U.S. Under-20s Battle to 1-1 Draw with Costa Rica in Rematch of Qualifying Finale; Kelly Gray Scores Equalizer for His Third Goal in Two Matches
The match was the final game of the camp and will be the team's last action before heading to France for the Toulon Festival on May 20. The Toulon Festival, an eight-team tournament this year, is generally regarded as one of the top annual youth tournaments anywhere in the world.
"We did some things very well in the match, and we are still learning about a lot of areas we need to improve in for Toulon and Argentina," U.S. head coach Wolfgang Suhnholz said. "We are still making progress, and we're looking forward to getting tested against some great teams in France."
After giving up a goal in the game's fifth minute, the U.S. equalized in the 12th minute through the red-hot Gray. U.S. defender Ricky Lewis played a ball behind the Costa Rica defense that Gray ran onto and carried into the penalty area. With Costa Rican goalkeeper Neighel Dormond approaching, Gray lofted a soft chip over the helpless goalkeeper for the second international goal of his Under-20 career and his third goal in two games.
Gray notched both goals for the USA in the team's 2-1 win against the United States Under-18 Men's National Team on Wednesday. Gray, one of the USA's most versatile players, has spent the last two games as a striker, but he has also played in back for the U.S. and spent most of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament as a defensive midfielder.
Costa Rica jumped on top of the USA early when Pablo Salazar headed in a corner kick in the fifth minute. It was the second time in two matches between the two teams that the U.S. fell behind in the first half. In the match on March 22, Johel Fahardo scored in the 42nd minute before Kyle Martino equalized six minutes after halftime. The U.S. played the final 41 minutes with 10 men after Brad Davis received his second caution of the match in the 49th minute.
While Suhnholz was without many of his regular players for the match, the Costa Rican side sent out nearly the same team that it fielded at the qualifying tournament. Eleven of the 14 players that played for Costa Rica in Saturday's draw also played in the tournament finale on March 22. Suhnholz fielded a less experienced squad, calling on only seven players that played on March 22. Gus Kartes, Charles Kazlauskas, David Wagenfuhr and Logan Pause all received their first international cap under Suhnholz on Saturday.
Many of Suhnholz's regulars are playing with their professional clubs, while others will be rejoining the team for the trip to Toulon on May 20. U.S. forward Conor Casey and defender Oguchi Onyewu are two players expected to join the U.S. side for the trip to Toulon. U.S. head coach Suhnholz is expected to announce a complete roster for the Toulon Festival later this week.
The U.S. will be making their seventh appearance at the Festival and will be joined in group A by Italy, Colombia and the Netherlands. Group B is made up of Japan, Poland, Portugal and France.
The U.S. plays the first game of the 2001 Festival, opening against Italy on Thursday, May 24. Italy finished third in last year's Toulon Festival and are the 2000 UEFA Under-21 Champions.
The USA's second match will be played on May 26 against two-time defending Festival champions Colombia and the U.S. will wrap up group play against the Netherlands on May 28. All U.S. matches will be shown live on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports Espanol.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the tournament semifinals on May 31 at the Stade Mayol in Toulon. The third-place match and the final will take place on June 2.
With their performance in the qualifying tournament in March, Costa Rica secured advancement to their fourth consecutive World Youth Championship. Only Brazil, Argentina, Japan and Australia have also advanced to each of the last four Youth Championships. Costa Rica has been drawn into Group F of the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, and will face the Netherlands (June 18), Ethiopia (June 21) and Ecuador (June 24) in the first round of play.