FUNCHAL, Portugal (Friday, February 8, 2002) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team battled back to tie Portugal 1-1 in the final - and perhaps the best - game of the 6th Annual Madeira International Tournament today at Estadio dos Barreiros in Funchal, Portugal. With the tie, the USA finished with an undefeated 1-0-2 record for five points, good for second place in the four-team field.
"We put ourselves in position to win the game, and we had a very good chance with about five minutes to go, but (DaMarcus) Beasley put it wide," said Myernick. "But to go down 1-nil about halfway through the first half, reorganize and fight very hard in the second half and pull a goal back ... we had a chance to win it, but we just couldn't do it.
"Overall, I feel very good about the tournament, because we played better soccer every game," added Myernick. "We have an awful long way to go, but it's a good start."
After the U.S. started the match with most of the possession, Portugal quickly settled down and started to control the game around the 10-minute mark. The Portuguese broke through in the 25th minute great cross from midfielder Hugo Luz that forward Miguelito rose up to head it past U.S. goalkeeper D.J. Countess.
The USA's best chance to score in the first half came in the 31st minute on a quick counter-attack. Midfielder Brad Davis won the ball around the midfield stripe and found Alecko Eskandarian on the left flank. Eskandarian dribbled about 20 yards into the box and played a square pass to Devin Barclay, who was making a parallel run, but goalkeeper Jose Moreira saved it off the forward's feet before he could get a shot off.
Down 1-0 at halftime and needing two goals to win the game and the tournament, Myernick made two offensive substitutions that significantly picked up the effectiveness of the U.S. attack. Midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey replaced defender Chris Wingert and midfielder Philip Salyer, changing the team into an attacking, 3-4-3 formation.
Portugal almost made it 2-0 in the 51st minute, when they played a short corner that was then crossed toward the far post. Defender Bruno Alves snapped a header that rocked the post, and Countess saved a poorly-struck rebound to squash the chance.
The U.S. got the goal they were looking for in the 70th minute, when Convey sent a bending cross from the left side that forward Alecko Eskandarian lunged to head past Portugal goalkeeper Jose Moreira, who plays for Benfica. The goal was Eskandarian's second in the team's three games, making him the tournament's top goal scorer.
"I think we came out a little bit flat, but from the beginning we felt that we could take them on all day," said Eskandarian, who was presented with the Top Goal Scorer trophy at the awards presentation following the game. "I just posted up in the back at the far post, the ball came over, and I just outjumped my defender and knocked it in."
In the 84th minute, the U.S. had a golden opportunity to claim a comeback win. Barclay and Davis worked a series of passes at the top of the box that freed Beasley, but with just the keeper to beat, he spanked his shot wide left.
The U.S. and Portugal traded attack after atack in the last five minutes of regulation and three minutes of injury time, but the match was destined to be a 1-1 draw.
After the match, along with Eskandarian's individual trophy, U.S. team captain Kelly Gray accepted the tournament's Fair Play Award. Portugal's Moriera won Top Goalkeeper, while Stanislav Stestak of Slovakia won Most Outstanding Player.
In the first game, Slovakia fought almost the entire match with only 10 men after a red card in the first 10 minutes, but rallied in the second half and stole a 1-0 win over Maderia Select in injury time on a goal from skillful striker Stanislav Stesak at the club's home stadium.
The U.S. departs tomorrow morning for a full day of travel to Italy, then on to the island of Sicily, where they will set up camp in preparation for Tuesday night's friendly versus a very talented Under-21 MNT of Italy in Catania. Fans back home can follow the match live at 2:45 p.m. ET on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
— U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team Game Report —
Participants: United States Under-23 Men's National Team vs. Portugal
Competition: Madeira International Tournament — Game 6
Venue: Estadio dos Barrientos (Funchal, Portugal)
Date: February 8, 2002 — kickoff 12:00 p.m. (6 a.m. ET)
Weather: 75 degrees; sunny, mild
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
USA 0 - 1 - 1
Portugal 1 - 0 - 1
POR — Miguelito (Hugo Luz), 25.
USA — Alecko Eskandarian (Brad Davis), 70.
USA — 1-D.J. Countess; 17-Jose Burciaga, Jr., 3-David Stokes (5-Alex Yi, 89), 6-Kelly Gray (capt.), 20-Chris Wingert (11-Bobby Convey, 46); 19-Kyle Beckerman (13-Kyle Martino, 82), 2-Philip Salyer (7- DaMarcus Beasley, 46), 9-Brad Davis, 16-Brian Carroll; 8-Alecko Eskandarian, 12-Devin Barclay.
Subs not used: 4-Nelson Akwari, 18-Doug Warren.
POR — 1-Jose Moriera (capt.); 3-Santamaria, 4-Bruno Alves, 13-Kipulo; 5-Pedro Luz, 7-Bruno Aguiar, 14-Mario Sergio, 8-Osorio, 6-Manuel Vieira (16-Joca, 67); 11-Miguelito (18-Gisvi Antunes, 78), 9-Pedro Oliviera.
Subs not used: 12-Beto, 15-Miguel, 17-Nuno Diogo, 19-Luis Olim.
Statistical Summary: USA - POR
Shots: 5 - 11
Saves: 3 - 2
Corner Kicks: 3 - 8
Fouls: 9 - 17
Offside: 4 - 2
POR — Bruno Alves (caution), 71.
POR — Hugo Luz (caution), 72.
USA — DaMarcus Beasley (caution), 92+.
Referee: Jose Ferreira (POR)
Referee Assistant #1: Jose Correia (POR)
Referee Assistant #2: Rotillo Rodrigues (POR)
4th Official: Nelio Mendonca (POR)