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Under-17 MNT Prepares for Poland in Busan

Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Busan International Youth (U-17) Tournament
Busan, Korea

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team plays Poland in its third and final game of the Busan International Youth Tournament in Busan, Korea at Busan Asiad Main Stadium tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time. Tournament leader South Korea will face Argentina following the U.S.-Poland match at 7 p.m.

Poland lost its first game of the tournament against Argentina 2-1, but tied South Korea 0-0 on Monday, good enough for third place with one point. Poland is ahead of the U.S., which also has one point, with a better goal differential (-1 to -3). Poland is known as a tough defensive squad that likes to slow the game down and strike with counter attacks. Against Korea, Poland barely had the ball out of their defensive end, but was able to keep the ball out of their net to snatch its first point. Poland is the only team in the tournament that failed to qualify for the World Championship, only getting to the second round of UEFA qualifying.

3-0 Korea Win – May 31, 2003
The U.S. struggled against jet-lag and an energized and tough Korean squad, allowing three goals in the second half, the most the team has given up in an entire game all year. Korea struck first when Brandon Owens was called for a foul inside the penalty area and second half substitute Sang Hup Lee buried the penalty for the one goal lead. Later in the half, Dong Hyen Yang scored two goals in a seven-minute span to put the game in the books for Korea. The U.S. struggled with their possession for most of the game and never provided a constant offensive threat, only managing two solid strikes on goal.
Lineup vs. Korea
USA – 1-Phil Marfuggi; 2-Kyle Helton (9-Michael Harrington, 80), 3-Jonathan Spector (14-Julian Valentin, 4), 5-Brandon Owens, 12-Steve Curfman; 10-Guillermo Gonzalez, 8-John DiRaimondo, 15-Corey Ashe (13-Jamie Watson, 70), 7-Brian Grazier (17-Danny Szetela, 70); 11-Freddy Adu, 4-Eddie Gaven.

2-2 Tie – June 2, 2003
The second match of the tournament for both teams was an offensive juggernaut as the U.S. and Argentina combined for 14 shots on goal, five of which found the left or right post.  The U.S. got equalizing goals from Corey Ashe and Guillermo Gonzalez after being down a goal twice during the match. Argentina got on the board first when striker Adrian Colzera scored on a well-struck volley from 20-yards out. Before the end of the first half though, the U.S. tied it 1-1 after Ashe followed up an Eddie Gaven blast that ricocheted off the right post. Argentina found the back of the net again in the 64th minute as Colzera got open in front of the U.S. goal and headed home a cross. The U.S. tied it up for good in the 72nd minute, when Freddy Adu was taken down in the box and Gonzalez coolly placed the ball past the keeper.
Lineup vs. Argentina
USA – 1-Phil Marfuggi; 14-Julian Valentin, 5-Brandon Owens, 12-Steve Curfman; 4-Eddie Gaven, 8-John DiRaimondo (6-Jacob Peterson, 60), 15-Corey Ashe, 7-Brian Grazier, 17-Danny Szetela (19-Jay Denny, 80); 11-Freddy Adu, 10-Guillermo Gonzalez

Team            GP  W     L     T   GF GA Pts
S. Korea         2     1     0      1     3    0    4
Argentina       2     1     0      1     4    3    4
Poland            2     0    1      1     1     2    1
USA               2     0     1      1     2    5    1

May 31
South Korea 3 USA 0
Argentina 2 Poland 1

June 2
South Korea 0 Poland 0
USA 2 Argentina 2

June 4
USA vs. Poland  5 p.m. local
South Korea vs. Argentina 7 p.m. local

Going into its final game of the tournament, the U.S. has a chance to move up from its fourth place position to third, or even second if it gets some help. With a win over Poland, the U.S. would be guaranteed a third place finish. To climb into second place, the U.S. would need Argentina to lose to South Korea and finish with a better goal differential. The U.S. (-3) can obtain a better goal differential than Argentina (+1) if they win 4-0 and Argentina loses 1-0.

With the U.S. defense getting hit with the injury bug lately, including Jonathan Spector who fractured his left clavicle in the opening minutes against Korea, head coach John Ellinger switched up his regular formation, opting for a 3-5-2 against Argentina. The new formation worked well as the U.S. was able to hold its own against a very technical Argentina team, while also pushing forward from the back to create numerous quality chances on goal. The backline featured Steve Curfman on the left, Julian Valentin in the middle and Brandon Owens on the right. The only other tweaks in the line-up, compared to the Korea game were Eddie Gaven dropping back to midfield, while Gonzalez moved up to forward, and Danny Szetela getting his first start in the tournament at central midfield.

The game against Poland on Wednesday will be the fifth international match for the Under-17s in 11 days. The team played two friendlies against Mexico (May 25) and Costa Rica (May 26) in Lancaster, Calif., before leaving for South Korea late on May 28. The U.S. fell 2-1 in a rough match against Mexico, but bounced against Costa Rica, snagging a 3-2 victory. The U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica are the three teams that qualified from CONCACAF for the Under-17 FIFA World Championship in Finland this August 13-30.

Young sensation Freddy Adu celebrated his 14th birthday on Monday, helping his team to a 2-2 tie with Argentina. On Tuesday, Adu sat down to talk about what it was like to celebrate his birthday in Korea.

So, do you feel any different?
Nope, just the same.

How did your birthday go here in Busan, South Korea?
One of the Korean interpreters with the team brought me a present, some cookies and stuff. That was really nice because I didn’t even know she knew it was my birthday. Somehow she knew, so I was really surprised. All the guys on the team told me happy birthday and made me feel like I would at home, but I’m looking forward to going home and getting my presents.

How has your time in Korea been?
It’s been fun, but I know it took me personally awhile to get used to the time change. I haven’t been able to sleep well. It took me to about last night before I started sleeping well and I guess that kind of showed in the games, too. In the first game, I don’t think I played as well as I could have. I was able to sleep better yesterday and feel good now though. It’s too bad it took me this long to get used to it because we leave in a couple of days.

What has been the most interesting thing during the trip?
The people are extremely friendly. They just treat us very well and are very humble. You just don’t see that everywhere you go. The culture here reminds me a lot of Ghana because people are so passionate about soccer and everyday life.

What do you think of the tournament so far?
We didn’t play as good as we wanted to in the first game (against South Korea). In the second game though we came out and showed everyone that Argentina wasn’t going to dominate us like they thought. We just came out and somewhat dominated, despite two defensive breakdowns. We tied 2-2, but we could have easily won that game.

Are you surprised by the media attention surrounding your recent decision to sign with an agent?
Right now the media is all over it, but I don’t really get too caught up in it. I just want to keep playing and work with the team and concentrate on getting ready for the World Championship. That is my main goal.