FUNCHAL, Portugal (Wednesday, February 6, 2002) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team tied Slovakia 0-0 this afternoon at Estadio Eng. Rui Alves in Choupana, Portugal, just over the mountains from the team's home base in Funchal. The match was the team's second in two days as part of the Madeira International Tournament, having defeated Maderia 2-1 behind two Bobby Convey assists yesterday.
Goalkeeper D.J. Countess, along with a backline anchored by Alex Yi and team captain Kelly Gray, held Slovakia to just three shots on goal. Countess conserved the shutout in the last seconds of reguation time after two attackers made their way through four U.S. defenders on a well-timed counter effort. The ball ended up at the feet of second-half sub Igor Durzk with just the goalie to beat, but Countess reactly quickly to the shot that was headed for the upper corner and barely tipped it wide of the post and into the side netting as the Slovakia bench lept to their feet.
The U.S. had their own close chance to steal a win in the game's final minutes, as a cross from the right sife found forward Alecko Eskandarian in the middle of the box, where he flicked a header back inside the near post of the goal for what looked like a dramatic game winner. But the referee called DaMarcus Beasley for a foul in the box as he challenged for the same header.
"I thought in the back, we were really organized throughout the game. It felt pretty comfortable back there," said Yi, who is a veteran of the U.S. U-17 and U-20 World Championship teams in 1999 and 2001, respectively. "I think we need a little bit more work on maybe that last pass and getting connect in the offensive part of the field, but that will come over time."
In the first half, the U.S. exploited the flanks with the speed of midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey, but could only muster a corner kick advantage rather than a goal advantage at halftime.
In the 20th minute, Beasley won a ball just before the midfield stripe and sent a long ball to Esckandarian, who beat a defender and charged into the left side of the box only to have his cross blocked out over the endline.
Minutes later, Convey played a well-timed ball to forward Devin Barclay, who beat the onside trap and drew out goalkeeper Jan Muncha on the right side of the box, but Slovakia defenders recovered as he neared the endline and his angled shot was blocked out for another corner.
Barclay had another good chance when he found himself on the other end of a bad square pass by Slovakia defender Viktor Hall at the top of the penalty box, but he rushes his chip attempt and it sailed just high over the crossbar.
The USA finishes tournament play on Friday versus Portugal at Estadio dos Barreiros in Funchal, needing a win to win the tournament. Portugal is 2-0-0, having defeated Slovakia 1-0 on Tuesday and downing Madeira 3-0 this afternoon. The U.S. last met Portugal at the U-23 level in January 2000, falling 1-0 on a penalty kick in Alverca.
The Madeira International Tournament is being staged for the sixth time as an annual four-team event and dates back to 1996 (the tournament was not held in 1999 and was held as a three-team tournament in '96). Portugal won the first tournament and has since split the four other Madeira titles with Italy.
— U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team Game Report —
Participants: U.S. Under-23 MNT vs. Slovakia
Competition: Madeira International Tournament
Venue: Estadio Eng. Rui Alves (Choupana, Portugal)
Date: February 6, 2002 — kickoff 4:00 p.m. (11 a.m. ET)
Weather: 55 degrees; overcast, cold
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
United States 0 - 0 - 0
Slovakia 0 - 0 - 0
USA — 1-D.J. Countess; 17-Jose Burciaga, Jr., 5-Alex Yi, 6-Kelly Gray (capt.), 16-Brian Carroll; 19-Kyle Beckerman (2-Philip Salyer, 79), 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Brad Davis, 11-Bobby Convey (20-Chris Wingert, 72); 8-Alecko Eskandarian, 12-Devin Barclay.
Subs not used: 3-David Stokes, 4-Nelson Akwari, 13-Kyle Martino, 18-Doug Warren.
SLO — 12-Jan Mucha; 2-Vladimir Poncak, 3-Vladislav Palsa, 13-Viktor Hall; 7-Juraj Lestak, 8-Peter Duris (Capt.), 9-Juraj Ancic (6-Martin Durica, 46), 17-Karol Kovalik, 18-Michal Pancik (4-Igor Drzik, 46); 10-Stanislav Sestak, 11-Peter Kiska (14-Bratnislav Obzera, 46).
Subs not used: 1-Marian Postrk, 5-Martin Suchy, 15-Peter Vavrik, 16-Juraj Dancik.