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U.S. U-17 MNT Fall 2-1 to Argentina in Opening Match of CONMEBOL Youth Tournament

    * Forward Quavas Kirk Scores Lone U.S. Goal in 81st Minute
    * U.S. Battles Back in Second Half, But Can’t Find Equalizing Goal in Final Nine Minutes
    * U-17s Next Match Against Uruguay on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at Estadio Villa Alegre

ENCARNACION, Paraguay (Sept. 12, 2004) – The U.S. Under-17 '88 Men’s National Team fought tough with a talented Argentina side in their opening match of the Campeonato Sudamericano de Futbol Sub-16 Tournament this evening at a rain-soaked Estadio Villa Alegre in Encarnacion, Paraguay, but couldn't come back from a two-goal deficit and eventually fell 2-1 behind a single goal from forward Quavas Kirk.

After trading chances in the first ten minutes of the match, forward Juan Antonio took advantage of a poor clearance in the 12th minute to give Argentina an early lead. The quick strike put the U.S. on its heels as they struggled for the rest of the first half, only able to muster one attempt on frame.

In the second stanza, the U.S. started to push into the attack and goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner came up with a number of huge saves to keep the deficit to one for a time, but Argentina’s offense was too much as Diego Buonanote trickled a second goal into the net in the 69th minute. Eleven minutes later, the U.S. got back in the match as Quavas Kirk buried a loose ball in the box, but an equalizing goal was not in the cards.

The U.S. will face Uruguay next on Wednesday, Sept. 15 again in Encarnacion. Uruguay currently sits tied atop Group B with Argentina as they came from behind with two goals in the final 15 minutes to take down Ecuador.

"Give credit to Argentina as they are a great team with numerous outstanding playmakers in the midfield and up front," said U.S. Under-17 head coach John Ellinger. "It was a tough challenge for our players, but I think they performed at a pretty high level and we were able to create enough chances to keep us in the game, and possibly even pull out a draw. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to accomplish that, but now we’ll just look ahead toward Uruguay as we attempt to advance to the quarterfinals."

Argentina was the better team on the pitch this evening, but the U.S. gave the mighty South Americans a handful, holding spurts in the attacking third throughout the match, but not creating many opportunities on goal as they only finished with six shots, forcing the 'keeper to react for three. On the other hand, Argentina was constantly peppering the U.S. frame, taking 20 strikes, 11 of which were on target.

Most of the Argentina attack came with the ball at the feet of Sergio Aguero, a dynamo up front who created havoc for the three-man backline of the U.S. The short, stocky forward was deadly on the dribble, but also made good runs off the ball and was strong enough to hold off defenders and then turn on them after collecting the ball from midfield.

Aguero had Argentina's first strike in the sixth minute as he stole a poor back pass and pushed into the penalty area on the left side before cutting inside of defender Eric Lichaj and ripping a shot that went just over the bar.

While Argentina didn't capitalize on that mistake, it didn't waste another chance six minutes later as Richard Edgar tried to clear a ball that had deflected into the air in the box, but his attempt went straight to Antonio, who blasted it low through the crowded area into the net.

Argentina held control for most of the rest of the first 45 minutes, with Aguero being directly involved in their three best chances. In the 27th minute, Antonio blocked a Lichaj clearance on the left sideline and found Zarate near to left-top corner of the penalty area. Zarate pushed it back to Mario Formica, who punched in a cross to the penalty spot where Aguero headed in on goal, but Rueckner was there for the stop.

In the 34th minute, Aguero provided Antonio with a great through ball during a counter attack after a U.S. corner, but his fellow forward's strike went firmly over. A minute later, Antonio returned the favor, giving Aguero the ball on the left side of the penalty area. The playmaker juked his defender and cut inside, but pulled his attempt wide left.

The U.S. struggled to provide their forwards with much to work with in the first half, but finally got their first shot on goal in the 42nd minute. Nik Besagno crossed in from the right flank and Kirk was there for the header, but Argentina 'keeper Emiliano Molina was in position for the easy save.

The beginning of the second half didn’t bring much change for the U.S., but Rueckner did what he could to give them a chance making six of his eight saves on the night. Seven minutes in, Aguero found space in the middle of the pitch and dribbled in on goal before being challenged and laying it off to his left for Antonio, whose point-blank attempt was saved out by Rueckner.

In the 57th minute, Zarate ran down a cleared corner kick on the left sideline and crossed it back into the area. In one motion, Matias Palauecino trapped the ball with his chest and then hit a volley that looked destined for the inside of the left post, but Rueckner laid out for it and kept it in play.

After weathering Argentina's storm, the U.S. kept the ball in the offensive half for the next ten minutes and it appeared they were going to find an equalizer. In the 64th minute they had their best chance when Ryan Soroka served in a cross from the right and Blake Wagner got power behind his header from the 18-yard line, but again Molina was in position.

Five minutes later, Argentina got the eventual game-winner as Claudio Acosta threaded a ball ahead to Aguero up the gut of the U.S. defense. Rueckner slipped as he came off his line and he wasn’t able to beat him to the ball, but did get a piece of Aguero´s shot. The ball trickled toward the goal line and Rueckner, Lichaj and Aguero all chased it down, but it was Aguero that was able to deflect it for the goal.

Ofori Sarkodie came close to cutting the deficit in half in the 76th minute when he got free at the left post on a free kick from Soroka, but his header only found the hands of Molina.

The U.S. finally broke through in the 81st minute when Joel Smith dropped in a free kick from the edge of the center circle and Besagno was able to head it down into the crowded penalty area. Kirk pounced on the bouncing ball eight yards from goal and drove a low shot into the net. The strike was Kirk’s team leading tenth and his fourth international goal.

Notes: Preston Zimmerman received a broken nose during the match after receiving a unintentional elbow while challenging for a ball. He received treatment and will be day-to-day.

- U.S. Under-17 '88 Men’s National Team Game Report -

Participants: U.S. Under-17 '88 Men's National Team vs. Argentina
Competition: Campeonato Sudamericano de Futbol Sub-16
Location: Encarnacion, Paraguay
Date: Sept. 12, 2004
Weather: Cold and rainy, 60 degrees

Scoring Summary:    1st      2nd      Final
USA                              0         1           1
ARG                              1         1           1

ARG – Juan Antonio                                           12th minute
ARG – Sergio Aguero (Claudio Acosta)          69th
USA -  Quavas Kirk (Nik Besagno)                   81st

USA: 1-Bryant Rueckner; 3-Joel Smith, 4-Eric Lichaj, 5-Richard Edgar (14-Drew Yates, 46 ; 15-Eddie Ababio, 89), 7-Ofori Sarkodie; 13-Blake Wagner (20-Matt Armstrong, 71), 10-Carlos Borja, 16-Nik Besango, 11-Ryan Soroka,  6-Quavas Kirk, 9-Preston Zimmerman
Subs not used: 2-Patrick Richards, 8-Michael Stephens, 12-Michael Dal Pra, 17-Jeremy Hall, 18-Brian Perk, 19-Amaechi Igwe.

ARG: 1-Emilio Molina; 2-Juan Forlin, 3-Juan Caracoche, 5-Javier Liendo, 6-Matias Palauecino; 4-Jose San Ramon, 15-Diego Gonzalez (8-Nicolas Dul, 72), 17-Matias Zarate; 11-Juan Antonio (7-Claudio Acosta, 62), 9-Sergio Aguero, 20-Mario Formica (10-Diego Buonanote, 67).

Statistical Summary:       USA     ARG
Shots                                    6           20
Shots on goal                      3           11          
Saves                                   8            2
Corner Kick                         5            7          
Fouls                                    11          17       
Offside                                  0            4          

Misconduct Summary:
ARG – Mario Formica (caution)             41st minute
USA – Nik Besagno (caution)                55th
USA – Preston Zimmerman (caution)   80th 

Referee: Ricardo Grance (Paraguay)
1st Assistant: Nelson Servian (Paraguay)
2nd Assistant: Altemir Hausman (Brazil)
4th Official: Alicio Pena (Brazil)

Group B Standings
Team                 P    W    L    D    GF:GA     GD     PTS
Argentina          1     1     0     0       2:1          +1        3
Uruguay            1     1     0     0       2:1          +1        3
USA                  1     0     1     0       1:2           -1        0
Ecuador            1     0     1     0       1:2           -1        0

Group B Schedule

Sunday, Sept. 12
Uruguay 2, Ecuador 1
Argentina 2, USA 1

Wednesday, Sept. 15
USA vs. Uruguay
Argentina vs. Ecuador

Saturday, Sept. 18
USA vs. Ecuador
Uruguay vs. Argentina