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Tajikistan Stuns U.S. in Opening Match of FIFA U-17 World Cup

CHANGWON, South Korea (August 20, 2007) - The U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team took early leads in the first and second halves during their opening match in Group E of the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup, but Tajikistan rallied twice to eventually hand the U.S. a 4-3 loss in Changwon, South Korea.

After taking an early 1-0 lead on a ninth minute header goal from Mykell Bates, the U.S. was in control for the majority of the first half, but goals in the 32nd and 43rd minutes gave Tajikistan the lead before halftime. The U.S. bounced back with two goals in the opening eight minutes of the second half from Gregory Garza and Billy Schuler to once again take control, but Tajikistan mirrored the U.S. with two goals in the final eight minutes, including a jaw-dropping game-winner in the 86th minute, to earn all three points.

The U.S. will next face Group E leaders Tunisia on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 3:45 a.m. ET, live on ESPN2 and ESPNU (the match will also be replayed at 12 p.m. ET on ESPNU). With Monday's result, the U.S. sits in third place in Group E with a -1 goal differential separating them from Belgium (-2). Tunisia defeated Belgium, 4-2, in the earlier match and sits atop Group E with three points and a better goal differential (+2) than Tajikistan +1). 

“It was disappointing for us, because we know we let a lead slip away,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth. “We didn’t manage the match very well at the end, and I think we played a little bit too defensively and too conservatively. It’s not over. There are still six points out there, we still have two more games left to try and advance out of this group.”

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The U.S. started the match without their leading scorer forward Ellis McLoughlin, who was suffering from the effects of strep throat. He was replaced in the starting line-up by Abdusalam Ibrahim.

Despite not having the services of McLoughlin, the U.S. got on the scoreboard early, scoring off their first corner kick of the game. Garza served the corner right onto the six-yard box where a Bates out-jumped his defender and headed it into the net.

Tajikistan pulled even when a lucky deflection allowed Farkhod Vasiev long-range shot to find the back of the net. Vasiev collected a header clearance on the left side of the field, took a touch and then ripped a 30-yard left-footed attempt that deflected off Daniel Wenzel inside the penalty area, rendering goalkeeper Zac MacMath helpless.

The U.S. continued to push forward and had numerous chances on frame. In the 27th minute, Jared Jeffrey fired a 25-yard free kick that forced the best save of the night from goalkeeper Farrukh Berdiev. Seven minutes later, Bryan Dominguez cut the ball around a defender and lined up a shot from about the same distance that forced another diving save from Berdiev. Still on the attack, Abdusalam Ibrahim found himself in the box and around his defender, but his shot went right into the goalkeeper’s hands.

With just minutes remaining in the first half, Tajikistan took the lead after a quick buildup. A long ball found Fatkhullo Fatkuloev on the right wing and with a deft touch he was able to get around defender Kofi Sarkodie and dribble into the area before laying the ball back across the box. Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov let the ball roll by, allowing Samad Shohzukhurov to run on and blast his 12-yard shot past MacMath, who managed to get a piece of the ball, but was unable to stop the powerful strike. 

Trailing 2-1 at halftime, the U.S. came out in the second half with the energy, scoring two quick goals to retake the lead. In the 48th minute, Dominguez slipped a ball down the right side for Schuler, who did well to chase it down and send in a cross that followed the end line and passed over the reach of the Tajikistan goalkeeper, finding Garza alone at the far post to chest the ball into the empty net.

Five minutes later, Schuler scored a goal of his own off a corner kick from Alex Nimo to give the U.S. a 3-2 lead, and their second corner-kick goal of the night. Nimo’s service went over the ‘keeper and found Schuler at the back post where he headed it back across to the left side of the open goal.

Playing from behind once again, Tajikistan became the more dangerous team. After just missing a chance to pull even when Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov’s shot went inches wide of MacMatch’s goal, Tajikistan would find the equalizer in 82nd minute after a the U.S. failed to clear the ball from danger inside the penalty area. The ball eventually got to the feet of Nuriddin Davronov, who had just entered the game one minute before, and he pushed the ball to his right along the top of the box before hitting an extremely well-placed shot through a crowded area and inside the left post.

Hackworth brought on McLoughlin in the 85th minute in the hopes his leading scorer would find the game-winner, but moments later it would be Tajikistan that would complete the shocking comeback. Fatkuloev received a long ball alongside the right sideline from about 30 yards out and cut inside past his defender before unleashing a 20-yard laser that found the far side netting. 

Notes: The last time the U.S. gave up four or more goals in a FIFA U-17 World Cup was in 2001, when the U.S. lost in group play to eventually champion France, 5-3.

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

Participants: U.S. Under-17 MNT vs. Tajikistan
Competition: FIFA Under-17 World Cup
Location: Changwon, South Korea
Date: August 20, 2007
Attendance: 4,570

Scoring Summary:
            1   2   F
USA    1   2   3
TJK     2   2   4 
USA – Mykell Bates (Greg Garza)                                         9th minute
TJK – Farkhod Vasiev                                                             32.
TJK - Samad Shohzukhurov (Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev)         43.
USA – Greg Garza (Billy Schuler)                                         48.
USA – Billy Schuler (Alex Nimo)                                            53.
TJK – Nuriddin Davronov                                                        82.
TJK - Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev                                                     86.

18-Zac MacMath; 2-Sheanon Williams, 3-Mykell Bates (capt.), 6-Danny Wenzel, 7-Kofi Sarkodie; 8-Jared Jeffrey, 10-Bryan Dominguez (9-Ellis McLoughlin, 85), 17-Greg Garza (16-Brandon Zimmerman, 79), 19-Alex Nimo; 11-Abdusalam Ibrahim (15- Brek Shea, 71), 13-Billy Schuler
Subs Not Used: 1-Josh Lambo, 4-Tommy Meyer, 5-Chris Klute, 12-Kirk Urso, 14-Daniel Cruz, 20-Larry Jackson, 21-Brendan King
Head Coach: John Hackworth

TJK: 1-Farrukj Berdiev; 3-Eradzh Radzhabov, 5-Farkhod Vasiev, 6-Kurbonali Sobirov (11-Nuriddin Davronov, 81), 7-Buzurgmekhr Yusupov (8-Manuchehr Dzalilov, 67); 9-Samad Shohzukhurov (capt.), 10-Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov, 14-Farkhod Tokhirov (12-Abukayum Karabev, 73), 15-Furug Qodirov; 18-Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, 20-Isomiddin Qurbonov
Subs not used: 2-Sheroz Abdulloev, 4-Romiz Bakhriddinoev, 13-Shahzod Suleimonov, 16-Mirali Murodov, 17-Umedzhon Sharipov, 19-Muzafa Fuzaylov, 21-Bakhtovar Nusratulloev
Head Coach: Pulod Kodirov

Statistical Summary:
                                USA            TJK
Shots                       15               15  
Shots on goal          8                 6
Saves                        2                 5
Fouls                       19               22
Corner Kicks           8                  1
Offside                     3                  2  

Misconduct Summary:
TJK – Fatkullo Fathuloev (caution)           16th minute
USA – Daniel Wenzel (caution)                 20.

Referee: Koman Coulibaly (MLI)
1st Assistant: Redouane Achik (MAR)
2nd Assistant: Inacio Manuel Candido (ANG)
Fourth Official: Min Hu Lee (KOR)