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U.S. Deaf Soccer Team Suffers Heartbreaking Loss to Spain

ITALY (Monday, July 30, 2001) - The United States Deaf Soccer Team, competing in the 19th Summer Deaflympics in Italy, lost a crucial game to Spain 2-0 on July 24. After stunning gold medal favorite Italy 2-1, and tying Algeria 3-3 in earlier Group A games, the U.S. needed a win to advance. Instead, with the loss, the U.S. will be competing in the loser bracket for ninth to 12th place, while Spain's victory enabled them to advance to the quarterfinals.

In the first half, the U.S. players came out of the gate, shutting out Spain while dominating offensively, but were unable to get a goal and settled for a 0-0 halftime score. Early in the second half Spain was able to break through the U.S. defense and knock its first goal past goalkeeper Carlos Hernandez. The goal woke up the U.S. team as they immediately turned the offensive attack up and began a string of attacks. The first potential scoring drive resulted in a goal, but it was taken back because of an offside penalty. The second goal was ruled a handball, a judgement call that was disputed by several players. The U.S. had another attempt thwarted when a goal was preceded by a foul for pushing.

After the string of would-be goals, Spain took advantage of the frustrated U.S., scoring a goal near the end of regulation to put the game away.

Ironically, this game featured more team effort than ever before. Halfbacks Josh Reiher and defenders Gold and Mike Hansen shared equal credit for defensive tactics. Forward Mark Sorokin amazed fans with his tremendous speed, especially useful on offensive drives, and Mike Higgins, also at forward, dazzled with fancy footwork. Halfbacks Thomas Wells and Matt Idler showed no fear when tackling Spanish players and halfback Mike Lawson was instrumental in starting offensive drives and intercepting the ball. Christos Nicholas, who was subbed in, added speed and stopped several offensive drives during the latter part of the second half.

"We tried our best," said Gold. Looking toward the next game (which will be played against a team from other pools) he added, "We hope to get our subs to play, those who haven't had a chance for the last three games."

Earlier in the week the U.S. looked in good shape with a win over Italy to put them in sole possession of first place in Group A.

With defense the major plan for the U.S. against Italy, sweeper Josh Reiher and goalkeeper Carlos Hernandez played key roles in keeping Italy quiet. Reiher kept the Italian attack at bay while Hernandez made a number of saves early in the match to keep the score even. Eventually, the Italians would get on the board first and took a 1-0 lead into the half.

The Americans did not slow down in the second half, though, and Larry Manning (who scored twice against Algeria), lobbed a loose ball over the Italian defense and into the goal after the Italian goalkeeper had collided with his own defender. The defense stayed strong amidst the team's offensive forays, with Hernandez punching out balls and keeping the Italians out of the scoring column. With the clock running down, Matt Idler crossed a ball into the goal area where it was deflected into the back of the net by midfielder Josh Reiher, giving the U.S. an impressive 2-1 victory over the host Italians.

"We shocked the world!," said U.S. midfielder Manning, the brother of Tampa Bay Mutiny general manager Bill Manning. "They were supposed to win, but we did it!"

Said U.S. Head Coach Conrad Strack-Grose, "The game was not going according to their game plan. They beat Spain 6-0. They expected to beat us 12-0. They didn't."