semifinals or protect them from a second caution that could prohibit them from appearing on Tuesday.
Similarly, Honduras played the game without five of its key players, including leading goal scorer Emil Martinez (3 goals), captain/defender Sergio Mendoza, goalkeeper Doni Escobar, playmaker Alex Andino and forward Jerry Palacios, in order to have them fresh for their semifinal match, which will now be against Group A winner Costa Rica on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. (local/CT) at Estadio Jalisco.
With the prospect of facing Mexico (in front of a possible crowd of as many as 60,000 vocal fans packing Jalisco Stadium) awaiting the winner of today's match, both teams came out in tentative fashion, with the first shot not coming until the 18th minute when defender David Stokes, who was filling in at right fullback, headed a ball wide right of the goal off an Eskandarian corner kick.
After having one shot blocked off his foot in the 20th minute and having another shot saved by Honduras back-up goalkeer John Bodden in the 25th minute, Eskandarian found the net in the 28th minute off a perfectly-placed free kick. After the U.S. suffered a foul about 25 yards from the Honduras goal, midfielder Eddie Gaven made a decoy run over the ball and Eskandarian stepped up with a left-footed shot around the wall and inside the post.
Honduras struck back to equalize just two minutes later upon U.S. defender Jose Luis Burciaga being whistled for a handball in the box off a shot by defender Mario Berrios, resulting in his ejection in the 29th minute. Midfielder Roland Maradiaga stepped up to the penalty spot, slotting it to the right as goalkeeper Doug Warren dove to his right to make it 1-1 in the 30th minute. It was the first and only shot by Honduras in the first half, which ended with the same score.
The U.S. came out strong in the second half and applied a steady attacking pressure from the opening kickoff. Just a few moments after Gaven sent a shot skimming off the crossbar in the opening minute, the U.S. struck for a second goal on a good series of passes that started when Eskandarian found defender-turned-midfielder Ricky Lewis at the right corner of the penalty box. Lewis looked up and played a square ball to defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who drove a low shot past Bodden and inside the right post.
The U.S. made it 3-1 in the 58th minute on a similar set-up, but with Beckerman providing the assist this time. The Colorado Rapids collected a ball in the midfield and dribbled toward goal before laying off a lateral pass to Eskandarian, who ran through a huge gap in the Honduras back four, took a quick touch on the ball and slipped it under the legs of a sliding Bodden for his second goal of the afternoon.
Eskandarian completed the hat trick in the 70th minute, finding the end of a pass from defender David Stokes, who had switched position along the right side with Lewis.
His third goal quickly placed him in a tie for second place in scoring for the tournament alongside Honduras midfielder Emil Martinez, only one goal behind D.C. United teammate Bobby Convey. Eskandarian has been the U-23's most efficient scorer since the team first gathered, now with eight goals in 13 international appearances and 13 goals in 21 overall matches that he's played in since January 2002.
Now up 4-1 and seemingly in complete control of the outcome, the U.S. suffered a breakdown similar to the three consecutive goals that they conceded to Panama in a surprising comeback on Tuesday night, giving up two goals in six minutes.
In the 71st minute, midfielder Logan Pause, who came on for Beckerman in the 60th, was whistled for the USA's second inadvertent handball in its own penalty area. Again, Maradiaga stepped up to convert for the "catrachos," sending his shot right down the middle as Warren covered his left side of the goal in the 72nd minute.
Midfielder Samir Arzu brought Honduras within a goal of equalizing in the 77th minute, pouncing on a bad touch from midfielder Brian Carroll just 25 yards from goal and racing between Borchers and Lewis to crush a shot past Warren to make it 4-3.
Slightly reeling from the quick comeback, the U.S. came together and put the clamps on the Honduras attack, stifling their every attack and almost completely controlling possession of the ball and the pace of the game for the final 12 minutes of regulation and extra time.
With Warren in goal and Stokes starting at right back, all 20 players on the final U.S. roster have now seen action in the tournament. Defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert started and played all 90 minutes for the third consecutive match, making them the only two players on the U.S. team that have played all 270 minutes so far.
--U.S. U-23 MNT GAME REPORT--
Participants: United States vs. Honduras
Competition: CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying – Final Round (Game 12)
Venue: Estadio 3 de Marzo – Guadalajara, Mexico
Date: February 7, 2004 – 8 p.m. local / CT
Weather: 72 degrees; clear, mild
Attendance: 500 (approx.)
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 3 4
Honduras 1 2 3
USA – Alecko Eskandarian (free kick) 28th minute.
HON – Roland Maradiaga (penalty kick) 30.
USA – Kyle Beckerman (Ricky Lewis) 47.
USA – Alecko Eskandarian (Kyle Beckerman) 58.
USA – Alecko Eskandarian (David Stokes) 70.
HON – Roland Maradiaga (penalty kick) 72.
HON – Samir Arzu (unassisted) 77.
HON (4-5-1): 12-John Bodden; 3-Maynor Figueroa (10-Walter Martinez, 80), 5-Nery Medina, 20-Hendry Thomas © (16-Mauricio Castro, 46), 17-Roy Posas; 4-Clifford Laing, 19-Mario Berrios, 13-Samir Arzu, 15-Ronald Maradiaga, 11-Israel Abidán Solis (24-Víctor Bernárdez, 75); 18-Jeff Brook.
Subs Not Used: 1-Donis Escobar, 6-Sergio Mendoza, 7-Emil Martinez, 9-Alex Andino, 21-Jerry Palacios.
Head Coach: Edwin Pavon.
USA (4-4-2): 18-Doug Warren; 16-Chris Wingert, 2-Jose Luis Burciaga (ejected, , 6-Nat Borchers, 4-David Stokes; 5-Kyle Beckerman © (8-Logan Pause, 60), 12-Brian Carroll, 3-Ricky Lewis, 17-Eddie Gaven; 11-Alecko Eskandarian, 19-David Testo.
Subs Not Used: 1-D.J. Countess; 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Brad Davis, 10-Landon Donovan, 14-Chad Marshall, 15-Bobby Convey, 20-Ed Johnson.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.
Statistical Summary: USA HON
Shots 12 8
Saves 2 4
Corner Kicks 1 2
Fouls 8 9
Offside 3 3
USA – Jose Luis Burciaga (ejection) 29th minute.
HON – Nery Medina (caution) 69.
USA – Logan Pause (caution) 71.
Referee: Gilberto Alcala (MEX)
Assistant Referee #1: Hector Delgadillo (MEX)
Assistant Referee #2: Modesto Hierrezuelo (CUB)
Fourth Official: Rodolfo Sibrian (SLV)
Chevrolet Man of the Match: Alecko Eskandarian
-- GROUP A UPDATE --
Below are the final standings and results for Group A:
Group A Standings
Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
USA* 3 3 0 0 10 6 +4 9
Honduras* 3 2 1 0 7 5 +2 6
Panama 3 1 2 0 6 8 -2 3
Canada 3 0 3 0 1 5 -4 0
*Advanced to semi-final round
Group A Results
Tue., Feb. 3
Honduras 1, Canada 0
USA 4, Panama 3
Thu., Feb. 5
Honduras 3, Panama 1
USA 2, Canada 0
Sat., Feb. 7
Panama 2, Canada 1
USA 4, Honduras 3