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U.S. U-23s Edge Russia 4-1 on Penalty Kicks, Advance to Final vs. Portugal Tomorrow

CHICAGO (Wednesday, January 22, 2003) - Playing its first international match - and in its first tournament - of 2003, the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team edged Russia 4-1 in penalty kicks, after being tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, to advance to the final of the Vale do Tejo International Tournament in Portugal, where they will meet the talented home team tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. ET. Portugal advanced to the final by defeating Slovenia 3-2 in the first match on Tuesday.

The U.S. converted all four of its chances in the shootout, with D.C. United forward and the top draft pick in last week's 2003 MLS SuperDraft Alecko Eskandarian knocking home the first and lone second-half sub Adolfo Gregorio (UCLA) providing the clinching fourth PK goal. Goalkeeper D.J. Countess (Dallas Burn) saved the second and third attempts by the Russian squad to help the U.S. advance.

After a scoreless first half, Russian captain and midfielder Alexander Belozerov put them on the board with a strike in the 55th minute. The U.S. tied things at 1-1 after Eskandarian set up Chicago Fire forward and #3 MLS SuperDraft pick Nate Jaqua for a low blast from 25 yards out that zipped under the arms of Russia goalkeeper Maxim Kabanov in the 67th minute.

The U.S. last met Portugal on the U-23 level almost a year ago on Feb. 8 in the final game of the Madeira International Tournament, with 2002 leading scorer Eskandarian equalizing in the 70th minute to pull out a 1-1 draw and finish second in the four-team event.

The skillful Portgual U-23 MNT, many of whom are starters for their club teams in the First Division, will likely have revenge on their minds, with the full team's 3-2 loss to the Americans in the first round of the 2002 World Cup likely still fresh in the minds of all National Team players and their countrymen.

The U.S. began it's five-game tour of Portugal with exhibitions against reserve teams from Portugal's First Division, posting a 1-1-1 record in three consecutive games last week. After dropping the first match 3-1 to the Sporting Lisbon reserves on Jan. 14, the U.S. rebounded to tie Benfica reserves 0-0 on Jan. 15 and shut out Santarem District 2-0 in the third match on Jan. 16.

The U.S. Under-23 MNT's trip abroad represents their first gathering in 2003. The U.S. will next travel to Ft. Lauderdale from Feb. 21-March 2 to compete against MLS teams, as well as the U.S. Under-20 MNT, as part of the league's Pre-Season. The U.S. is preparing for this summer's 2003 PanAm Games, which takes place in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from Aug. 1-17 and serves as a pre-cursor to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

- U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Game Report -

Participants:  United States Under-23 Men's National Team vs. Russia
Competition:  Vale do Tejo International Tournament
Venue: Almerim, Portugal
Date: Jan. 21, 2003 – 3 p.m. ET
Weather: 45 degrees; cold, clear
Attendance: 500 (approx.)

Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F - PKs
Russia 0 - 1 - 1 - 1
United States 0 - 1 - 1 - 4

RUS – Alexander Belozerov (unassisted), 55.
USA – Nate Jaqua (Alecko Eskandarian), 67.

Penalty Kick Summary:
USA: Alecko Eskandarian (goal), Jose Burciaga (goal), Kelly Gray (goal), Adolfo Gregorio (goal).
RUS: n/a (goal), n/a (saved), n/a (saved).

12-Maxim Kabanov; 3-Raml Shagaremftov, 4-Denis Kolodne, 6-Alexander Gorme, 7-Amzor Alarov; 8-Alexander Belozerov (Capt.), 10-Oleg Trihonov, 14-Sergei Smitnov, 15-Alexi Mukin; 18-Sergei Vinoradov, 19-Timur Khanblov.
Subs Not Used: 1-Sergei Ivanov, 2-Alexander Amoukov, 5-Ruslan Nakuushev, 11-Vlad Volkov, 13-Igor Vbourne, 16-Vladimir Bystrov, 17-Vladimir Tshonok.
Head Coach: Andrej Tchernyshjov.

USA - 1-D.J. Countess; 22-Chris Wingert, 6-Kelly Gray, 23-David Stokes, 16-Jose Burciaga; 2-Kyle Beckerman, 7-Brian Carroll, 21-Seth Trembly (7-Adolfo Gregorio, 57), 8-Logan Pause, 46; 6-Nate Jaqua, 5-Alecko Eskandarian.
Subs Not Used: 8-Seth Stammler, 9-David Testo, 13-Andres Rota, 14-Scot Thompson, 18-Doug Warren.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.

Statistical Summary: RUS / USA
Shots: 2 / 7
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 22 / 28
Offside: 0 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Alecko Eskandarian (caution), 74.

Referee: Darko Ceferin (ESL)
Assistant Referee #1: Jose Manuel Cardinal (POR)
Assistant Referee #2: Luis Costa Marcelino (POR)
Fourth Official: J. Paulo Paraty (POR)