HEREDIA, Costa Rica (Wednesday, July 28, 2004)- The U.S. Futsal Team is one win away from the FIFA Futsal World Championship as the squad advanced out of Group B as the second place team after a 1-1 draw with Cuba, the group winner, on Wednesday night in Heredia, Costa Rica.
The U.S. will play the first place team from Group A - tournament hosts Costa Rica - with a berth to the championship in Chinese Taipei on the line.
Trailing 1-0 at the half, the U.S. battled in the second and was able to get the equalizer on a penalty kick by forward Andy Guastaferro. Danny Kelly was fouled on the top right side of the area with 10:55 to play, and Guastaferro stepped up to convert his second spot kick in the last two matches.
"I am extremely proud of how the guys came out and played tonight," head coach Keith Tozer said. "It seems that we are getting better every game. As we expected, our defense has been keeping us in games. Scott (Hileman) had a really good game in goal, but the individual and the team defense was great today.
"We are one game away from our goal, and we are excited to play Costa Rica."
The U.S. came out with conviction, firing six shots in the first four minutes of the match and forcing Cuban goaltender Wilfredo Carbo to make four saves. From there the match would settle down, as the U.S. would only get one more shot off in the entire rest of the first half as Cuba defended strong.
The Cuba goal game in the seventh minute on a counterattack as the U.S. was pushing for an early 1-0 lead. Cuba stole the ball with the U.S. pressing forward. Boris Saname was able to feed Eduardo Morales who got the ball past U.S. goalkeeper Scott Hileman.
"The big key of the game was that they came out and scored first and they could pack it in and play for a 1-0 win or a 1-1 tie," Tozer said. "If we had scored first I think it would have made things different."
The rest of the second half went by quickly, with each team holding possession for long periods of time between turnovers. The teams combined for just three shots after the goal was scored.
The second half featured much of the same ball possession as the first with both teams aware that if the scoreline stood at 1-0, both teams would advance to the semifinals. The U.S., however, played with more urgency as they needed a win to take the group title and avoid the host nation to play Mexico - a team that the U.S has never lost to in seven games - for a trip to Chinese Taipei.
The U.S. out-shot Cuba 8-4 in the half as Cuba packed it in with all their players deep behind the ball. The U.S. would finally equalize in the 30th minute when Kelly was fouled and Guastaferro converted the penalty kick.
With less than two minutes to go the score was 1-1, and the U.S. was guaranteed to advance even with a 2-1 loss. Tozer put on Lee Tschantret for Hileman as the fifth attacker in attempt to pull off a last minute victory. The move nearly worked. With 1:15 left on the clock, the U.S. created space and fed the ball to Greg Howes on the left wing. He was able to blast a shot from a tight angle that went through everyone - only to bounce of the inside of the far post and out of bounds just behind Howes.
The U.S. was playing without captain Sean Bowers who was out with a calf injury and John Ball, who was serving a one-game suspension for comments he made after being ejected from the opening match of the tournament. Earlier in the day, Tozer had told his team not to make excuses for the players they were missing and told each player to step forward and play better.
"Sean, our captain, did not play tonight," Tozer said. "He's the all time cap leader on this team. That's why I brought it out today. I am not a man of excuses. When someone goes down it is an opportunity for someone else and that is what happened tonight. You have to give Andy Guastaferro credit - he has been clinical as far as his finishing on 10 meters and penalty kicks. He has not missed on this trip."
The U.S. will play Costa Rica at 8 p.m. local time on Friday, July 30 for a berth to the FIFA Futsal World Championship. Ticos fans packed the Palacio on Tuesday night for the Costa Rica vs. Mexico showdown in the Group A final with the final attendance recorded at 1,980. The U.S. and Costa Rica have only met once previously, with the U.S. winning 4-1 in group play in the 1996 CONCACAF Futsal Championship. Costa Rica went undefeated in their group topping Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname.
"I think that the pressure is on them (Costa Rica)," Tozer said. "They went to the World Cup in 2000 last time, it's their home building, it's their home country. Unlike Cuba tonight, they are going to have to come and attack us, and that is going to give us more room. Cuba just packed it in infront of their goal, whereas Costa Rica is going to have to come at us.
"I like our chances. I think with this team anything can happen. We have guys who can score, guys who can defend and great goalies."
- U.S. National Futsal Team Game Reports -
Participants: U.S. National Futsal Team vs. Cuba
Competition: CONCACAF Futsal Tournament
Location: Palacio de los Deportes
Date: July 28, 2004
1st 2nd Final
Cuba 1 0 1
United States 0 1 1
CUB – Eduardo Morales 7th minute
USA - Andy Guastaferro (PK) 30'
USA – 1-Scott Hileman, 7-Pat White, 4-Greg Howes, 5-Todd Dusosky, 9-Joel Shanker
Subs Used: 10-Lee Tschantret (c), 2-Andy Guastaferro, 8-Danny Kelly, 11-Don D'Ambra
Head Coach: Keith Tozer
CUB – 1-Wilfredo Carbo, 4-Jose Jacinto Serrano, 5-Eduardo Morales, 10-Juan Carlos Portal, 11-Boris Saname
Subs Used: 3-Isven Roman Garcia, 6-Adalberto Guerra, 7-Yampier Rodriguez
Head Coach: Clemente Reinoso
Shots 15 9
Corners 3 4
Fouls 6 4
Saves 6 7
USA – Lee Tschantret (caution) 40th minute
Referee: Jorge Ruiz (CRC)
Second Referee: Carlos Del Cid (GUA)
Group A Standings
GP W L T PTS GF GA GD
CRC 3 3 0 0 9 23 2 +21
MEX 3 2 1 0 6 12 13 -1
TRI 3 1 2 0 3 12 16 -4
SUR 3 0 3 0 0 10 26 -16
Group B Standings
GP W L T PTS GF GA GD
CUB 3 2 0 1 7 13 4 +9
USA 3 1 0 2 5 9 3 +6
PAN 3 1 1 1 4 10 7 +3
GUY 3 0 3 0 0 6 24 -13
Friday, July 30
Mexico vs. Cuba 6 p.m.
USA vs. Costa Rica 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 31
Semifinal Losers 6 p.m.
Semifinal Winners 8 p.m.