Tampa, Fla. (March 15, 2008) – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team topped Honduras, 1-0, on an Eddie Gaven penalty kick in the final minute of second half stoppage time to take the top spot in Group A and advance to the semifinals of 2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.
The U.S. will travel to Nashville on Sunday in preparation for the all-important semifinal match, which will be played Thursday, March 20 at LP Field. The semifinal winners will earn a berth to the 2008 Beijing Olympics this August.
The U.S. will play the second-place finisher in Group B, which concludes play Sunday night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., with a doubleheader that includes Guatemala vs. Canada at 3:30 p.m. PT, and Mexico vs. Haiti at 6 p.m. PT. After two games, Guatemala leads the group with six points, followed by Haiti with three and Mexico and Canada with one each.
“We showed spirit and pushed for a win,” said head coach Peter Nowak. “It’s not like the penalty kicks come from thin air or someone gives it to you as a present. I think the boys worked hard on the field and you have to give them credit.”
Gaven’s penalty kick in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time was the result of a through ball from Patrick Ianni to Charlie Davies, who ran into the box and was taken down from behind by defender Quiarol Arzu. Gaven calmly stepped up and put the ball to the right of Honduran goalkeeper Kevin Hernandez, who dove the wrong way.
The penalty was a welcome reprise for Davies, who in the 62nd minute missed a penalty kick of his own. On that play, Davies was pulled down by Oscar Morales and referee Erico Wijngaarde pointed to the spot, but Davies missed the spot kick wide right.
The U.S. created a number of chances on the night, taking 13 shots overall, but once again couldn’t find the final touch to score. Playing their third game in five days, Nowak once again put out a different starting line-up. Freddy Adu, who played 90 minutes in both the first two games and was carrying a yellow card, was not included in the 18-man game day roster. Despite sitting a handful of other field players who had started the first two matches – including Jozy Altidore, Dax McCarty, Nathan Sturgis and captain Maurice Edu – the U.S. was on the attack early and often and put Honduras on their heels.
There was also a change in the nets, as goalkeeper Dominic Cervi replaced Chris Seitz. The start marked the first-ever appearance for the U.S. at any national team level for Cervi , who earned a shutout and Sierra Mist Man of the Match honors for his composed performance.
The U.S. was on the offensive early, starting in the second minute when Sal Zizzo, who got his first start of the tournament, ran onto a ball on the right wing and played the ball in, only to have it knocked down by a defender’s arm. Just two minutes later it was Zizzo again playing the ball from the corner back to Kamani Hill, whose cross into the box was challenged for by both Stuart Holden and Chad Barrett, but the ensuing header went wide of Hernandez’ goal.
Honduras looked to have taken the lead in the eighth minute against the run of play, when a long ball bounced into the box of Cervi. George Wilson Welcome, who was dangerous all night, ran onto the bouncing ball, but was called for a foul on Cervi before the ball rolled into the net.
In the 20th minute, the U.S. built up a long possession that resulted in a Hill cross into the box, but it was just enough behind the charging forwards that the Honduras defense got to it first to clear. The U.S. quickly won the ball back and Barrett played the ball wide for Zizzo, who played a slotted ball in for Robbie Findley. Findley reached back but his shot attempt was blocked out for a corner kick.
Honduras started the second half on the attack, making a quick break up field and taking a shot that was scooped up by Cervi. Minutes later after a big switch across the field, Daniel Alvarez took control of the ball and attacked on the dribble, but he was run down from behind by Gaven.
At the other end, a passing combination through the middle of the field ended up at Findley’s feet on the end line. The Real Salt Lake forward made a short pass to Holden, but the next pass was alertly blocked away by the defense.
The U.S. had the opportunity to take the lead in the 62nd minute when Davies was fouled inside the box and given a penalty kick. Davies stepped up to finish the play he started, but his shot from the spot went wide to the right of the goal.
Cervi, who was active in his area throughout the match, was forced to come off his line for a long lofted ball in the 74th minute. The 6 foot 6 inch goalkeeper came out and used his long arms to reach around the forward and pick the ball off his feet in midair. The U.S. continued to press up until the waning moments, setting the stage for the climactic finish.
Group B action concludes on Sunday, March 16, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., when Guatemala takes on Canada and Mexico battles Haiti. Every team in Group B is still in the hunt to advance to the semifinals, with Guatemala the only team assured of a place in Nashville. The eight-team CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, which includes national teams at the Under-23 age level, will send the two finalists to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
- U.S. UNDER-23 MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -
Match-up: USA vs. Honduras
Competition: 2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying
Venue: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Date: March 15, 2008
Weather: 85 degrees, humid
1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
HON 0 0 0
USA - Eddie Gaven (penalty kick) 95+ minute
USA: 18-Dominic Cervi; 15-Kamani Hill, 3-Michael Orozco, 4-Pat Ianni, 13-Hunter Freeman; 8-Sal Zizzo (9-Charlie Davies, 60), 7-Stuart Holden, 16-Sacha Kljestan (capt.) (10-Dax McCarty, 60), 20-Eddie Gaven; 19-Chad Barrett, 14-Robbie Findley
Subs not used: 1-Chris Seitz, 2-Marvell Wynne, 5-Nathan Sturgis, 6-Maurice Edu, 12-Jozy Altidore
Unavailable: 11-Freddy Adu, 17-Jonathan Spector
Head Coach: Peter Nowak
HON: 1-Kevin Hernandez; 2-Quiarol Arzu, 3-David Alejandro Molina, 6-Luis Alfredo Molina (10-Ramon Nunez, 69), 7-Rigoberto Padilla, 8-Irvin Reyna, 14-Misael Ruiz (9-Jefferson Bernardez, 46), 16-Marvin Sanchez (capt.) (13-Arnol Simion, 73), 17-Daniel Alvarez, 21-Oscar Morales, 24-George Wilson Welcome
Subs not used: 12-Obed Enarmorado, 15-Mario Martinez, 18-Jose Cesar, 20-Hendry Thomas
Unavailable: 5-Erick Norales, 22-Levon Smitt
Head Coach: Raul Gonzalez
USA / HON
Shots on Goal: 6/5
Corner Kicks: 8/1
USA – Patrick Ianni (caution) 15th minute
HON – George Wilson Welcome (caution) 15.
HON – Irvin Reyna (caution) 45.
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 51.
USA – Hunter Freeman (caution) 57.
HON – Marvin Sanchez (caution) 62.
HON – Daniel Alvarez (caution) 76.
HON – Quiarol Arzu (caution) 94+.
Referee: Erico Wijngaarde (SUR)
1st Asst.: Ricardo Louisville (SUR)
2nd Asst.: Dion Inniss (GUY)
4th Official: Roberto Garcia (MEX)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Dominic Cervi