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U.S. Advances to 11th Straight FIFA U-17 World Championship With 2-1 Victory Over Costa Rica


  • Omar Gonzalez and Nikolas Besagno Both Score First International Goals to Lead U.S. to Victory
  • Gonzalez Scores Game-Winning Goal in 61st Minute of First International Start
  • U.S. Plays Best Match of Tournament to Win Qualifying Group For Third Straight Time
  • U.S. Keeps Alive Streak of Only Country to Qualify for Every FIFA World Championship at This Age Level

HEREDIA, Costa Rica (April 16, 2005) — The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team captured the first of three CONCACAF berths for the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship this evening with a spirited 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in their final match in Group A of the U-17 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia, Costa Rica.

The U.S. finished with seven points to win their qualifying tournament for the third straight time and advance to their 11th straight FIFA U-17 World Championship, keeping the streak alive as the only country that has qualified for every FIFA World Championship at this age level. The U.S. is the eighth team to book their spot in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship, which will take place in Peru from September 16-October 2.  

Nikolas Besagno provided the U.S. with an early lead in the 11th minute when he buried a misplayed ball by Costa Rica goalkeeper Alfonso Quesada. Omar Gonzalez blasted home a pass from Kevin Alston in the 61st minute as the U.S. took a commanding 2-0 lead. That lead was sliced in half just six minutes later when Cesar Elizondo Quesada tucked home a rebound from close range. Costa Rica applied heavy pressure in the final ten minutes of the match, but a lucky bounce off the post and a great save by Bryant Rueckner allowed the U.S. to escape with a victory.

“I’m extremely proud of our players right now,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth, who remains undefeated in international play with a 6-0-1 record. “They played their hearts out, battled through a lot of adversity and came out on top. It’s a credit to the players. They worked hard and this was their day to celebrate.” 

In front of a raucous crowd the U.S. saved the best for last, playing remarkably better against Costa Rica than they did in their first two matches against El Salvador and Cuba. The U.S. defense was staunch throughout the game as they were well organized, made a number of timely tackles and were dominant in the air.

Blake Wagner, who started his first match of the tournament as regular starter Amaechi Igwe was suspended due to yellow card accumulation, was one of the best players on the field. From his left back position, Wagner was dominant in one-v-one defending and energized the U.S. attack with well-placed passes up front for Gonzalez and Preston Zimmerman.

The two teams traded shots in the first ten minutes before the U.S. capitalized on a fatal mishap by Quesada on a corner kick. Wagner served in the corner from the right side to the near post inside the six-yard box and Quesada reached up to snag it out of the air. With Jeremy Hall challenging in front of him, Quesada let it slip through his gloves and bounce to the back post where Besagno pounced on the loose ball and slammed it over the goal line. The strike was Besagno’s first-ever international goal.

The game began to settle into a rhythm and it was apparent that the most important match-up on the field was going to be between the two tallest players. U.S. forward Omar Gonzalez, who replaced David Arvizu who had accumulated two cautions in previous matches, was marked up by Costa Rica defender Kendall Waston. During the match, the two were constantly fighting for head balls and passes sent through the back line. The 6-foot-4 Gonzalez was impressive in his first international start, as he won a majority of the battles to provide the U.S. with a dangerous attack and create opportunities on goal.

On the other end of the field, the U.S. defense held Costa Rica to only two shots on goal in the first half, both of which went directly to Rueckner for easy saves. Costa Rica’s most dangerous attempt came in the final minute of the half when Julio Garcia got past Hall on the right elbow of the penalty area and ripped a drive that went a few feet over the crossbar.

The beginning of the second half was defined by tough tackles by the U.S., especially by Besagno and Ryan Soroka. Besagno had his most complete game of the tournament, winning the ball with crunching tackles and helping to dictate the pace. Soroka was imposing on the right flank despite his small stature, making life difficult for defender Roberto Carrillo, who replaced Costa Rica’s starting left back David Calvo in the 37th minute after he suffered an injury.

The U.S. doubled their lead in the 61st minute when Gonzalez got free from Waston and slammed home a through ball for his first international goal. Alston knocked the ball up the right sideline for Zimmerman, who tried to get a flick on the ball but couldn’t get his head to it, allowing the ball to continue on its path into the penalty area. Gonzalez timed his run perfectly past Waston and hit a one-time blast past the onrushing Quesada into the open net.

The extra cushion only lasted six minutes as Elizondo Quesada buried home a rebound. Carrillo had found some room at the top of the box and hit a knuckling left-footed shot that Rueckner did well to get down and get a piece of, but the deflection got too far away from him and Elizondo Quesada came flying in at the right post to smash it into the net.

With 10 minutes to go, the U.S. was saved by a lucky bounce off the right post. Costa Rica won a free kick on the left flank and Celso Borges curled in a perfect service to forward Guillermo Guardia, who hit a stunning flick header toward the back post. A frozen Rueckner watched as the ball hit the right post and bounced behind him along the goal line before it was eventually cleared out by Alston.

Rueckner slammed the door shut on Costa Rica in the 85th minute, coming up with big with his only real save of the match. Elizondo Quesada dribbled into the midfield near the top of the penalty area before pushing the ball to his left for Garcia. With Alston defending, Garcia cut inside and unleashed a low drive toward the lower-left corner, but Rueckner was able to get his right hand down to stop the shot and then cover up the rebound.

Costa Rica finished in second place and will now play a two-game playoff for the final CONCACAF berth. The ticos will face the second-place finisher in Group B, which will be contested among Mexico, Canada, Haiti and Honduras in Mexico from May 17-21, in a home-and-away playoff series. The dates and location of the two matches would be decided after Group B play is completed.

This is the fifth time the U.S. has won the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament. The U.S. won it twice (1983 and 1992) when just one winner was crowned from 1983-1996 and twice since 199, when the event became a final round qualification consisting of two groups. The U.S. took home the Group A title during the 2001 and 2003 competitions. 

Along with the U.S., seven teams have qualified for the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship. Peru automatically advances as host while China, DPR Korea and Qatar earned Asia’s three berths and Australia won the Oceania qualifying tournament. Brazil and Uruguay advanced from South America.

- U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Game Report -

Participants: USA vs. Costa Rica
Competition: CONCACAF Group A Qualifying Tournament (Final Round)
Location: Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero; Heredia, Costa Rica
Date: April 16, 2005
Weather: Cool, 65 degrees

Scoring Summary:
                              1    2       F
USA                      1    1       2
Costa Rica           0    1      1

USA – Nikolas Besagno (Blake Wagner)        11th minute
USA – Omar Gonzalez (Kevin Alston)               61.
CRC – Cesar Elizondo Quesada                       67.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Bryant Rueckner; 3-Kevin Alston, 5-Ofori Sarkodie (capt.), 4-Eric Lichaj, 13-Blake Wagner; 11-Ryan Soroka, 16-Nikolas Besagno, 8-Kyle Nakazawa (12-Eddie Ababio, 87), 6-Jeremy Hall (15-Neven Subotic, 76); 9-Preston Zimmerman, 17-Omar Gonzalez (7-Carlos Borja, 77).
Subs not used: 2-Richard Edgar, 18-Brian Perk.
Not Eligible: 14-Amaechi Igwe, 10-David Arvizu.
Head Coach: John Hackworth

CRC: 1-Alfonso Quesada; 3-Rudy Forbes, 4-Fernando Paniagua, 5-Carlos Chacon, 6-David Calvo (7-Roberto Carrillo, 37); 9-Julio Cesar Garcia, 10-Luis Diego Cordero (14-Carlos Sandoval, 82), 11-Jean Carlos Solorzano (21-Cesar Elizondo Quesada, 59), 13-Celso Borges; 19-Guillermo Guardia, 20-Kendall Waston.
Subs not used: 2-Alonso Vargas, 15-Esteban Rodriguez, 17-Dave Andrew Myrie, 18-Armando Venegas
Head Coach: Geovanny Alfaro Hernandez

Statistical Summary:
                                USA    CRC
Shots                         9          8             
Saves                        3          0                               
Fouls                        18        14       
Corner Kicks             7          4        
Offside                       2          3       

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Omar Gonzalez (caution)       43rd minute
USA – Kevin Alston (caution)            71.
USA – Nikolas Besagno (caution)    79.
CRC – Roberto Carrillo (caution)      80.   

Officials:
Referee: Lucinio Rodriguez (HON)
1st Assistant: Triston Tulloch (JAM)
2nd Assistant: Florencio Osorio (HON)
Fourth Official: Elmar Rodas (GUA)

STANDINGS / RESULTS
Team    GP    W    L    T    GF   GA     GD    Pts.
USA        3       2    0    1       6      2        4       7 
CRC       3      2    1    0       6      3        3        6
CUB       3      0    1    2       3      6       -3        2
SLV        3      0    2    1       3      7       -4        1

Tuesday, April 12
USA 3, El Salvador 0
Costa Rica 3, Cuba 0

Thursday, April 14
USA 1, Cuba 1            
Costa Rica 2, El Salvador 1   

Saturday, April 16
Cuba 2, El Salvador 2
USA 2, Costa Rica 1

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