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U.S. ties Panama in defensive futsal battle

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (June 4, 2008) — Panama’s conservative game plan frustrated the U.S. futsal team on Wednesday, resulting in a 1-1 draw in the Group B contest of the 2008 CONCACAF Futsal Championships at Domo Polideportivo.

Though the tie leaves the U.S. atop Group B with Costa Rica at four points each, it puts the Americans in a difficult position. They must either beat a tough Costa Rica squad — which routed Haiti 12-0 on Wednesday — or forge a tie and get some help to advance to the semifinals.

Haiti (no points) can advance the U.S. with a win or tie against Panama (two points) on Thursday morning before the U.S. plays. A Panama victory and a U.S. tie with Costa Rica will give all three teams five points each, and brings goal differential tiebreakers into play.

Panama showed its strategy early, dropping all four players deep into its defensive zone and going forward only to counter attack. It allowed the U.S. to possess the ball but denied interior passes and blocked long-distance shots with a fury.

“I think they did an extremely good job of staying in their zone. They played a diamond pretty much the entire game and they’re very good at it,” said U.S. Head Coach Keith Tozer.

“Obviously, they just wanted a tie, thinking they could go ahead and beat Haiti tomorrow and then go through.”

After a scoreless first half, the U.S. managed to solve the Canaleros defense well enough to earn two quick chances. First, Ptah’ Myers free kick from about 15 meters slammed off the far post in the 22nd minute. Sixty seconds later, Dan DeGeer got free in front of the net but couldn’t redirect a low crossing pass into the goal.

Panama finally cashed an opportunity in the 27th minute. Forcing a turnover in its defensive end, Panama launched a 2-on-1 counter that was scored by captain Alquis Alvarado.

Sandre Naumoski answered in the 31st minute with his second goal of the tournament. From near the exact spot where Myers had hit the post, he took a short sole roll and rifled a shot into the far upper corner.

Panama didn’t deviate from its game plan, however, and allowed the U.S. just one more golden opportunity. With just 50 seconds left, the Americans took off on a breakaway after forcing a turnover. A 2-versus-keeper chance went awry, however, when Matt Stewart’s attempt was high.

Jeff Richey was credited with 17 saves in goal for the U.S.

“Right now we have to beat Costa Rica to move on,” Tozer said. “We’ve played Costa Rica in this same scenario before and we’ve done it.”

The U.S. faces Costa Rica at 12 p.m. on Thursday, June 5, in the final group battle. The U.S. is 3-0 all time against Costa Rica, including victories in the 2004 CONCACAF Championships and the 2007 Pan American Games. In that game, the U.S. led early, fell behind 5-4 and scored twice at the end to win 6-5. Denison Cabral scored the winning goal for the Americans in that game.

“Carlos Quiros is the coach, and he’ll have them well organized,” Tozer said. “I think they’re a little different team this year … they have some good players, speed, good target players. It will be a battle from beginning to end.”

Costa Rica wiped out Haiti 12-0 on Wednesday and has 18 goals in the two games of the tournament. The Ticos trailed Panama 4-0 in the first half on Tuesday in the opener before roaring back to salvage a 6-6 tie.

Costa Rica won the 2000 CONCACAF title with a 2-0 win over Cuba, which had eliminated the U.S. in the semifinals.

Participants: U.S. National Futsal Team vs. Panama
Competition: CONCACAF Futsal Championships 2008
Location: Domo Polideportivo, Guatemala City, Guatemala
Date: June 4, 2008

Scoring Summary:      1     2    Final
Panama                         0     1      1
USA                                 0     1      1

PAN — Alquis Alvarado, 27th minute
USA — Sandre Naumoski, 31st minute

PAN: 1-Jose Victoria, 4-Augusto Harrison, 6-Juan Murillo, 10-Apolinar Galvez, 11-Alquis Alvarado
Subs used: 2-Chaimyr Toyloy, 3-Oscar Hinks, 5-Alfredo Phillips, 7-Aramis Haywood, 8-Gilberto Rangel, 9-Miguel Lasso, 12-Oscar McFarlane
Head coach: Porfirio Rebolledo

USA: 12-Jeff Richey, 5-Denison Cabral, 9-Pat Morris, 10-Sandre Naumoski, 11-Matt Stewart
Subs used: 2-Dan DeGeer, 3-Jamar Beasley, 4-Mike Apple, 6-Andy Rosenband, 7-Ptah Myers, 8-Chile Farias.
Did not play: 1-Nick Vorberg
Head coach: Keith Tozer.

Stats summary: PAN / USA
Shots                        21 / 22
Corners                      4 / 5
Fouls                           8 / 5
Saves                          8 / 17

Misconduct Summary:
USA — Denison Cabral (caution)     10th minute.
PAN — Alquis Alvarado (caution)      19.
PAN — Oscar Hinks (caution)            35.

Match officials:
Referee: Francisco Rivera (MEX)
AR1: Emigdio Garcia (NCA)
AR2: Eduardo Hernandez (MEX)
Timekeeper: Carlos Del Cio (GUA)

Group A

Team   GP   W   L   T  PTS GF   GA   GD
GUA      1      1    0   0    3      5      0     +5
CUB      1      0    0   1    1      2      2       0
MEX       1      0    0   1   1      2       2       0
TRT       1      0    1   0    0      0      5      -5

Match results
June 3: Cuba 2, Mexico 2
June 3: Guatemala 5, Trinidad & Tobago 0

June 4: Cuba vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 6 p.m.
June 4: Guatemala vs. Mexico, 8 p.m.
June 5: Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 6 p.m.
June 5: Guatemala vs. Cuba, 8 p.m.

Group B
Team   GP    W   L    T   PTS  GF   GA    GD
CRC      2      1    0    1     4      18    6     +12
USA       2      1    0    1     4       6     4       +2
PAN       2      0    0    2     2       7     7         0
HAI        2       0    2    0     0       3    17    -14

Match results
June 3: Panama 6, Costa Rica 6
June 3: USA 5, Haiti 3
June 4: Costa Rica 12, Haiti 0
June 4: USA 1, Panama 1

June 5: Panama vs. Haiti, 10 a.m.
June 5: USA vs. Costa Rica, noon

June 7: B1 vs. A2, 2 p.m.
June 7: A1 vs. B2, 4 p.m.

June 8: Third place, 2 p.m.
June 8: Championship, 4 p.m.