The U.S. Under-17 '88 Men's National Team won their first international match since the team first began training together in U.S. Soccer's Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., last year, beating Belgium 1-0 in their opening match of the 5th Ballymena International Tournament in Larne, Northern Ireland. Midfielder Ryan Soroka scored the lone goal of the match in the 50th minute after receiving a pass from Preston Zimmerman to give the U.S. a full three points.
With the win, the U.S. is in second place in Group B behind Scotland, which has a better goal differential after beating Austria 3-1. The U.S. will face the current group leader and defending champions tomorrow (April 30) in a crucial match at 8 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Playing on a narrow field in a shortened time (80-minute match), both the U.S. and Belgium were physical on the ball, as a total of 46 fouls were committed in the match. The U.S. was able to find some space in Belgium's backline though and outshoot them 8-6.
In the first half, the U.S. had a couple of good chances on goal, but 'keeper Sinan Bolat was able to keep them out of the net. Amaechi Igwe, who recently joined the Residency Program on April 9, squirted free and ripped a shot that just missed the target before the halftime whistle.
After pushing forward again in the second half, the U.S. finally broke through for the winning goal ten minutes into the secon half. Zimmerman received the ball inside the penalty area, turned his defender and played a great ball to a wide-open Soroka, who easily buried the ball past the helpless 'keeper. The goal was Soroka's first international strike of his career.
Three minutes from time, Belgium was in good shape to get the equalizer after being awarded a penalty kick when Ofori Sarkodie tackled Belgium substitute Dimutri Billiet in the box, but U.S. goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner preserved the USA's first international win with an impressive diving save. Rueckner dove to his left to get a paw to it to keep it out of the net, and then scampered to his feet to reach the loose ball before two Belgium players could pounce on the rebound.
In Group A, Switzerland beat Finland 4-2, while Canada and Northern Ireland tied 1-1.
- U.S. Under-17 '88 Men's National Team Game Report -
Participants: U.S. Under-17 ‘88s Men’s National Team vs. Belgium
Competition: Ballymena Tournament
Location: Larne, Northern Ireland
Date: April 29, 2004
Weather: Brisk and chilly, 40 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1st 2nd Final
BEL 0 0 0
USA 0 1 1
USA – Ryan Soroka (Preston Zimmerman) 50th minute
USA: 1-Bryant Rueckner; 5-Richard Edgar, 4-Eric Lichaj, 2-Michael Balogun, 7-Ofori Sarkodie; 10-Carlos Borja, 15-Amaechi Igwe, 11-Ryan Soroka, 8-Michael Stephens (16-Nik Besango, 41); 9-Preston Zimmerman, 6-Quavas Kirk.
BEL: 1-Sinan Bolat; 2-Jelle De Bock (17-Dimutri Billiet, 70), 3-Bart Biemans, 4-Von Gijseghem, 5-Doan Vanderbroeck; 6-Bastiaan Gheysen, 8-Wouter Vandermeiren, 10-Vitorio Villono, 13-Cedric De Troetsel; 15-Elio Balbi, 18-Zigi Arrasi.
Statistical Summary: BEL USA
Shots 6 8
Saves 3 7
Corner Kick 1 3
Fouls 25 21
Offside 4 4
USA – Michael Balogun (caution) 35th minute
BEL – Elio Balbi (caution) 46th
USA – Nik Besangno (caution) 52nd
BEL – Bastiaan Gheysen (caution) 59th
BEL – Bait Biemans (caution) 70th
5th Ballymena International Tournament
Team GP W L T GF GA +/- Pts
Switzerland 1 1 0 0 4 2 +2 3
Northern Ireland 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1
Canada 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1
Finland 1 0 1 0 2 4 -2 0
Team GP W L T GF GA +/- Pts
Scotland 1 1 0 0 3 1 +2 3
USA 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
Belgium 1 0 1 0 0 1 -1 0
Austria 1 0 1 0 1 3 -2 0
Thursday, April 29
Switzerland 4, Finland 2
Canada 1, N. Ireland 1
Scotland 3, Austria 1
USA 1, Belgium 0
Friday, April 30
N. Ireland vs. Finland 7 p.m. local (2 p.m. ET)
Canada vs. Switzerland 7:30 p.m. local (2:30 p.m. ET)
Belgium vs. Austria 6 p.m. local (1 p.m. ET)
Scotland vs. USA 8 p.m. local (3 p.m. ET)
Saturday, May 1
Canada vs. Finland 6 p.m. local (1 p.m. ET)
N.Ireland vs. Switzerland 8 p.m. local (3 p.m. ET)
USA vs. Austria 7 p.m. local (2 p.m. ET)
Scotland vs. Belgium 7:30 p.m. local (2:30 p.m. ET)
Monday, May 3
Ballymena Bowl (4th Place Playoffs) 11 a.m. local (6 a.m. ET)
Larne Sheild (3rd Place Playoffs) 11 a.m. local (6 a.m. ET)
Larne Plate (2nd Place Playoffs) 11 a.m. local (6 a.m. ET)
David Cairns Memorial Trophy (1st Place Playoffs) 3 p.m. local (10 a.m. ET)