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U.S. Youth National Teams Set Tone with 2-0-1 Record on First Day at U.S. Soccer Festival '99

PORTLAND, Oregon (Monday, August 2, 1999) - It didn't take long for three of U.S. Soccer's top youth national teams - the Under-18 Men, Under-17 Men and Under-16 Women - to make their mark on the fourth annual U.S. Amateur Soccer Festival, played this year at the Tuatalin Hills Recreation Center in Portland, Oregon. The U.S. Under-18 and Under-17 Men's National Teams each notched solid wins in very physical battles to start off "U.S. Soccer Festival '99," while the U.S. Under-16 National Team came on late to earn a draw in their opener. The following are summaries of the three U.S. games.

U.S. Under-18 National Team 2, USASA West 0

The U.S. Under-18 National Team had arguably the best performance of the three teams on the day, avenging last year's tournament-opening loss to the USASA West team with a tough 2-0 shutout marred by one broken leg and a total of 27 fouls. The tragic collision occurred in the 28th minute when midfielder Kevin Wickart and a West player both challenged for an appropriately-named "hospital ball." Both players went down instantly, with Wickart suffering the worst of it. Team USA would go on to suffer 16 fouls, while committing 11 of their own.

The U-18s took the lead just minutes after the 15-minute injury timeout when forward Brad Davis took a pass from midfielder Kyle Martino, squared up and cranked a 35-yard rocket that ripped the nets and left West 'keeper Johann Noetzel with little time to react. The Under-18s sealed the game in the 73rd minute off a Davis free kick, which he sailed over the wall only to have it punched away by Noetzel. Forward Ryan Gibbs headed the rebound across the goalmouth to teammate Ryan Kelly, who easily tapped it in.

"Brad Davis had a phenomenal game. That first goal was crucial," said head coach Mitch Murray, whose U-18 squad improves to 11-4-3 on the year. "With us missing players and now with injuries ... our veterans stepped up and gave us organization and discipline."

"I think it was a great game. They came hard and they should--they're the Under-18 National Team," said West coach Chris Dorich.

U.S. Under-17 National Team 2, USASA Midwest 1

The U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team also looked strong in their tourney debut, downing a rugged USASA Midwest team with two goals in three minutes. After an even first half that saw each team with numerous scoring chances, the U.S. quickly struck first in the 52nd minute when defender Seth Trembly's arched a pretty free kick that ricocheted off the far post and into the back of the net.

Less than two minutes later, forward Jordan Cila chipped Midwest 'keeper Kyle Milligan and running mate Abe Thompson beat his man and put in in an open net. The celebration was short-lived, however, as the Midwest got one back when forward McKinley Tennyson's through ball helped Jaron Barbee get behind the U.S. defense and slide the ball under the left arm of American goalkeeper Delvin Countess in the 56th minute.

"This tournament is good for us because we are going to play Uruguay and Poland, who are big and tough, down the road," said head coach John Ellinger, whose U-17 team will play the two teams, as well as host New Zealand, in the 1999 FIFA Youth Championship in November. "The physical nature of these games will help prepare us for New Zealand and help get the rust off these guys, especially since we haven't played in a while."

Although not in the scoring column, midfielder Kyle Beckerman was a force early and often, notching the first four U.S. shots in a dangerous ten-minute span and distributing the ball effectively throughout the match.

The win was even more impressive considering the absence of three key contributors - defender Nelson Akwari, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and superstars forward Landon Donovan - who are currently competing with the U.S. Under-23 National Team at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

U.S. Under-16 Women's National Team 1, USASA East 1

The U.S. Under-16 Women's National Team fought hard toward the end of the match and produced a barrage of shots to try to pull out a victory, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw to an experienced USASA East team.

After dominating much of the first half and outshooting their opponent 7-2, Team USA found itself down 1-0 with just a third of the match to play. The East scored in the 64th minute when a ball played from the midfield beat the U.S. offside trap on a questionable call. Forward Jessica Reifer raced in alone, drew goalkeeper Sarah Lombardo out, and slotted it home after some nifty dribbling.

The Americans were energized by the entrance of 4'11" substitute Kayla Lockaby in the 72nd minute. Lockaby would be the one to score the equalizer in the 86th minute when she knocked home a loose ball in the box after East 'keeper Jill Gelfenbien bobbled then dropped a cross on the doorstep of the goal.

Lockaby, possibly the next Tiffany Milbrett with her flashes of speed and quick turns, had a chance to win the game a minute later but put it over the crossbar. The U.S. would register three dangerous shots in the last four minutes, but to no avail.

The next round of games will be Wednesday, with the Under-18s and the Under-17s taking on two more USASA Region Select teams, the Midwest and South, respectively. The Under-16s will try to get an important confidence-building win against the USASA Midwest team.

In other festival action tonight, the USASA South team spanked Canada's Under-18 National Team, 4-0, and the USASA East squad downed the Oregon State Select Team, 2-1. On the women's side, the West whipped the South, 4-1, and the Sacramento Storm blew threw the Midwest by the same lopsided margin.