PANAMA CITY, PANAMA (January 17, 2007) — Behind a hat trick from forward Andre Akpan, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team opened Group A of the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament with a 4-1 victory over Haiti at Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, Panama. The U.S. sits atop the group with three points.
Playing in his first international match with the U-20s, Akpan scored the first, second and fourth goals for the U.S. on the night. Akpan headed home the opening goal in the 26th minute, before tapping home a Danny Szetela corner kick in the first half and a cross from Robbie Rogers in the second. The third goal was notched by Anthony Wallace when the newly drafted FC Dallas midfielder scored three minutes into the second half. The lone goal for Haiti came on a penalty kick in the 73rd minute.
By virtue of Panama and Guatemala’s 1-1 draw in the second match of the night, the U.S. can solidify its place in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a victory in their next match against Guatemala on Friday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the match live on GolTV or usssoccer.com’s MatchTracker. The U.S. and Guatemala are no strangers as the two countries met twice in November (once in a closed-door match) with the U.S. coming away with 2-1 victories in both matches.
The U.S. is attempting to qualify for a CONCACAF record sixth straight FIFA U-20 World Cup, and their 11th overall. The current record is five straight, which is held by the U.S. and Mexico. The 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup will take place in Canada from June 30-July 22, across six cities – Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria.
“We didn’t start off the match as well as we would have liked, but overall we did well to get two goals in the first half and that really allowed us to control the rest of the game,” said U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. “I think we all realize that, in tournament play, the first game is very important and it puts us clearly in a good position. There are still two very important matches to be played and our focus now is on Guatemala. We understand that each game will become tougher and tougher for us, so we're satisfied with the result, but we've got a lot of hard work still ahead of us.” [MORE POST-GAME QUOTES]
Attempting to qualify outside of the U.S. for the first time since 2001, the U.S. seemed right at home, jumping all over Haiti from the opening whistle and dominated possession throughout the match. The U.S. continually pressured Haiti’s backline while also holding the Caribbean nation to zero shots on goal in the first half (two overall), not allowing goalkeeper Chris Seitz to be tested until the 56th minute.
Akpan made his presence felt early on when he got on the end of a cross from right back Quavas Kirk in the seventh minute, heading the ball toward the left post, only to be stoned by Haiti goalkeeper Peterson Occenat with a sprawling save.
When the next opportunity came knocking in the 26th minute for the Harvard forward, he didn’t disappoint. Rogers threw the ball in from the left sideline to Wallace near the top of the penalty area and he quickly curled a left-footed cross into the box for Akpan. Probably getting more hair than head on the ball, Akpan buried the ball past Occenat.
A few minutes later, Akpan almost scored again when his darting run found him on the end of another service from Rogers, but this time the left post denied him.
The Akpan show continued to roll through Rommel Fernadez Stadium in the 39th minute when he knocked home a corner kick. Midfielder Danny Szetela floated the ball to the back post and Akpan’s slight touch knocked the ball off the right post before trickling along the goal line. With Julian Valentin rushing in, Occenat reached back to bring it in but couldn’t get the handle before it rolled over the line.
Akpan completed his hat trick in the 61st minute on a similar situation, but this time from the run of play. Rogers collected the ball on the left flank, darted past his defender and curled in a ball to the back post for the unmarked Akpan. The forward volleyed the ball first-time back across the goal, hitting the inside of the left post and bouncing into the net.
“With it being my first cap with the Under-20 National Team, it's one of the best experiences I've had in soccer,” said Akpan, who played in scrimmages against Canada but had yet to wear the U.S. uniform in an official match. “I can't think of another game I've had that will stand out like this one. I've had hat-tricks before, but not in a game this important.”
Akpan was also involved in the USA’s third goal, which was tallied by Wallace in the 48th minute after a splendid build-up from the left side. Ward started the attack by dribbling up the left flank before pushing it ahead for Rogers who drove the ball into the penalty area. Akpan did well to dummy the pass allowing it to fall to Wallace who darted in front of his marker at the six-yard box and hammered it past the ‘keeper.
The only dangerous chance for Haiti before their penalty kick came in the 44th minute when midfielder Sony Norde slipped the ball through the U.S. defense for forward Etienne Yveson, but his first touch was too far in front allowing Seitz the chance to come off his line and take it off his foot. The ball bounced behind Seitz, but with Yveson on the ground, the ball was easily cleared out of danger.
Yveson got a second chance when he took Haiti’s penalty kick. The penalty was awarded in the 73rd minute when Norde’s jersey was tugged by defender Quavas Kirk, who earned a yellow card.
This was the second time the U.S. has faced Haiti in qualifying as the two teams last met in the opening match of the 2002 tournament in Charleston, S.C., which the U.S. won, 2-0.
The other two of the four CONCACAF berths (not including Canada which gets an automatic berth as host) will come from Group B, which will occur a month from Feb. 21-25 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, located on the west coast of Mexico. Competing with the hosts will be Costa Rica, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica.
- U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team Game Report -
Participants: USA vs. Haiti
Competition: CONCACAF Group A Qualifying Tournament (Final Round) – Game 1
Location: Rommel Fernandez Stadium; Panama City, Panama
Date: January 17, 2007
Weather: Warm, 85 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
Haiti 0 1 1
USA – Andre Akpan (Anthony Wallace) 26th minute
USA – Andre Akpan (Danny Szetela) 39.
USA – Anthony Wallace (Robbie Rogers) 48.
USA – Andre Akpan (Robbie Rogers) 61.
HAI – Etienne Yveson (penalty kick) 74.
USA: 1-Chris Seitz; 6-Quavas Kirk, 16-Julian Valentin (4-Amaechi Igwe, 85), 5-Nathan Sturgis, 2-Tim Ward; 14-Anthony Wallace, 7-Danny Szetela (19-Tony Beltran, 74), 11-Freddy Adu (capt.); 15-Sal Zizzo, 8-Robbie Rogers (9-Johann Smith, 67), 20-Andre Akpan.
Subs not used: 3-Bryan Arguez, 10-Jonathan Villanueva, 12-Josmer Altidore, 13-Ofori Sarkodie, 17-Preston Zimmerman, 18-Brian Perk
Head Coach: Thomas Rongen
HAI: 1-Peterson Occenat; 18-Vaniel Sirin (2-Pascal Scifaite, 67),4-Symson Exume, 5-Judelin Aveska (capt.), 6-Junior Natoux; 15-Junior Saul, 8-Adelt Maddy, 16-Sony Norde, 11-Roberts Saintilus, 7-Etienne Yveson, 17-Augustin Walson (14-Peterson Joseph, 63)
Subs not used: 3-Abdias D’Aout, 9-Desroches Samuel, 10-Brisly Renaud, 19-Jean Dieulemps, 22-Andy Collinet
Head Coach: Claudio Frean
Statistical Summary: USA HAI
Shots 10 7
Shots on goal 7 3
Saves 2 4
Fouls 12 12
Corner Kicks 7 2
Offside 2 2
HAI – Roberts Saintiulus (caution) 24th minute.
HAI – Adelt Maddy (caution) 34.
USA - Julian Valentin (caution) 45+.
HAI - Peterson Joseph (caution) 72.
USA - Quavas Kirk (caution) 73.
HAI – Junior Natoux (caution) 79.
HAI - Judelin Aveska (caution) 82.
Referee: Lee Davis (TRI)
1st Assistant: Lyndon Burton (TRI)
2nd Assistant: Roderick Rojer (TRI)
Fourth Official: Douglas McArthur (GUY)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Andre Akpan
2007 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament Results / Standings
Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
USA 1 1 0 0 4 1 +3 3
PAN 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1
GUA 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1
HAI 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 0
Wednesday, Jan. 17
USA 4, Haiti 1
Panama 1, Guatemala 1
Friday, Jan. 19
USA vs. Guatemala 6:30 p.m. ET
Panama vs. Haiti 8:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Jan. 21
Guatemala vs. Haiti 4 p.m. ET
USA vs. Panama 6 p.m. ET