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Post-Match Quotes: U.S. U-17 MNT 2, Costa Rica 1

U.S. Head Coach John Hackworth
On the match:
“I think we surprised them by attacking them the way we did. Getting the early goal helped, but then we defended and played good soccer. I really think we put them on their heels. We only allowed them two shots on goal and they are a very good attacking team. The second half it just seemed like things were going their way, but we still hung in there. I think their goal and the emotion from the crowd was incredible, but we didn’t back down and that was awesome. We kept on fighting, kept on playing, stuck to our game plan and despite everything Costa Rica could throw at us we were able to hold on to get the victory.”

On the play of forward Omar Gonzalez, who scored in his first international start:
“I’ve been preaching everyday in practice that any one of our players in the Residency program needs to be ready when they are called upon for this opportunity. I believe in every single one of them. Omar did a fantastic job tonight. We asked him to do a certain role tonight, which was to occupy (Kendall Waston) and make sure that on he was battling with him up top in the attack. He did it even better than we expected because he got the game-winning goal.“

On the play of Blake Wagner, who got his first start of the tournament:
“I thought Blake was one of our best players. He came in and defended extremely well and was also able to get the ball up to our forwards. He had an impressive performance today.”

On the team’s play defensively:
“I just think our team defense was amazing. Our back four were phenomenal, but it was everybody. We were very organized in the way that we stepped up and the way that we communicated. It was impressive. I know that a lot of my former coaches would be very proud watching that tape.”

On keeping the streak going:
“The streak is alive. Thank goodness (laughs).”

Defender Ofori Sarkodie
On handling Costa Rica’s onslaught in the second half:
“What we were saying to each other was that we had to stay compact. Everyone has to account for every single man and we basically just kept telling ourselves that over and over again: ‘Don’t let anyone go through unmarked.’ We had a lot of faith in each other. Blake Wagner and Kevin Alston had amazing games, (Eric) Lichaj cleaned up everything in the back and (Bryant) Rueckner made a huge save toward the end. Everyone was clutch toward the end and that’s exactly what we needed.”

On playing better tonight:
“I think tonight we were confident. Our confidence level was above what it was anytime before. We got the ball moving in one-two combos and guys felt confident on the ball.”

On how it feels to qualify after working towards that goal for a year-and-a-half:
“I don’t think there are words to describe it. All the hard work that we’ve done in the past two years it just amounts to this. I think we deserve it and we’re going to show we deserved it tonight.”

Defender Blake Wagner
On stepping in at left back and performing well:
“It is definitely exciting. I was just anxious to get my shot to go out there on the field. I went out there and told myself I was going to just play for the team.”

On how it feels to qualify:
“It is definitely worth it. It can be hard staying (in Bradenton) for two years. It’s not the normal lifestyle a teenager has, but going through it and having this feeling right here makes it all worth it.”

Midfielder Nikolas Besagno
On the goal:
“I made a run to the back post and I saw the keeper let the ball go through his hands. It just fell right to me and I knocked it in the goal.”

On how it feels to qualify:
“It’s awesome. We’ve worked so hard to come together as a team and I think we’re starting to reach our potential.”

Goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner
On his save against Julio Garcia at the end of the game:
“He took a shot from my right side and I had to react quick, so I stuck my hand out and got the tip. It didn’t go out and I got the save. Luckily we were all pushed back so if there were any rebound we would have had it covered.”

On Guardia’s shot off the post:
“Oh, man. When he shot it, I thought it was going in. I didn’t even move because the ball was perfectly placed. It hit the inside of the post. I got turned around and the ball went across the goal behind me. I just saw it go out on the other side and I was like, ‘Thank you.’ I think everyone was like that, too.”

Forward Omar Gonzalez
On his battle up front with Costa Rica defender Kendall Waston:
“Coach (John) Hackworth told me just to stay with him the whole match and that’s what I did. It was a big battle, but I just tried to come out on top.”

On the game-winning goal:
“I thought Preston (Zimmerman) was going to get to it. But I just turned and ran onto the ball. I had No. 20 (Kendall Waston) beat and I just put it into the back of the net.”