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USA Eyes Group A Showdown vs. Panama with U-20 World Cup Berth at Stake


U.S. Under-20 MNT
Notes from Panama City, Panama
January 20, 2007


GOOD POINT: The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team controls its own destiny and can clinch a spot in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a win or draw against Panama on Sunday, Jan. 21 in their third and final match in Group A of the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. ET at Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, Panama, and fans can follow the match live on GolTV and ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

U.S.-PANAMA LIVE ON GOLTV: The USA’s crucial final Group A qualifying match against Panama is now going to be shown live by GolTV. The station had planned on showing both of Sunday’s matches on an hour delay, but is now going to broadcast the second half of Guatemala-Haiti and the entire U.S.-Panama match. The broadcast of the second half of the first match will begin at 5 p.m. ET, while the U.S. match will kick off at 6 p.m. sharp.

GolTV U-20 Qualifying Broadcast
Date        Match-up                                                       Time (ET)
Jan. 21   Guatemala vs. Haiti (second half only)   5 p.m. (live)
Jan. 21   USA vs. Panama                                         6 p.m. (live)

TOP TWO ADVANCE: The U.S. stayed atop Group A of the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament with four points after their scoreless draw against Guatemala in their second match. The hosts also have four points, but Panama (+1) has a lower goal differential than the U.S. (+3), which is the second tie-breaker after head-to-head. Guatemala is in third place with two points, while Haiti brings up the rear with a zero points following their 3-2 loss vs. Panama in Friday’s night cap. The top two teams advance to the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which will take place in Canada from June 30-July 22 across six cities – Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria.

2007 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament
Team   GP   W   L   T   GF   GA   GD   Pts.
USA       2     1     0   1    4      1      +3     4
PAN       2     1     0   1    4       3     +1     4
GUA       2     0     0   2    1      1      0       2
HAI        2      0     2   0    3       7     -4      0

Wednesday, Jan. 17
USA 4, Haiti 1
Panama 1, Guatemala 1

Friday, Jan. 19
USA 0, Guatemala 0
Panama 3, Haiti 2

Sunday, Jan. 21
Guatemala vs. Haiti 4 p.m. ET
USA vs. Panama 6 p.m. ET

U.S. SCENARIOS: Win, lose or draw and the U.S. has a chance of finishing in at least second place, which will get them into the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The U.S. can guarantee a spot in Canada with a win or a draw, while a loss will require a bit of help from already eliminated Haiti. In that scenario, Guatemala, which is still alive with two points, would need to lose or draw, keeping them below the U.S. with no more than three points. A win by the U.S. would also guarantee they would win the group, while a draw wouldn’t be as cut and dry. A draw against Panama gives the U.S. five points and a better goal differential than the hosts (+3 to +1), but Guatemala could leap all the way from third to first with a four-goal victory over Haiti. Here are the CONCACAF tie-breakers:
1. Head-to-Head
2. Goal Difference
3. Goals Scored
4. Drawing of Lots

LOOKING TO BREAK OWN RECORD: The U.S. is attempting to qualify for a CONCACAF-record sixth straight FIFA U-20 World Cup, and their 11th overall. The current record, held by the U.S. and Mexico, is five straight. If the U.S. does break the record, it would stand alone in CONCACAF as Mexico failed to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2005 in the Netherlands.

GOING FOR SECONDS: The U.S. also has the chance to repeat a feat they pulled off for the first time ever in 2005: Go undefeated and finish in sole possession of first place in CONCACAF qualifying. With victories over Trinidad & Tobago (6-1), Panama (2-0) and Costa Rica (2-0) in the 2005 edition at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the U.S. finished with nine points. The U.S. finished tied for first place on points two other times in 1998 and 2001, both times with Costa Rica, with tie-breakers needed to determine the final standings.

GAME ESSENTIALS: The U.S. will obviously be the visiting team when they take on Panama, and will be going back to their all-white uniforms which they wore in their opening match against Haiti. Panama will be dressed in all red. The referee for the match will be Joel Aguilar of El Salvador, who was the man in the middle for the Haiti-Panama match. His assistants will be Francisco Perez (Mexico) and Edgar Mora (Costa Rica), while the fourth official is Manuel Glower (Mexico).

DEALING WITH RED: The newspapers are projecting a crowd of 25,000 for the final match between the U.S. and Panama, more than twice the crowd of 10,000 on hand for Friday’s games. It also exceeds the combined attendance from both of Panama’s first two matches. The stadium capacity is 27,000 so you can bet the place is going to be rocking and dressed all in red.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Two players on the U.S. roster have experience dealing with hostile home crowds when they need a result during qualifying for a youth World Cup, as they were part of the U-17 MNT that needed a win against host Costa Rica to guarantee advancement during the 2005 qualifying tournament (a draw would have allowed Costa Rica to advance). Ofori Sarkodie and Preston Zimmerman both played 90 minutes, with Zimmerman being involved in the game-winning goal. Amaechi Igwe and Brian Perk were on the U-17 team, but Perk didn’t play and Igwe was unavailable due to yellow card accumulation. Quavas Kirk didn’t travel with the team due to a foot injury, while Josmer Altidore was in Residency but not named to the roster.

FIRE UP THE COMPUTERS: Players are making sure their Internet cards have enough time left on them in case we don’t get the U.S. Men’s National Team match against Denmark this evening and need to pull up ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. The match fits perfectly into the team’s schedule as they don’t eat until 7 p.m., giving them the opportunity to watch the full 90 minutes.

QUALIFYING BLOG: As the U-20 players get set to face Panama, there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes. Check out ussoccer.com's exclusive U-20 World Cup Qualifying Blog for the inside scoop of the team's daily preparations. We've got behind-the-scenes access to the X's and O's of team meetings plus the banter from the team bus or while the guys are just kickin' it around the hotel. It's 24/7 coverage of your favorite U-20 MNT personalities.

TALKING PANAMA: A handful of media greeted the Group A leaders at their training session this morning and talked with head coach Thomas Rongen and a number of players. Read their quotes on getting ready for Panama.

U.S. vs. PANAMA HISTORY: The U.S. and Panama have only played once in CONCACAF U-20 Qualifying, the meeting a recent one as the two clashed in the second match of Group A play in 2005 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The U.S. got two second half goals on a penalty kick from Freddy Adu and a 90th-minute strike from Jacob Peterson for a 2-0 victory which clinched the USA’s spot in the World Cup.

RESPECTED COACH: Panama’s head coach, Julio Cesar Dely Valdés, was one of the best players of his generation, along with his twin brother, Jorge. He began his professional career in 1989 in Argentina with Deportivo Paraguayo of Argentina, where he scored 28 goals. He then moved to Club Nacional de Football in Uruguay, where he scored more than 100 goals and won the Uruguayan Championship in 1992. In Europe, he played for Cagliari in Serie A and Paris Saint-Germain in the French Premiére Division. He then played in Spain's Primera División with Real Oviedo for three seasons and with Malaga for another three, before returning to Nacional.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: As host, Panama earned a bye into the Final Round of qualifying. This is the third time Panama has staged the CONCACAF U-20 tournament, hosting the first event in 1962 and a four-team group in 2002.

LAST TIME

vs. Panama
Jan. 14, 2005 – The Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif. – CONCACAF Qualifying

USA           2   Freddy Adu (pen), Jacob Peterson
Panama   2


USA: 1-Quentin Westberg; 2-Hunter Freeman, 3-Marvell Wynne, 4-Patrick Phelan, 5-Patrick Ianni (Capt.); 6-Greg Dalby, 12-Will John (10-Arturo Alvarez, 77), 15-Eddie Gaven, 8-Benny Feilhaber (16-Tim Ward, 86); 11-Freddy Adu, 9-Chad Barrett (13-Jacob Peterson, 62).
Subs not used: 7-Sacha Kljestan, 14-Charlie Davies,17-Danny Szetela, 18-Andrew Kartunen.
Head Coach: Sigi Schmid

PAN: 1-Jose Calderon; 2-Tomas Dunn, 3-Armando Gun (Capt.), 4-Roman Torres, 5-Jose Venegas, 6-Celso Polo, 7-Reggie Arosemena (10-Miguel Castillo, 82), 9-Edwin Aguilar (8-Cristian Vega, 76), 11-David Arrue, 13-Raul Loo (17-Alvaro Salazar, 61), 16-Luis Gallardo.
Subs not used: 12-Leopoldo Perez, 14-Eduardo Ponce, 15-Hanamel Hill, 18-Ricardo Buitrago.
Head Coach: Victor Rene Mendieta

- Full match report and story -

QUICK HITS:

• The USA and Panama are the only teams in Group A that qualified and competed in the last two FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates in 2003 and Holland in 2005
• Panama has only lost once in their last 12 games in qualifying. Their one loss during the streak was to the U.S. in Group A of the 2005 Final Round.
• With their draw with Guatemala on Friday, the USA’s international record is 5-4-3 since 2006
• Two players on the current qualifying roster appeared in the last match against Panama during 2005 qualifying: Adu (starter) and Ward (substitute). Szetela was on the bench for the match, but didn’t see any minutes.
• Midfielder Celso Polo is the only player on Panama’s current qualifying roster that appeared in that 2005 match. Polo started the match and played 90 minutes.
• The U.S. has defeated all three CONCACAF teams it has faced since 2006. The U.S. has defeated Canada, Guatemala and Haiti.
• Adu, Altidore, Nathan Sturgis, Julian Valentin and Ward are the U.S. players with a yellow card going into their match against Panama. Panama has three players holding cautions – Antonio Leslie, Armando Cooper and Francisco Castaneda.
• The U.S. made just one change to their starting 11 against Guatemala, starting Tony Beltran in place of Quavas Kirk at right back.
• With his three goals against Haiti, Andre Akpan now leads the team in international strikes.
• With two assists against Haiti, Robbie Rogers increased his team lead in international assists with four.
• While being the youngest player on the roster at 15 years of age, Adu is the only player that played in the 2003 and 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships.
• Rongen coached against Jorge Dely Valdez in MLS when he was the coach of D.C. United. Jorge is the twin brother of Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdez.

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