KINGSTON, Jamaica (May 6, 2007) — The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team won their fourth straight CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament with a 2-1 victory against Costa Rica this evening at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
Already qualified for their record 12th straight FIFA U-17 World Cup, the U.S. got goals from Gregory Garza and Ellis McLoughlin in the first half and held off a second half charge by the ticos to finish atop the group with nine points from three victories and one loss in four matches. Costa Rica, which had also already qualified, finished in second place with seven points. Trinidad & Tobago earned the third and final CONCACAF position with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in the final match of the tournament.
The U.S. has won the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament a total of six times, including four out of five attempts since the tournament became a two-group event in 1999. The U.S. exacted some revenge, as the only year they didn’t win their group was in 1999, when the qualifying tournament was held here in Jamaica with the U.S. finishing in second place behind the hosts. Before the final round tournament became two groups, the U.S. only won the final round twice in 1983 and 1992.
“This was a another tough match for us during qualifying, but our guys really stepped up today and showed they were the best team in this group,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth, who will take the U.S. to his second FIFA U-17 World Cup, having coached the U.S. at the 2005 event in Peru, leading the team to an impressive fifth place finish. "We wanted to come out and score early and that’s exactly what we did. We played exceptionally well and I thought our defense did a remarkable job of holding off a great Costa Rica attack in the second half, especially with this being our fourth match is seven days. We’re extremely happy to come away from Jamaica with the top spot and now we can concentrate on the FIFA World Cup.”
Once again it was a tale of two halves for the U.S., as they scored two goals in the first half for the fourth straight game, but couldn’t subdue Costa Rica in the second half as the ticos scratched their way back. Neither team had a lot of quality chances on goal, but Costa Rica did outhshot the U.S. (eight to five) as they pushed forward in hopes of finding the equalizer.
A quick restart provided the U.S. with their opening goal in the 13th minute. Costa Rica captain Roy Smith had pushed forward inside the center circle and attempted to push the ball out wide left to Oviedo Bryan, but his pass was off the mark and rolled out of bounds. While Smith took his time to track back into position, Sheanon Williams quickly threw the ball up to Billy Schuler in the open space near the top of the box. The Sierra Mist Man of the Match was able to hold Smith off and dribble into the box before slotting the ball across the six-yard line for the streaking Garza who buried it first time into the net.
Six minutes later, the U.S. took a two-goal lead when they scored off another attack that started from a Williams throw-in. Deep on the left sideline, Williams tossed the ball into the penalty area, but it was cleared out right back to him. He took a touch before curling the ball back into the area where McLoughlin had lost his defender about 12 yards out. McLoughlin, who was playing his first match since a two-game suspension for a red card, took a settling touch and then placed his shot with the outside of his right foot into the lower left corner.
Costa Rica struggled to get behind the U.S. defense during the first half as Thomas Meyer and Mykell Bates won almost every header, and Williams and Brandon Zimmerman continually won their one-on-one battles, not allowing them to serve in crosses from the wing.
The ticos turned things around in the second half as they were able to take advantage of the USA’s tired legs. The U.S. had five players on the field that started all three of the previous games, including Williams and Bates on the backline.
Just 10 minutes into the half, Costa Rica cut the deficit in half with two touches of the ball. The attack actually came directly after a chance for the U.S. as Daniel Wenzel won a ball in midfield and slipped a pass through for Schuler, but goalkeeper Leonel Moreira came off his line to slide in and take it snatch it away. Moreira's subsequent punt soared over the heads of Bates and Meyer, allowing Marcos Urena to run onto the bouncing ball and then chip over the head of goalkeeper Zac MacMath who was trapped in no-man’s land.
Urena, who didn’t start but came on in the half-hour mark, was a handful for the U.S. the rest of the match. In the 60th minute, Urena collected the ball on the left flank, cut inside and unleashed a blast that missed the crossbar by mere inches. A short time later, Urena headed a Bruno Castro corner kick towards the left post, but Alex Nimo cleared it away.
McLoughlin had a couple chances to put the game away, but agonizingly missed from close range. The first came in the 75th minute when a long ball over top fell into the box where McLoughlin got off a shot, but Moreira was right there to parry it wide. Ten minutes later, another ball fell to his feet from six feet out when the ball unexpectedly got over the head of Schuler and two defenders, but his first touch failed him and the ball went right to Moreira.
Costa Rica came just inches from tying the game and winning the group with three minutes left. David Guzman sent in a corner kick and Jordan Smith got his head to it from 12 yards out, but it was not to be as it hit the crossbar.
On Friday, the U.S. became the 18th team to qualify for the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the fourth of five CONCACAF teams. The other two CONCACAF berths (besides Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago) are Haiti and Honduras, which qualified from Group A.
The U.S. will find out their opponents for the FIFA 2007 U-17 World Cup when the draw is held on May 17 in South Korea. There are just five spots remaining for the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup, all of which will come from the UEFA qualifying tournament which finish up later this week. Along with the three teams from CONCACAF’s Group B, the qualified teams are Japan, Korea DPR, Tajikistan, Syria, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Tunisia, Haiti, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, New Zealand and Korea Republic.
- U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Game Report -
Participants: USA vs. Costa Rica
Competition: CONCACAF Group B Qualifying Tournament (Final Round)
Location: National Stadium; Kingston, Jamaica
Date: May 6, 2007
Weather: Warm, 80 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 0 2
CRC 0 1 1
USA – Gregory Garza (Billy Schuler) 13th minute
USA – Ellis McLoughlin (Sheanon Williams) 19.
CRC – Marcos Urena (Leonel Moreira) 55.
USA: 18-Zach MacMath; 2-Sheanon Williams (4-Howard Turk, 75), 3-Mykell Bates (Capt.), 5-Thomas Meyer, 16-Brandon Zimmerman; 19-Alex Nimo, 8-Jared Jeffrey, 6-Daniel Wenzel, 17-Gregory Garza (7-Nicholas Millington, 71); 9-Ellis McLoughlin 13-Billy Schuler (15-Brek Shea, 89)
Subs not used: 1-Josh Lambo, 10-Byran Dominguez 12-Brendan King, 14-Jesse Paredes, 20-Alex Dixon
Not Available: 11-Abdusalam Ibrahim
Head Coach: John Hackworth
CRC: 1-Leonel Moreira; 4-Jordan Smith, 3-Roy Smith, 13-Erick Rojas, 15-Rodrigo Herra (9-Marcos Urena, 30); 19-Daniel Varela (12-Bruno Castro, 50), 5-Esteban Luna, 6-Miguel Brenes (16-Julio Ibarra, 76), 14-Oviedo Bryan; 10-Jorge Castro, 8-David Guzman.
Subs not used: 2-Seemore Johnson, 7-Diego Brenes, 11-Jessy Peralta, 17-Josue Martinez, 18-Guillermo Camacho, 23-Stanly Jimenez
Head Coach: Manuel Urena
Statistical Summary: USA CRC
Shots 5 8
Shots on goal 3 3
Saves 2 1
Fouls 15 18
Corner Kicks 5 9
Offside 3 2
CRC – Marcos Urena (caution) 39th minute
CRC – Jorge Castro (caution) 39.
Referee: Elmer Bonilla (SLV)
1st Assistant: Hiran Perez (CUB)
2nd Assistant: Dion Inniss (GUY)
Fourth Official: Luis Rodriguez (PAN)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Billy Schuler
2007 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament
RESULTS / STANDINGS
Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
USA 4 3 1 0 9 5 +4 9
CRC 4 2 1 1 4 2 +2 7
TRI 4 2 2 0 3 6 -3 6
CAN 4 1 2 1 5 4 +1 4
JAM 4 1 3 0 3 7 -4 3
Saturday, April 28
Costa Rica 2, Trinidad & Tobago 0
Canada 3, Jamaica 0
Monday, April 30
Costa Rica 0, Canada 0
USA 3, Trinidad & Tobago 0
Wednesday, May 2
USA 2, Canada 1
Costa Rica 1, Jamaica 0
Friday, May 4
Trinidad & Tobago 2, Canada 1
Jamaica 3, USA 2
Sunday, May 6
USA 2, Costa Rica 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1, Jamaica 0