* Adu Scores Second Hat-Trick in First Game of World Championship
* U.S. Overcomes Early Own Goal to Cruise to Victory
* U.S. Will Face Sierra Leone on Sunday, August 17, in Their Second Game of the First Round
LAHTI, Finland (August 14, 2003) - Freddy Adu led the way with three goals as the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team overcame an early own goal to cruise to a 6-1 victory over the Korea Republic this evening at Lahti Stadium in Lahti, Finland, in their first game of the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship. The U.S. will next face Sierra Leone for their second game in Group D on Sunday, August 17 at 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET live on Galavision, delayed 8 a.m. PT).
Playing in wet and soggy conditions as it rained on and off throughout the match, the U.S. fell behind early on an own goal by Brandon Owens. Despite the horrific start, the U.S. continued to push forward and had the Koreans on their heels the rest of the game. After retaking the lead 2-1 at half, the U.S. finished off the Koreans with four goals in the second half.
"We got behind right away with the own goal, but I think our guys did well to counter that and not let it deter them during the match," said U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team head coach John Ellinger. "We played much better in the second half and the guys up front did an excellent job of finishing today. Now we need to get the intensity up and get ready for our next match against a tough Sierra Leone side."
Disaster struck for the U.S. eleven minutes in when defender Brandon Owens accidentely knocked a Korean cross into the U.S. net for an own goal. Korean midfielder Young Choi Shin had curled in a cross from the right side, looking for forward Dong Hyen Yang. U.S. 'keeper Phil Marfuggi came off his line to collect the service, but Owens, who was man-marking Yang, stepped in front at the six yard box and the ball hit his shoulder and rolled into the open goal. Owens was looking to chest the ball safely out of bounds and out of danger, but the ball took a high skip off the wet grass and unexpectedly hit his shoulder.
Five minutes later, Adu got the U.S. back into the match with a remarkable individual goal. Collecting Danny Szetela's header at the center circle inside the U.S. offensive half, Adu turned to find himself surrounded by five Koreans, two behind and three in front. Without missing a step, Adu sliced through a gap between the three defenders and accelerated past to give himself a one-on-one with keeper Ki Seok Cha. As Cha rushed off his line, Adu touched it to his left around the sliding keeper and slotted the ball into the open net.
"I was actually looking around for someone to pass to," Adu said. “No one was around, so I just decided to go for it.”
After his earlier mistake, Owens redeemed himself with a goal in his opponents net in the 26th minute to give the U.S. the lead for good. John DiRaimondo curled in a corner and Eddie Gaven was able to get a flick towards the goal. Korean defender Young Shin, sitting on the six yard line, tried to head the ball clear, only to knock it directly to Owens at the penalty spot. After bringing the ball down with his right thigh, Owens blasted the ball into the back of the net with his left foot.
"After the own goal I was feeling pretty down," Owens said. “But my team-mates kept me up and I told myself I had two choices 'either bounce back or crumble'."
The best chance for the Koreans before the half was in the 40th minute when forward Young Rok Shin hit the post. Collecting the ball in the right side of the penalty area, Shin quickly turned losing his defenders and ripped a low blast that ricocheted off the far left post.
In the second half, Jamie Watson continued where the U.S. had left off, getting the third goal of the night in the 54th minute. Owens knocked in a pass from right midfield that deflected off a Korean's foot and skipped in behind their last defender. Watson pounced on the mistake and sprinted to the ball as Cha came off his line. Watson took one touch around the 'keeper to his left and slipped the ball into the open net.
As the U.S. defense started to stifle the Korean attack, it continued to find any way to score. In the 75th minute, defender Steve Curfman dropped in a brilliant goal after Cha tried to punch clear a corner kick. Curfman, sitting at the top-right corner of the 18-yard box, one-timed Cha's clearance with a soft chip that kissed off the far left post and spilled in.
Up 4-1, Adu capped off the remarkable victory with two more goals in the final minutes. In the 89th minute Owens started the attack from the backline, pushing the ball up to Watson who was wide open on the left flank. Watson dribbled the ball forward and slotted a perfect pass across to Adu just inside the right side of the penalty area. As defenders rushed in, Adu cut the ball to his right and slipped the ball inside the near post past and Cha.
Adu got his hat-trick minutes later when he scored a penalty in stoppage time. The penalty was awarded after the 14-year-old forward had played Gaven down the left flank, where a defender slid in late and brought down the MetroStars forward. Adu placed the ball off the left post and into the net.