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U.S. Under-20 MNT Wins Tournament in South Florida With 2-1 Win Over Mexico


* Head Coach Sigi Schmid Gets Second Straight Victory Since Taking Over  Team
* Freddy Adu Scores Winning Penalty Kick in Final Moments
* Will John Scores Team-Leading Fourth Goal in 2004 With Equalizer in First Half
* Combined With Friday's Victory Over Honduras, U.S. Wins Four-Team Tournament

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2004) - U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team head coach Sigi Schmid got his second straight victory in as many games as Freddy Adu knocked home a penalty kick during injury time to pull out a 2-1 victory over Mexico this evening at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. With the win, the U.S. finished in first place in the four-team tournament that also included Honduras and Brazil.

Mexico got off to a fast start scoring in the second minute as it looked like the young defensive backline of the U.S. was thrown a bit off by the aggressive Mexican attack. After the goal though, the U.S. kept its composure and struck back in the 19th minute when the Mexican goalkeeper misplayed a free kick from Adu and Will John buried the rebound into the back of the net.

Mexico was reduced to ten men in the 78th minute when Alberto Ramirez stomped on John after he fell to the ground and the U.S. pushed towards the goal for the rest of the match, looking for the game winner. With under a minute remaining, it looked as the game would end in a draw, but then, after a nice give-and-go, Guillermo Gonzalez was tripped up in the penalty area and Adu blasted the resulting spot kick into the upper-right hand corner.

Mexico finished the game with just eight players as defender David Cavazos and Marco Parra were shown red cards as the entire squad confronted referee Alex Prus after he awarded the penalty kick for the U.S. The Mexican players surrounded Prus and his assistants, who ran onto the field to protect him, backing up the officiating crew to the fence behind the endline at the stadium. After a few tense moments, security also took the field and helped restrain the confrontation from becoming physical.

"A U.S.-Mexico match is obviously a very intense game and a great rivalry, and I can't express how proud I am of the guys," said Schmid. "Even though we fell behind, the players kept with the game plan and I thought we were the better team, especially in the second half. We might have had a number of young and inexperienced players, but they played up to another level tonight."

The U.S. roster was extremely young as the number of available players dropped from 22 to 16 after the Honduras match on Friday. Six players returned to their college teams on Saturday morning to prepare for their second round games in the NCAA Men's College Cup and five of those six started for the U.S. against Honduras. The biggest impact was felt in the backfield as all four defenders that started on Friday went back to their college team, forcing Schmid to have to rely on a large number of high school-aged players against Mexico.

Three of the four players starting on the backline against Mexico - Ofori Sarkodie, Nikolas Besagno and Robby Rogers - are still in high school and were making their first appearance for the Under-20s. The other starting defender, Nathan Sturgis, was making only his sixth international appearance for the U-20s.

The inexperienced backline looked wobbly in the early stages of the game and Mexico took advantage, getting on the scoreboard in the second minute. Right midfielder Marco Parra collected the ball on the flank, cut inside and sprinted away from Sarkodie before deftly touching the ball through into the penalty area on the right side for a streaking Jonathan Prado. With Besagno chasing from behind, Prado hit the ball first time from 12 yards out, pushing it low past a stranded Quentin Westberg and into the left side netting.

Surprisingly, the U.S. didn't loose its composure and picked up its play after falling behind, creating some good attack, but still unable to get any quality shots on goal. As the U.S. began to keep possession, Mexico got frustrated and committed late fouls as three players picked up yellow cards in the first 16 minutes.

In the 19th minute, the U.S. found the equalizer off a free kick from the right sideline about 30 yards from goal. Adu curled in a ball to the six-yard box and it looked as though Mexican 'keeper Rafael Alamo Cruz would stretch high and snag it out of the air, but the ball squirted thorough his gloves continuing its flight towards the back post. With the net wide open, John was able to hit a half-volley while off balance sneaking it past a couple defenders from a tight angle.

"I was very impressed with the players' composure because it was something we talked about the past few days," said Schmid. "I think a lot of the younger guys grew up tonight. We had a lot of guys starting their first match with the Under-20s and a lot of guys went from being children to becoming men tonight."
 
The U.S. had a great opportunity to take the lead a minute before the halftime whistle, but Cruz came up with a huge save to keep the match deadlocked. Michael Bradley stole a poor Mexican pass in the center circle and knocked it up the middle of the field to Adu, who quickly turned towards goal. Adu drew a number of defenders before pushing the ball to his right into the penalty area for Bradley who had raced alongside. Bradley took a touch before trying to drive a low shot past the onrushing Cruz, but the Mexican 'keeper stretched out his right arm to snag the ball for an impressive stop.

Mexico probably had the better of play in the first half and outshot the U.S. 9-5, but also struggled to get any quality chances on goal. The majority of their attack started on the right flank as Parra was dangerous on the ball dribbling or dishing the ball off ahead to his teammates.

Besides the goal, the only other threat by Mexico in the first half was a shot by Ramirez in the 36th minute. Ramirez ripped a bending 25-yard shot off a free kick that was on line for the inside of the left post until Westberg stretched out for the diving save, knocking it out of bounds.

The second half was a different story as the U.S. was the team that dictated the flow of the game, getting in some dangerous crosses and taking shots from outside. The U.S. took 10 shots in the final 45 minutes, while Mexico only took four, none of which gave Westberg any trouble.

With about 20 minutes remaining, the U.S. had two good scoring opportunities. The first came when second half substitute Ryan Soroka got open on the right flank after a U.S. corner kick got cleared and punched in a low cross for John, but the forward's slight flick went just wide right of the frame. A minute later a nice combination play between Adu and Danny Szetela on the right flank created space for Jay Denny, who Szetela fed inside the box. Denny ripped a shot early, but it went right to the hands of Cruz.

Shortly after, Mexico was reduced to 10 men when Ramirez deliberately stomped on John after the forward fell to the ground, and the U.S. stayed on the offensive for the remainder of the match looking for the game winner.

The U.S. finally broke through when Gonzalez was set free inside the penalty area by a pretty flick-on pass from Adu. The midfielder juked one defender and before he could get off a shot was pulled down from behind. The referee pointed to the spot and after the melee between the Mexican players and the officials was contained, Adu calmly buried his penalty into the net.

Notes: The U.S. won $20,000 in prize money for finishing first in the four-team tournament...The other two teams in the tournament were Honduras and Brazil...The U.S. did not play Brazil, but won the tournament as it was the only team to finish with a 2-0-0 record...In the earlier match, Brazil beat Honduras 3-0.


- U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team Game Report -

Participants:  U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team vs. Mexico
Competition: Friendly
Location: Lockhart Stadium; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Date: Nov. 21, 2004
Attendance: 2,500 (estimated)
Weather: Warm; 70 degrees
 
Scoring Summary:
                                                1st     2nd     Final
United States                          1        1         2
Mexico                                     1        0          1

MEX - Jonathan Prado (Marco Parra)            2nd minute
USA - Will John (Freddy Adu)                         19th 
USA - Freddy Adu (penalty kick)                     90+
 
Lineups:
USA - 1-Quentin Westberg; 19-Robby Rogers (22-Carlos Borja, 80), 5-Nathan Sturgis, 16-Nikolas Besagno (9-Guillermo Gonzalez, 90), 15-Ofori Sarkodie; 6-Jay Denny, 7-Michael Bradley (13-Ryan Soroka, 65), 8-Danny Szetela, 10-Freddy Adu, 11-Arturo Alvarez (capt.) (17-Preston Zimmerman, 61); 12-Will John.
Subs not used: 18-Bryant Rueckner.

MEX - 1-Rafael Alamo Cruz; 2-Julio Canto (3-Luis Alberto Padilla, 57), 4-David Cavazos, 6-Omar Hernandez, 17-Luis Robles; 9-Luis Landin (8-Alejandro Zurito, 82), 16-Rafael Murguia, 10-Emilio Lopez (16-Rafael Murguia, 61), 18-Alberto Ramirez, 19-Jonathan Prado (11-Victor Shoeber, 67); 14-Efrain Velarde, 15-Marco Parra.
Subs not used: 5-Antonio Olvera, 12-Alejandro Arredondo.
Unavailable: 7-Oscar Herrera

Statistical Summary:
                             USA        MEX
Shots                    15            13
Saves                     4              8                         
Corner Kick           6              1                                
Fouls                    15             23                             
Offside                   1              0                  
 
Misconduct Summary:
MEX - Jonathan Prado (caution)       9th minute
MEX - Luis Landin (caution)            14th
MEX - Omar Hernandez (caution)   16th
MEX - Julio Canto (caution)             27th
USA - Arturo Alvarez (caution)         32nd
USA - Robby Rogers (caution)        34th
MEX - Alberto Ramirez (ejection)    78th
MEX - Marco Parra (caution)            89th
MEX - David Cavazos (ejection)      90+
MEX - Marco Parra (ejection)           90+

Officials:
Referee: Alex Prus (USA)
Assistant: Andre Pfefferkor (USA)
Assistant: Reggie Rutty (USA)
4th Official: Merrit Guthre (USA)

U.S. Quote Sheet
 
U.S. Head Coach Sigi Schmid
On fielding such a young squad...
“When you look at our back four, we were starting Robby Rogers who has never been in with a national team before and he’s still a high school kid. And then we had two Under-17s back there (Ofori Sarkodie and Nikolas Besagno), and (Nathan) Sturgis as kind of the veteran back there. We also had two relatively new kids playing in the middle in Jay Denny and Michael Bradley. We asked Will John to play a position he’s never really played before as a high forward and I thought he played very productively in the first half and scored a good goal. I was really proud with how the young guys played tonight.”

On the play of Freddy Adu…
“We wanted Freddy to be more involved and that’s why we put him centrally to start. I thought Freddy was very effective in the first half and I think we can build from that.”

On what he was thinking after the early goal by Mexico…
“I thought it could be a long evening when that first one went in. But it was a case of Nikolas Besagno reacting slowly to the faster pace of the game and Ofori Sarkodie at the left fullback being late in closing down the right midfielder (Marco Parra).”

On adjustments he made at halftime…
“The right midfielder (Marco Parra) didn’t give us many problems in the second half because we did well in closing him down. The players recognized the pace of the game and stepped up to it.”

Midfielder Freddy Adu
On the intensity of the match…
“There is just a rivalry there with Mexico and it goes through to the youth teams. Anytime you play a team like that in your region that’s a rivalry you have to go out there and give it all you can because it’s for bragging rights.”

On falling behind early in the game…
“Some of the younger players were a little overwhelmed and we had to calm them down, and then we stared playing our game. Me and Danny Szetela and Arturo Alvarez, and other guys that have been with the U-20s, were able to calm everyone down through playing and the guys responded pretty well.”

On when the team started to get comfortable…
“About 20 minutes into the game, but I guess that was to be expected because our whole backline was a bunch of new guys with the exception of Nate Sturgis and it was kind of shaky. But the guys picked it up and did a great job for the rest of the night.

On the USA’s first goal…
“That really lifted the guys up. They were like, ‘you know, we can really do this’ and the guys started playing with a little more confidence and everything worked out great.”

On keeping his composure before the penalty kick with all the commotion…
“I pick a spot. I don’t care if the goalkeeper goes there or not. I pick a spot and you just have to drill it into the corner and if the ‘keeper goes the right way maybe he’ll get it, but as long as you hit it hard enough you always have a chance to get it by him.”

Midfielder Jay Denny
On how the game compares to some of the rivalry games he’s played in England…
“It’s quite similar. It’s very aggressive, very high tempo. This was my first experience (between USA-Mexico) and I enjoyed it.”

Forward Will John
On getting stepped on by the Mexican player…
“I got caught under the ball (on the ground) and there were three other players over me and one of them stepped on me. I actually got stomped on. It was a dirty game, a physical game. It always is when we play each other on any level, so it’s to be expected. But we got around it and that’s the best thing about it.”


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