The top two teams in each of the six, Nigeria '99 groups, as well as the top four third place teams, will advance to the Round of 16. The U.S. are currently in third in the group, trailing Japan on goal differential.
"Technically, the Japanese were a very good team and deserved the win today," said U.S. head coach Sigi Schmid. "We gave them too much space to work and in this type of competition you cannot afford to give space. They did very well with their offensive chances."
Japan took the lead tonight after eleven minutes when a Japanese combination in midfield resulted in the ball reaching the foot of midfield ace Shinji Ono. From 25 yards away and to the right of the American goal, Ono curled a dangerous ball into the penalty area. U.S. midfielder Nick Downing, retreating on the play, inadvertently redirected the driven ball past U.S. 'keeper Nick Rimando and into the net. Notwithstanding the goal, the U.S. pressured the Japanese tirelessly in the first half, particularly through forwards Taylor Twellman and Chris Albright.
The duo nearly stole a goal in the 20th minute, as Twellman intercepted a pass out the of the Japanese defense and dished to Albright at the top of the area. Albright did well to get off a quick shot with a defender draped on his back, but his right-footer went over the crossbar.
The best U.S. chance of the first half, though, came off the head of Albright, who skipped a header from a throw-in towards the Japanese goal. Japan's netminder,Yula Minami, stretched backwards to barely tip the ball over the bar.
Japan doubled the lead in the 52nd minute, and once again it was Ono who made the critical pass. The Japanese midfielder played a long penetrating pass through the heart of the American defense to a sprinting Naohiro Takahara. The speedy Takahara ran onto the ball and hit an 18-yard bullet into the left corner of the goal.
The U.S. pulled a goal back on 73 minutes through Ryan Futagaki, a fourth-generation Japanese-American who grew up in Southern California. A corner kick from the right side was cleared out of the penalty area directly to Futagaki. The 5-foot-5 Futagaki, who moved to the wide left position after halftime, controlled the ball, slipped past a charging defender and unleashed a ferocious, 16-yard, right-footer that tucked into the right corner, past Minami.
The goal sparked a furious U.S. offensive assault, triggered primarily by Albright and second-half substitutes Jamar Beasley, John Thorrington and Shaun Tsakiris. Albright did well in the 79th and 81st minutes to get behind the defense and serve dangerous crosses into the penalty area, where on both occasions Minami came off his line to snag the ball.
But in the 85th minute, Japan put the game out of reach for good. Tomoyuki Sakai threaded a pass to Mituso Ogasawara inside the area on the left side. Ogasawara took one touch towards the endline and hit a solid, left-footer that gave Rimando no chance at the far post.
"I'm still very confident that we will advance to the second round," added Schmid. "Cameroon will be a very difficult opponent, but we know that our goals in this tournament ride on playing well on Sunday. We will be ready."
Following is a look at the scenarios surrounding the U.S. advancing in the tournament after Sunday's match versus Cameroon.
THE U.S. WILL ADVANCE AS ONE OF THE TOP TWO TEAMS IN GROUP E IF?
- The U.S. defeats Cameroon and Japan does not beat England
- The U.S. defeats Cameroon and has a better goal differential than either Japan (if they defeat England) or Cameroon
- The U.S. ties Cameroon and Japan loses to England
THE U.S. WILL FINISH THIRD IN GROUP E (WITH A POSSIBLE SECOND ROUND BERTH) IF?
- The U.S. defeats Cameroon , Japan defeats England AND the U.S. finishes third in goal-differential
- The U.S. ties Cameroon and Japan ties England
- The U.S. loses to Cameroon and Japan does not lose to England
1999 U.S. MEN'S UNDER-20 NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's U-20 National Team vs. Japan U-20s|
|Competition:||1999 FIFA World Youth Championship|
|Venue:||Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium (Bauchi, Nigeria)|
|Date:||April 8, 1999; 7:00 p.m. kickoff (local time)|
|Weather:||Warm and dry - 88 degrees|
JPN - Nick Downing, (own goal), 11,
JPN - Naohiro Takahara, (Shinji Ono), 52,
USA - Ryan Futagaki, (Shaun Tsakaris), 73,
JPN - Mitsuo Ogasawara, (Tomoyuki Sakai), 85.
USA - Nick Rimando, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Dan Califf, Matt Goldsmith (Shaun Tsakiris, 46), Nick Downing, Nick Garcia, Rusty Pierce (John Thorrington, 59), Ryan Futagaki, Taylor Twellman (Jamar Beasley, 46), Chris Albright.
JPN - Yula Minami, Kazuki Teshima, Shigeki Tsujimoto, Tomoyuki Sakai, Mituso Ogasawara, Masashi Motoyama (Tatsuya Ishikawa, 85), Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Ono (Akira Kaji, 76), Koji Nakata, Yuichiro Nagai, Naohiro Takahara (Ryuji Bando, 90).
|Carlos Bocanegra (caution)||36,|
|Yasuhito Endo (caution)||76,|
|Sheve Cherundolo (caution)||79.|
|Arturo Dauden Ibanez||(Spain)|
Group E - Matches played in Kano and Bauchi, Nigeria
Note: The top two teams in each of the six opening groups, as well as the four best third-place teams, advance to the Round of 16.
|Date||No.||Match||Venue||Local Time||Eastern Time||Result|
|4-5-99||9||Cameroon vs. Japan||Kano||4 p.m.||11 a.m.|
|10||England vs. United States||Kano||7 p.m.||2 p.m.|
|4-8-99||21||Cameroon vs. England||Kano||4 p.m.||11 a.m.|
|22||Japan vs. United States||Bauchi||7 p.m.||2 p.m.|
|4-11-99||33||Cameroon vs. United States||Bauchi||4 p.m.||11 a.m.|
|34||Japan vs. England||Bauchi||7 p.m.||2 p.m.|