U-17 MNT Fall to Czechs in Ballymena Final
BALLYMENA, Northern Ireland (April 28, 2006) - Six weeks before their respective national teams square off at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team fell to the Czech Republic, 1-0, this evening in the final of the 2006 Ballymena International Tournament.
This is the second straight year the U.S. has lost to the Czech Republic in the final of the Northern Ireland tournament, and the fourth straight time overall. In 2005, the U.S. also lost to the Czechs, 1-0.
"It was definitely a tale of two halves," said U.S. U-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth after the match. "They came out really strong in the first half, playing real physical and winning most of the 50-50 balls, while we didn't play with any energy. But we turned it around in the second half and had a number of good chances, including one off the post, but similar to last year we just couldn't put one away."
The Czech Republic was clearly the dominant team in the first 40 minutes of the game and outshot the U.S. 14-1, but it didn't have too many clear scoring opportunities. U.S. goalkeeper Josh Lambo made two relatively easy saves before miscommunication between defenders, Matt Uy and Ian Kalis, allowed the Czech's to score the eventual game-winner in the 30th minute.
Midfielder Lukas Palko got free down the left flank and served an early cross into the penalty area that didn't appear too dangerous as both Kalis and Uy had an opportunity to make a play on the ball. Instead, the two defenders hesitated, allowing forward Josef Sural to collect the ball in between them and unleash a shot past Lambo into the lower left corner.
The U.S. woke up in the second half and turned the tables on the Czechs, creating 10 shots on goal, while only allowing two late attempts when they were pushing forward for the equalizer.
Substitute Alex Dixon missed a couple chances to put dangerous services on frame early in the second half, but the best U.S. chance came from the foot of Brandon Tarr. Coming on for Brek Shea and moving up front as the U.S. changed to a 3-4-3 formation, Tarr collected the ball near the top of the area and took a shot that was deflected by a defender. He collected the rebound and got around the 'keeper inside the penalty area, but had a tough angle from which to put the ball on frame. He was able to slip it towards the goal line, but a defender was able to recover and get just enough of it to redirect the shot off the post.
Jesse Paredes had a late chance when Tommy Meyer served in a cross off a throw-in, but his shot from eight yards out was off frame.
The loss was the fourth straight for the U.S. in the Ballymena final. Along with 2005, the U.S. was also runners-up in 2004, falling, 4-3, in penalty kicks to Switzerland, and 2002, dropping a 2-1 result to Israel. In total, the U.S. has competed in five of the seven Ballymena International Tournaments, also participating in 2000 when they finished in fourth place.
Despite the loss, Hackworth was pleased with the players' performance in the tournament and during their 10-day training camp in England.
"It's been a long trip, but one that has been educational at this stage of the players' development," said Hackworth. "I hope we can learn from a game like this tonight. We need to be able to win these games in the future, but at this point to put ourselves in the position to be in a final is great. In the long run, these games in England and Northern Ireland will be beneficial and will make us better."
U.S. forward Ellis McLoughlin was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. McLoughlin scored two goals and registered two assists in the USA's four games.
U.S. Under-17 '90 Men's National Team Match Report
Participants: U.S. Under-17 ‘90s Men’s National Team vs. Czech Republic
Competition: Ballymena International Tournament
Location: Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Date: April 28, 2006
Weather: Cool, 60 degrees
1st 2nd Final
USA 0 0 0
CZE 1 0 1
CZE – Josef Sural (Lukas Palko) 30th minute
USA: 18-Josh Lambo; 4-TJ Nelson, 3-Tommy Meyer, 5-Ian Kalis, 13-Matt Uy (11-Jesse Paredes, 63); 9-Sheanon Williams, 7-Danny Wenzel, 8-Kirk Urso (12-Alex Dixon, 41), 6-Brek Shea (17-Brandon Tarr, 54); 14-Jared Jeffrey, 10-Ellis McLoughlin.
CZE: 1-Yaplav Halbky; 2-Rabek Coasal, 3-Lukas Heinz, 4-Javoslab Kaspar, 12-Tomas Kybal; 7-Lukas Marevek, 8-Lukas Palko (14-Jiri Pikl, 77), 11-Martin Kucera (15-Jan Smibrkl, 55), 13-Lukas Hejba; 10-Jakub Pepr (18-David Steiner, 63), 9-Josef Sural (17-Josef Husbauer, 80).
Shots 11 16
Saves 5 4
Fouls 9 24
Corner Kicks 3 5
Offside 4 3
USA – Brandon Tarr (caution) 59th minute
USA – Sheanon Williams (caution) 64.