U.S. Under-17 MNT to Face Czech Republic in Final of Ballymena International Tournament
- U.S. Looks For Revenge After Falling to Czechs, 1-0, in 2005 Final
CHICAGO (April 27, 2006) – Six weeks before their respective national teams square off at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will take on the Czech Republic in the final of the Ballymena International Tournament on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. local (2:30 p.m. ET). It marks the second straight year the two countries will meet in the final of the Northern Ireland tournament.
The U.S. advanced to the final after defeating Northern Ireland, 2-0, despite playing down a man for 89 minutes. The victory over the hosts allowed the U.S. to win Group A with seven points (2-0-1). In their other group matches, the U.S. defeated Switzerland, 2-1, and drew with Finland, 3-3.
The Czech Republic easily won Group B, outscoring their three opponents, 10-1. After defeating Belgium, 2-1, in their opening match, the Czechs thumped both Canada and Scotland by identical 4-0 scores.
"Our whole goal when we arrived here was to come away with the championship," said U.S. Under-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth. "This group wanted to be the first team to win it all at the Ballymena. We've gotten to the final in a round-a-bout way, but we're there now. We knew the Czech Republic was going to have a strong team and they've definitely showed that with three wins in Group B. It will be a tough match and one we're looking forward to on Friday."
The U.S. will be seeking revenge after losing to the Czech Republic, 1-0, in the 2005 final. In that match, the U.S. Under-17 ’89 MNT hit the post and the crossbar, but were unable to break the goal line in a closely contested affair.
This will mark the fourth straight time the U.S. will play in the Ballymena final, having yet to take home the crown. Along with their loss to the Czechs in 2005, the U.S. was also runners-up in 2004, falling, 4-3, in penalty kicks to Switzerland, and 2002, dropping a 2-1 result to Israel. In total, the U.S. has competed in four of the previous six Ballymena International Tournaments, also participating in 2000 when they finished in fourth place.
Sitting on four points, the U.S. had to defeat Northern Ireland to advance to the final as the hosts had cruised in their first two matches, defeating Finland, 6-0, and Switzerland, 3-0.
U.S. forward Bryan Dominguez was given a straight red card in the first minute of play after he attempted to shrug off the hands of an opposing player. Play had stopped after the ball went out of bounds and Dominguez, attempting to get position for the throw-in, flung his arm backwards to unleash a Northern Ireland defender's hands against his back. In a harsh call, the referee, believing he had thrown an elbow, pulled the red card from his pocket and, in a flash, the U.S. had more to deal with than just the pro-Northern Ireland crowd.
Despite playing a man down, the U.S. scored two goals in seven minutes in the first half, both coming due to the excellent play of Ellis McLoughlin. On the first goal, the lone forward buried a cross from Brek Shea in the 26th minute. Six minutes later, McLoughlin turned on his defender at the top of the box to get into the penalty area and was brought down from behind. Sheanon Williams stepped up and converted the spot kick to double the lead and give the U.S. some breathing room.
The winning team will be presented with the David Cairns Memorial Trophy, in memory of the late David Cairns, former Chairman of N.I.S.F.A. and Northern Ireland's Under-15 Team Manager.
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