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U.S. U-17s Draw with Cuba in Second Qualifier

  • U.S. Scores in First 60 Seconds on Strike by Kyle Nakazawa
  • Cuba Scores on Only Shot on Goal in the Game, Finding Equalizer in the 65th Minute
  • U.S. Will Face Costa Rica for Automatic Berth to 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Final Match of Qualifying Tournament on April 16 at 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET)

HEREDIA, Costa Rica (April 14, 2005) — The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team scored in the first 60 seconds, but struggled offensively for the majority of their second match in Group A of the U-17 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament, drawing 1-1 with Cuba at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Before either team had really settled into the game Kyle Nakazawa provided the U.S. with a brilliant beginning, burying a left-footed strike past the Cuba goalkeeper Jose Selles into the lower right corner in the first 60 seconds. The early goal turned out to be a bad omen for the U.S. as their offensive attack was lethargic at times for most of the match and the back line struggled with Cuba’s attack. In the second half, Adrian Hernandez took advantage striking Cuba’s only shot on goal past Bryant Rueckner into the upper right corner for the equalizer.

The surprising draw drops the U.S. into second place in Group A with four points behind Costa Rica, which leads the group with six points after defeating El Salvador 2-1 in the second match of the doubleheader this evening in Heredia.

The U.S. will meet Costa Rica in their final match of the qualifying tournament on Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET) with a automatic berth to the 2005 FIFA World Championship on the line. The U.S. can only receive the automatic berth with a win over Costa Rica to finish atop the group, as the winner of Group A automatically qualifies for the FIFA World Championship to be played in Peru from September 15-October 2.

A draw against Costa Rica would secure the U.S. with a second-place finish and keep their world championship hopes alive, as they would play a two-game playoff for the final CONCACAF berth. The U.S. would face the second-place finisher in Group B, which will be contested among Mexico, Canada, Haiti and Honduras in Mexico from May 17-21, in a home-and-away playoff series. The dates and location of the two matches would be decided after Group B play is completed.

The U.S. could also finish in second place and compete in playoff series if they lose to Costa Rica, depending on the match between Cuba and El Salvador. A Cuba win would pull the teams even at four points and it would move to tiebreakers, the first being goal differential.
The U.S. will be without Amaechi Igwe and David Arvizu for their final match against Costa Rica as both players received their second yellow of the tournament.

“The bottom line is we didn’t play well,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth, who’s international record now stands a 5-0-1. “We got an early goal and sometimes the natural inclination is to drop back and defend and that was the wrong thing to do. It just got worse for us from there.

“The draw really doesn’t change our mindset or what we need to accomplish. We knew coming in it would probably come down to the last game and that we would need to beat Costa Rica to guarantee we’d finish in first place and get the automatic berth to the World Championship. We will try to rebound from this game and do just that.”

The U.S. started in a different formation than their first game, moving into a 4-3-3 with Arvizu, Preston Zimmerman and Ryan Soroka up front, Nakazawa in an attacking midfielder role and both Nikolas Besagno and Carlos Borja as defensive midfielders.

The U.S. goal started from a Kevin Alston throw-in on the right sideline. Alston found Zimmerman just inside the penalty area and the forward was able to head it back to Nakazawa near the top of the box. With his first touch of the game, Nakazawa pounced on the bouncing ball and buried his left-footed half-volley just inside the right post.

Directly after the goal, the U.S. seemed to fall back and defend, stifling their offensive attack and allowing Cuba to direct the pace during stretches of the match. Cuba had success down the flanks and forced the U.S. defenders into committing fouls deep in the U.S. defensive half.

Cuba served in a number of dangerous free kicks into the box, but was never able to put a shot on frame. The best chance came in the fourth minute when Yannier Martinez weighted a ball from the left edge of the penalty area in front of the net where Luis Villegas got a foot to it, but he knocked it wide right.

After struggling for a bit the U.S. began to again push forward and in the 19th minute got their second shot on goal after winning a free kick when Zimmerman was brought down at the top of the penalty area. Igwe swerved his left-footed shot over the wall to the right side of the goal, but Selles was there to punch it away.

A minute later, Igwe dropped in a corner kick to the far post for Carlos Borja, but his lob header floated just over the bar, landing on top of the net.

Borja had another chance on goal in the 30th minute off a feed from Ryan Soroka. The speedy midfielder dribbled up the right flank and cut inside before pushing the ball to his left for Borja, who unleashed a low drive that Selles was able to keep out of the net.

In the 39th minute, David Arvizu got the inside the box and quickly turned to shoot, but his attempt was blocked by a defender. The ball deflected to Soroka, but his one-timer went over the bar.

The U.S. moved back to a 4-4-2 to start the second half, bringing Soroka back to right midfield and pushing Nakazawa out wide left. The switch almost paid dividends early on as Soroka was a couple feet from doubling their lead. Igwe sent in a long ball up into the left side of the penalty area where Zimmerman ran past his defender and tried to chip the onrushing ‘keeper to the right post. His shot was a bit wide, but Soroka darted in got a foot to it, but couldn’t cut the tight angle as his shot hit the outside side-netting.

Cuba got the equalizer in the  65th minute after pushing up on the left flank. The ball got deflected up in the air near the top of the box and Ofori Sarkodie challenged a Cuban forward for the ball, getting a slight piece of it with his head. The ball fell to Dayan Gonzalez, who quickly took a shot that was blocked by Borja. The ball fell back to Hernandez, who curled a shot into the upper right corner past Rueckner, who’s view was blocked on the play.

Nakazawa came close to finding the game-winner in the 73rd minute when he hit a 23-yard free kick towards the right side of the goal, but Selles came up big once again with a diving save.    

Hackworth made three offensive substitutions late in the game, brining on Eddie Ababio, Omar Gonzalez and Jeremy Hall. Hall and Ababio connected when Hall was able to knock a ball across the goalmouth to Ababio off a throw-in, but a Cuban defender blocked Ababio’s shot.

Cuba had a couple dangerous attempts in the final minutes as well, but shots by Hernandez and Osmany Torres were wide.

The U.S. is the only nation to qualify and compete in all 10 FIFA World Championships at this age group. The U.S. won the CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament twice (1983 and 1992) when just one winner was crowned from 1983-1996. Since the event became a final round qualification consisting of two groups in 1999, the U.S. has won their group twice, taking home the Group A title during the past two competitions in 2001 and 2003. 

- U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Game Report -

Participants: USA vs. Cuba
Competition: CONCACAF Group A Qualifying Tournament (Final Round)
Location: Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero; Heredia, Costa Rica
Date: April 14, 2005
Weather: Sunny, warm; 75 degrees

Scoring Summary:
           1  2  F
USA    1  0  1
Cuba   0  1  1

USA – Kyle Nakazawa (Preston Zimmerman)  1st minute 
CUB – Adrian Hernandez     65.

USA: 1-Bryant Rueckner; 3-Kevin Alston, 5-Ofori Sarkodie (capt.), 4-Eric Lichaj, 14-Amaechi Igwe; 8-Kyle Nakazawa, 16-Nikolas Besagno, 7-Carlos Borja (6-Jeremy Hall, 73); 10-David Arvizu (12-Eddie Ababio, 75), 9-Preston Zimmerman, 11-Ryan Soroka (17-Omar Gonzalez, 79).
Subs not used: 2-Richard Edgar, 13-Blake Wagner, 15-Neven Subotic, 18-Brian Perk.
Head Coach: John Hackworth

CUB: 1-José Selles; 2-Jesus Montes, 3-Miguel Angel Lopez, 4-Denis Suarez, 6-Yannier Martinez (9-Leonardo Villa, 76); 7-Luis Alberto Villegas, 8-Alberto Gomez (5-Yasmany Jesus Bernal, 85), 10-Adrian Hernandez, 14-Armando Trejo; 15-Osmany Torres, 16-Felix Guerra (17-Dayan Gonzalez, 64).
Subs not used: 11-Onay Alberto Martinez, 13-Yuri Alberto Altabas, 18-Yorienis Lara, 21-Yosnel De La Luz.
Head Coach: Manuel Rodriguez

Statistical Summary:
                  USA  CUB
Shots             12 8   
Saves              0 3               
Fouls             28 11 
Corner Kicks    7 3 
Offside            1 1

Misconduct Summary:
CUB – Luis Alberto Villegas (caution)  10th minute
USA – Nikolas Besagno (caution)  48.
USA – David Arvizu (caution)  50.
USA – Amaechi Igwe (caution)  61. 
CUB – Osmany Torres (caution)  70.

Referee: Rolando Vidal (PAN)
1st Assistant: Hairo Fuentes (PAN)
2nd Assistant: Dion Inniss (GUY)
Fourth Official: Steven Del Piero (CAN)

Team GP W L  T   GF GA  GD Pts.
CRC   2   2   0  0   3   0     3     6
USA   2   1   0  1   4   1     3     4     
CUB   2   0   1  1   1   4    -3     1
SLV   2   0   2  0   0   3     -3     0

Tuesday, April 12
USA 3, El Salvador 0
Costa Rica 3, Cuba 0

Thursday, April 14
USA 1, Cuba 1    
Costa Rica vs. El Salvador

Saturday, April 16
El Salvador vs. Cuba  4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET)
USA vs. Costa Rica  7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET)