GUADALAJARA, Mexico (Wednesday, May 14, 2003) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team survived a rowdy home crowd of 9,000 fans, a potent Mexican attack, and 23 minutes of playing a man down to pull out a 3-1 win over likely 2004 Olympic Qualifying foe Mexico at Estadio Tres de Marzo in Guadalajara tonight.
The U.S. got an early goal from Kelly Gray in the 11th minute, the game winner from Alecko Eskandarian in the 75th, and an incredible 70-yard chip into an open net from David Testo to ice the game in the second minute of stoppage time and throw the home crowd into a hostile frenzy that is usually saved for World Cup qualifiers.
"On a night when we showed great determination, character and resiliency in finishing with a man down, we also managed a terrific result," said U-23 MNT head coach Glenn Myernick. "What's encouraging is that we can play much better. We absolutely deserved the 2-1 win. The third goal was just icing on the cake."
The U.S. came out ready to play, quickly matching Mexico's possession across the first 10 minutes. Playing in his first U-23 international since the 2000 Olympics and his second match against Mexico in six days, team captain Landon Donovan helped the U.S. strike first, sending a perfect corner kick from the left side to the triple towers of onrushing U.S. defenders -- 6'4" Oguchi Onyewu, 6'3" Alex Yi and 6'2" Kelly Gray -- at the back post. Gray easily won the battle against a much smaller defender and banged home a header to make it 1-0 and momentarily silence the crowd in the 11th minute.
Shocked by the early goal in much the same fashion that the full Mexican National Team's was shocked by the early U.S. goal in their Round of 16 World Cup match in Korea last June, Mexico turned it up a notch, hungry for the equalizer. Crafty forward Adolfo "El Bofo" Bautista took over the next 15 minutes of the match, spear-heading the Mexican attack up top with forwards Alfredo Medina and Juan Pablo Garcia flying down the flanks. The U.S. was forced to sit back and absorb the all-out offensive, with Oguchi and Yi continually thwarting Bautista's runs through the heart of the U.S. defense. Yi blocked two shots from Bautista from close range, while Onyewu used his mighty muscle mass to ride El Bofo into the ground on two occasions and force him to shoot wide of the goal.
Mexico finally broke through in 38th minute following a short corner. Medina crossed the ball in from the left to the near post, where it was headed across the goal and fell at the feet of Garcia at the far post. Garcia pounced and quickly pushed a point-blank shot under U.S. goalkeeper D.J. Countess, who almost saved it from crossing the goal line.
The second half continued just as the first half ended, with Mexico owning the majority of possesion and attacking in waves. Playing a 4-5-1, the U.S. strategy was designed to shut down the oppostion in the area, but it wasn't generating much offense. Using 6'2" Chicago Fire forward Nate Jaqua as a target man up top, the U.S. was attempting to play long balls out of the back and have Donovan and Alecko Eskandarian run on, but too often the U.S. midfield was bogged down in tracking back to contain their counterparts.
The USA's chances of getting a go-ahead goal took a big hit when Yi received his second yellow card and was ejected in the 67th minute. At the 70-minute mark, the U.S. was giving up far too many free kick opportunities around the box and it looked as if Mexico would grab a 2-1 lead at any moment. But again, just as the U.S. Men's National Team did in their 2-0 win over Mexico last summer, the U.S. used an efficient series down the flank to set up a perfect strike. Second-half substitute Chris Wingert played a ball down the left wing to Justin Mapp, who had come on for a worn-out DaMarcus Beasley in the 70th minute. Mapp drew two defenders as he dribbled almost to the endline and laid a ball back to an unmarked Eskandarian, who slotted it through traffic from 10 yards out to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute. The goal was almost identical to the one scored back on June 17, 2002 off a series from Claudio Reyna and Josh Wolff, with Brian McBride providing a clinical finish.
Frustration set in for the Mexicans from that point on, as they could not break through the U.S. bunkering and the pressure from the crowd only intensified. But with just a minute left in regulation, after the crowd succeeded in convincing the goalkeeper to trot up field for a free kick, Mexico was punished for their act of desperation. Richmond Kickers midfielder David Testo, who had entered in the 90th minute for a battered and bruised Jaqua, quickly jumped on the free kick clearance. Standing about 10 yards from the top of the penalty area, he didn't waste a second in crushing a ball from 70 yards out that took two or three bounces and gently rolled across the middle of the goalline as midfielder Eduardo Rergis scampered back to no avail.
"I knew the goalie was out. I just looked up and kicked the (crap) out if it," said Testo, of the fluke goal. "I had no idea it would actually go in."
The U.S. bench erupted with the improbablity of the first-time, 92nd minute strike, and the final whistle blew just seconds later, prompting the crowd to shower the field in disgust.
The U.S. U-23 MNT will depart early tomorrow morning back to Chicago, then on to their respective pro clubs.
The U.S. Under-23 MNT will begin qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in November, as they enter the tournament in the second round and will face the winner of a first-round match-up between the tiny nations of St. Kitts & Neves and Dominica, who will meet in a home-and-home series in September and October.
Meanwhile, Mexico has earned a bye straight to the eight-team final round of qualification as the host nation for the event. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are set to take place in Mexico from February 2-12, 2004, with the two finalists earning autmatic berths to Athens 2004. In 2000 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Penn., the U.S. posted a 2-1-1 record and finished second behind Honduras for a ticket to Sydney.
- U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Game Report -
Participants: United States Under-23 Men's National Team vs. Mexico
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Estadio Tres de Marzo – Guadalajara, Mexico
Date: May 14, 2003 – 7 p.m. (local/CT)
Weather: 80 degrees; warm, hazy
Attendance: 9,000 (approx.)
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Mexico 1 0 1
USA 1 2 3
USA – Kelly Gray (Landon Donovan) 11th minute.
MEX – Juan Pablo Garcia (Alberto Medina) 38.
USA – Alecko Eskandarian (Justin Mapp) 75.
USA – David Testo (unassisted) 92+.
MEX (3-4-3): 1-Jose Corona; 4-Ismael Rodriguez (3-Jaime Duran Gomez, 65), 2-Hugo Sánchez, 5-Cosme Castro (19-Christian de la Mora, 81); 22-Eduardo Rergis, 7-Joel González, 6-Diego Ramirez (18-Leonel Olmedo, 46), 8-Jose de la Cruz; 10-Juan Pablo García (17-Ismael Íñiguez, 62), 9-Adolfo Bautista (Capt.), 11-Alberto Medina (20-Juan Alberto Esquivel, 70).
Subs Not Used: 12-Cirilo Salcedo, 16-Fausto Pinto, 15-Joel Huigui, 14-Miguel Andony Hernandez.
Head Coach: Ricardo Lavolpe.
USA (4-5-1): 1-D.J. Countess; 3-Ricky Lewis (20-Chris Wingert, 46), 4-Oguchi Onyewu, 14-Alex Yi (ejected, 67), 6-Kelly Gray (15-Brian Carroll, 55); 22-Ricardo Clark, 7-DaMarcus Beasley (16-Justin Mapp, 70), 12-Logan Pause, 10-Landon Donovan (Capt.; 5-Kyle Beckerman, 62), 11-Alecko Eskandarian; 23-Nate Jaqua (2-David Testo, 90).
Subs Not Used: 18-Doug Warren, 17-David Stokes.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.
Statistical Summary: MEX / USA
Shots 15 / 7
Saves 2 / 1
Corner Kicks 5 / 3
Fouls 16 / 17
Offside 3 / 1
USA – Alex Yi (caution) 14th minute.
USA – Oguchi Onyewu (caution) 16.
MEX – Cosmo Castro (caution) 61.
USA – Alex Yi (caution) 67.
USA – Alex Yi (ejection) 67.
Assistant Referee #1: n/a
Assistant Referee #2: n/a
Fourth Official: n/a
Chevrolet Man of the Match: D.J. Countess