MESSINA, Italy (Tuesday, February 12, 2002) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team fell 2-0 to an older and more experienced Italian Under-21 MNT tonight at "G. Celeste" Community Stadium in Messina, Italy. The match concludes the U.S. team's two-week foreign tour of Portugal and Italy in which they posted a 1-1-1 international record against three of the top youth national teams in Europe.
"Innocent mistakes get punished at good levels. On both goals tonight, what started out as innocent giveaways, turned into the two goals in the game," said U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick. "The difference in the game clearly was thier daily experience as pros in one of the best leagues in the world, compared to up-and-coming young pros of U.S. Soccer."
Although billed as Italy's Under-21 Men's National Team, the average age across their 20-man roster was 21.4 years and included 16 players that are 21 years or older. On the other end, officially the U.S. Under-23 MNT, the squad's average as is 19.6 years, with not a single player on their roster who is 21. The Under-23 MNT will have a chance to represent the USA at the 2004 Olympics in Greece.
With a roster loaded with players that compete in Italy's Serie A, the Italians' age and pro experience showed from the outset, as they quickly controlled play and outgunned the U.S. throughout the first half. Despite the favor in possession to the home team, both goals were scored on counter-attacks.
The first goal was set up by a foul on Jose Burciaga, Jr. about five yards outside the U.S. penalty box. Team captain and talented midfielder Andrea Pirlo (Milan) took the resulting free kick, bending a perfect ball to the far post, where forward Massimo Maccarone (Empoli) made a run and rose above a crowd of U.S. defenders to head it home past goalkeeper D.J. Countess from point-blank range in the 29th minute.
The second goal started after a giveaway on the right flank, at which point midfielder Paolo Castellini (Torino) screamed down in alone toward the goal, drew two defenders, and lofted a lateral pass that 23-year-old forward Emiliano Bonazzoli (Parma) volleyed home inside the right post in the 37th minute.
Despite facing a 2-0 deficit as the second half began, the U.S. came out with increased energy and attacked well throughout the second stanza. The U.S. poured it on with seven shots and earned four corner kicks, including three in the last five minutes of regulation, but could not break through an Italian defense that had mostly settled behind the midfield stripe for the game's last 20 minutes.
"I thought when we settled down in the second half, we played well," said U.S. U-23 MNT midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who will travel back to join the Chicago Fire to prepare for his third season in MLS. "All in all, for us being together for only 10 days or so, the effort against a tough Italy team was good, and we're only going to get better."
By the end of the friendly, both teams had substituted liberally, with the U.S. emptying its bench (except for injured goalkeeper Doug Warren) with six substitutes to Italy's five.
The U.S. Under-23 MNT will travel an hour south to Catania tomorrow to watch the full U.S. Men's National Team prepare for the 2002 World Cup in a unique match against top-5 ranked Italy in Cibali Stadium, which will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2:45 p.m. ET and also featured on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
— U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team Game Report —
Participants: U.S. Under-23 MNT vs. Italy Under-21 MNT
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Estadio Comunale "G. Celeste" (Messina, Italy)
Date: February 12, 2002 — kickoff 9:00 p.m. (3 p.m. ET)
Weather: 55 degrees; clear, cool
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
USA 0 - 0 - 0
Italy 2 - 0 - 2
ITA — Massimo Maccarone (Andrea Pirlo), 29.
ITA — Emiliano Bonazzoli (Paolo Castelleini), 37.
USA — 1-D.J. Countess; 17-Jose Burciaga, Jr. (2-Philip Salyer, 74), 3-David Stokes (6-Kelly Gray, 46), 5-Alex Yi, 20-Chris Wingert (4-Nelson Akwari, 86); 11-Bobby Convey, 19-Kyle Beckerman, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Brad Davis (8-Alecko Eskandarian, 83), 16-Brian Carroll (13-Kyle Martino, 62); 12-Devin Barclay (14-Edson Buddle, 46).
Subs not used: 18-Doug Warren.
ITA — 1-Generoso Rossi; 2-Paolo Cannavaro (15-Cristian Zaccardo, 74), 4-Samuele Olivi, 5-Stefano Lucchini; 3-Paolo Castellini (13-Antonio Bocchetti, 55), 6-Enzo Maresca (18-Fabio Gatti, 69), 7-Marco Marchionni, 8-Matteo Brighi (17-Massimo Donati, 55), 10-Andrea Pirlo; 11-Emiliano Bonazzoli, 9- Massimo Maccarone (19-Antonio Cassano, 63).
Subs not used: 12-Ivan Pelizzoli, 14-Alessandro Gamberini, 16-Nicola
Campanelli, 20-Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Statistical Summary: USA - ITA
Shots: 10 - 16
Saves: 5 - 2
Corner Kicks: 5 - 7
Fouls: 13 - 9
Offside: 3 - 4
Referee: Zoubeir Nouira
Referee Assistant #1: Mohamed Debabi
Referee Assistant #2: Jelloul Azouz