GUADALAJARA, Mexico (February 5, 2004) - Midfielder Bobby Convey scored twice on assists by forward Landon Donovan to help the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team defeat Canada 2-0 in a physical battle tonight at Estadio 3 de Marzo in each team's second match of the Final Round of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.
With the win, the U.S. joins fellow unbeaten (2-0-0) teams Honduras, Costa Rica and host nation Mexico in the four-teams semifinals, which will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 5:30 and 8 p.m. (local/CT) at Estadio Jalisco across town. The two semi-final winners earn CONCACAF's two automatic berths for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens in August.
Although tied on points (6) and goal differential (+3) with Honduras, a 3-1 winner over Panama in the first match tonight (see below for more info), the U.S. stands in first place in Group A based on goals scored (6 to 4).
The U.S. and Honduras will face off to determine their respective semi-final opponents in the final opening round match on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. (local/CT) live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
Similarly, in Group B, Mexico and Costa Rica have clinched spots in the semifinals and meet Friday (Feb. 6) at 8 p.m. to determine whom is the group-winner and whom is the runner-up.
"We're delighted to be in the semi-final round; this is what it's all about," said U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Glenn Myernick, who has guided the U-23s to a 6-0-2 record in its last eight internationals. "They're very focused and they've worked very hard, and now they're only 90 minutes away from going to the Olympics, and that's the only thing my team has come here for."
Convey posted his second consecutive two-goal outing in the victory, having scored both the game-opening and game-winning goals in a surprisingly dramatic 4-3 win over Panama in the U.S. team's opener on Tuesday. With four goals, Convey currently leads the eight-team tournament in scoring.
The game opened in the typical rough-and-tumble fashion that is all too familiar in USA-Canada battles, with five cautions being issued in the first 25 minutes of play. But when the dust settled, the U.S. grabbed the lead on an efficient counter-attack goal in the 30th minute. The series of excellent passes started in the back with defender Chris Wingert, who switched from right back to left back in place of an injured Zak Whitbread (torn left quadricep). Wingert found Beasley ahead on the left flank, where the Chicago Fire midfielder sent it toward the middle to Donovan, who slipped a ball to Convey, who struck past goalkeeper Andrew Olivieri into the side netting in the 30th minute.
After expertly protecting their 1-0 lead into halftime and throughout the first 20 minutes after the break, the U.S. got its second goal of the match in the 71st minute, again with Donovan helping to create an opportunity that Convey put into goal. The goal began with a long diagonal ball from midfielder Eddie Gaven, who sprang Donovan through the offside trap on a breakway. Donovan collected the ball on the right side of the box, dribbled in and waited for Convey to make a run, then fed a ball across the box that an onrushing Convey held off a defender to finish.
Gaven (DOB 10/25/86), who came on for an injured Ed Johnson (mild concussion) in the 64th minute, became the youngest player in CONCACAF history to appear in an Olympic Qualifying match at the tender age of 17 years and 104 days. The two previous youngest were both Americans and members of the 2002 World Cup Team in DaMarcus Beasley (5/24/82), who held the honor after making his first Olympic Qualifying appearance on April 21, 2000, just over a month before his 18th birthday (or age 17 and 332 days), and Claudio Reyna (DOB 7/20/73), who made his appearance on June 23, 1991, at age 17 and 338 days.
In the aftermath of the second U.S. goal, Canada's Adam Braz was cautioned for protesting the goal and claiming Donovan was offside. After receiving the game's first caution in the 12th minute, the second caution resulted in his ejection and Canada was forced to play nearly 20 minutes down a man, making their task of coming back from the two-goal deficit all the more challenging.
Unlike Tuesday night's three-goal letdown after quickly posting a 3-0 lead over Panama, the U.S. calmly preserved the lead and played the game out with steady possession and solid individual defending to keep Canada off the board. In fact, although Canada outshot the U.S. 10-8, only two were on target, with defender Nat Borchers clearing a ball a step in front of D.J. Countess on the goalline and Countess making the other save himself.
In addition to Gaven, three other players -- defender Ricky Lewis, midfielder Brian Carroll and forward David Testo -- saw their first action of the tournament in tonight's match, meaning Myernick has already used 18 of the 20 players on his final roster. Goalkeeper Doug Warren and defender David Stokes have yet to appear, but could see action in the Honduras match.
--U.S. U-23 MNT GAME REPORT--
Participants: United States vs. Canada
Competition: CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying – Final Round (Game 8)
Venue: Estadio 3 de Marzo – Guadalajara, Mexico
Date: February 5, 2004 – 8 p.m. local / CT
Weather: 68 degrees; cool, hazy
Attendance: 1,500 (approx.)
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Canada 0 0 0
USA 1 1 2
USA – Bobby Convey (Landon Donovan) 29th minute.
USA – Bobby Convey (Landon Donovan) 70.
CAN (4-5-1): 1-Andrew Olivieri; 15-Joshua Simpson, 2-Adam Braz (ejected, 72), 4-Victor Oppong, 5-Chris Pozniak (Capt.); 7-Chris Williams, 17-Kevin Harmse (12-David Masciantonio, 57), 6-Tam Nsaliwa, 8-Rocco Placentino, 13-Atiba Hutchinson; 11-Rob Friend.
Subs Not Used: 22-Alim Karim, 3-Winston Marshall, 17-Sita-Taty Matondo, 14-Stephen Ademolu, 16-Elliott Godrey, 18-Justin Thompson, 19-Matthew Savaria.
Head Coach: Bruce Twamley.
USA (4-4-2): 1-D.J. Countess; 16-Chris Wingert, 6-Nat Borchers, 14-Chad Marshall, 3-Ricky Lewis; 8-Logan Pause, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 12-Brian Carroll, 15-Bobby Convey (9-Brad Davis, 75); 10-Landon Donovan (Capt.; 19-David Testo, 85), 20-Ed Johnson (17-Eddie Gaven, 64).
Subs Not Used: 18-Doug Warren; 2-Jose Luis Burciaga, 4-David Stokes, 5-Kyle Beckerman, 11-Alecko Eskandarian.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.
Statistical Summary: CAN USA
Shots 10 8
Saves 2 1
Corner Kicks 3 4
Fouls 20 17
Offside 2 2
CAN – Kevin Harmse (caution) 12th minute.
CAN – Adam Braz (caution) 15.
USA – Brian Carroll (caution) 18.
USA – Ed Johnson (caution) 19.
CAN – Atiba Hutchinson (caution) 24.
USA – Chad Marshall (caution) 36.
CAN – David Masciantontio (caution) 66.
USA – Ricky Lewis (caution) 68.
CAN – Adam Braz (caution / ejection) 71.
Referee: Neal Brizan (TRI)
Assistant Referee #1: Joseph Taylor (TRI)
Assistant Referee #2: Hector Delgadillo (MEX)
Fourth Official: Victor Stewart (JAM)
Chevrolet Man of the Match: Bobby Convey
-- ADDITIONAL QUOTES --
U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Glenn Myernick
General comments about the game:
"Canada is always a very hard team to play against. They're very physical; they work very hard and one of their main objectives in the game is to stop you from playing. I felt like our team did a good job of battling them in terms of all the air balls that they like to pump into our box. I thought we were very good in the air in the back. The difference in the game was our quickness in the counter-attack and our ability to run at people and create goal-scoring chances. As you saw, we're happy to win the game 2-0, but we had four or five excellent chances as well."
On the stellar play of Convey in the tournament thus far:
"I think for those of you that followed the Under-20 World Championship at the United Arab Emirates and then have watched him here, you can see that he's really shown continuing maturity in his ability to transform himself from being the young Bobby Convey that broke in with D.C. United and played very supportive roles to guys like Marco Etcheverry and some of their senior players. I think he's showing now, both at the Under-20 level and now ar the Under-23 level, that he's an impact player, day after day. We know that he's been in the starting lineup for the full (U.S. Men's National) team, and I think that if Bobby contunues to progress the way he does, I think we'll see him in our full team for a long time."
On who the U.S. would rather play in the semifinals--Costa Rica or Mexico--and how that would affect the team's mindset versus Honduras:
"I think both Mexico and Costa Rica are very good teams. We don't fear either team. We would be delighted to play either one. My decision on how we go into the Honduras game is going to be based on the yellow card situation and the injury situation. We want to continue to improve and not just use the Honduras game as a nothing game. We want to get our players some more international experience and use the Honduras game to prepare for the semifinal."
On the officiating and the abundance of yellow cards and fouls:
"Obviously, I can't control the officiating; I can only control my team. I thought that in the early part of the game, the referee was treating the game a little too...whatever the Spanish word is for 'delicately.' He seemed to be calling a lot of fouls, but again, I can't control the referee."
U.S. U-23 MNT midfielder Bobby Convey
On how the two goals were created:
"We have a lot of team speed up top, and Landon, DaMarcus and I know where each other is going to be. We've played together enough, it's easy for us to know where each other is going to be. We all just get in good spots, and Landon found me on the first goal and Landon found me on the second goal. They were two good balls, and I just had to finish."
On the offense being uncoordinated in the first third of the match prior to the goal:
"Yeah, I think we started off slow, but I think it was kinda like we were sitting back and getting our legs and getting into the game. I thought we stepped up after the goal and after halftime we just kept getting stronger and stronger."
On how they will approach the Honduras game, having already qualified for the semifinals:
"Um, we'll see what happens. We take every game seriously. We're in the next round, so maybe we can rest a bit, but it's up to Mooch to see what he wants to do. But we don't take any game likely, and we're going to come out and play hard like we did these two games."
U.S. U-23 MNT forward Landon Donovan
On how he and Convey are so affective as a pair:
"Bobby plays attacking mid(fielder) the way I like to play; he makes runs from deep. I always want good service when I'm making those runs, so when he makes those, I make sure to give him service. He's just playing really well right now; he's just so confident."
"It's like with Beaz, too. We all know each other. And usually when we score goals, one of us has assisted on it. They've assisted me, or I've assisted Beaz, or Beaz has assisted Bobby and so on. We've been together for years and years, so it's no coincidence."
U.S. U-23 MNT defenders Nat Borchers
On if the game went according to plan:
"We knew coming into the game that Canada is a strong team; they're tall and they're very physical and they like to pump balls into the box. We knew coming in that we had to minimize their ability to cross the ball, which I think we did very well, and minimize how well their striker up top played, and I think Chad Marshall did a very good job shutting him down.
HONDURAS ALSO ADVANCES WITH 3-1 WIN OVER PANAMA: In the night's matinee match, Honduras became the first team from Group A to qualify for the semi-finals with a 3-1 win over Panama at Estadio 3 de Marzo. Midfielder Emil Martinez again provided the offense for the "catrachos," scoring two goals tonight to go with the lone goal in the team's 1-0 win over Canada in their opener on Tuesday. Martinez's three goals put him behind only Convey as the leading scorer in the eight-team tournament. The CD Marathon midfielder opened the scoring in the 12th minute, driving a low, 20-yard blast past Panama 'keeper Jaime Penedo. Panama had its chance to draw even six minutes later taken away when Honduras midfielder Alex Andino saved forward Jose Luis Garces' shot off the line in the 18th minute. But Panama got a gift in the 25th minute, as Honduras defender Victor Bernandez accidentally roofed a cross from Panama's Luis Henriquez into his team's own net. But it didn't take long for the superior Honduras side to regain the lead, as Martinez swerved a perfect, 30-yard free kick over the Panama wall and inside the right post in the 27th minute. Panama made a valiant effort to tie the match across the next 50 minutes with the underdog-supporting crowd behind them, but Honduras put the game out of reach in the 78th minute, as midfielder Wilson Palacios dribbled to the endline and dropped a ball across the goalmouth that forward Jerry Palacios (no relation) punched past Penedo to make it 3-1. Below are the updated standings, results and upcoming schedule for Group A:
Group A Standings
Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
USA* 2 2 0 0 6 3 +3 6
Honduras* 2 2 0 0 4 1 +3 6
Panama 2 0 2 0 4 7 -3 0
Canada 2 0 2 0 0 3 -3 0
*Advanced to semi-final round
Group A Results
Tue., Feb. 3
Honduras 1, Canada 0
USA 4, Panama 3
Thu., Feb. 5
Honduras 3, Panama 1
USA 2, Canada 0
Sat., Feb. 7
Canada vs. Panama 11 a.m. (local/CT)
Honduras vs. USA 1 p.m. (local/CT)