Aug. 26, 2002
L'ALCUDIA, Spain - The United States Under-20 Men's National Team defeated an older Italy team 2-1 tonight to push the American squad to the brink of the semifinals at the C.O.T.I.F XIX Torneig Internacional in L'Alcunia, Spain. Playing on a field saturated with water from a pre-game storm, the U.S. used goals from Eddie Johnson and Devin Barclay to defeat one of Europe's top teams.
The U.S. will conclude group play on Tuesday against Ukraine at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET). If undefeated Brazil doesn't lose to winless Ukraine later tonight, the U.S. can qualify for the semifinals with a draw against Ukraine on Tuesday.
"I am very happy with how we dug in and played against a tough Italy team", said U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. "We played well and got the result that we deserved. I think we knew that we deserved better after our effort against Brazil, and that game gave us confidence to come out here and take it to Italy."
A thunderstorm and hailstorm halted just an hour prior to kick-off, turning the playing field into a large wet, sloppy mess. The field dictated a direct approach by both teams, as parts of the field were nearly unplayable. Unable to cope with the American's speed and outplayed for much of the match, a frustrated Italian team committed 28 fouls, received 13 cards and saw two players and their head coach ejected. The U.S. team received six cautions in an intense match.
Although they were outplayed for most of the game, the Italians went ahead in the 26th minute when Alberto Quadri's blast from the right side of the box skipped off the wet surface and snuck by U.S. goalkeeper Steve Cronin.
With chances coming fast and furious at each end, the U.S. answered ten minutes later. U.S. defender Chad Marshall, who earlier headed just wide from a Justin Mapp free kick, was pulled down in the box by Dominic Creanza during a U.S. corner kick. Spanish referee Carlos Andreu wasted no time in pointing to the penalty spot.
Eddie Johnson stepped up to take the penalty kick - and after Andreu cautioned two Italians - buried it in the left side of the net. The goal was Johnson's third this year with the U.S. Under-20s.
Italian coach Francesco Rocca was ejected after the goal for arguing with the referee. Rocca was also shown a yellow card in the 19th minute.
The U.S. opened the second half where they ended the first half, scoring less than three minutes after the break. Chefik Simo hit a free kick into the box that Ricardo Clark, who had a first-half header that produced the save of the day from Italian goalkeeper Vitangelo Spadavecchia, headed toward goal. Eddie Johnson won the race to the ball, but his shot from the right side of the area was deflected across the face of the goal. Barclay was the first one to the ball, and he calmly hit it home (his third goal of the year) with his left foot to give the U.S. a lead it did not relinquish.
Rongen's defense closed out the Italians for the rest of the match, with the backline of C.J. Klaas, Chad Marshall, Ryan Cochrane and Chefik Simo keeping the Italians from creating any dangerous chances. Cronin was only forced into one save on the night.
Cronin's defense came up with two huge saves in the first half, when C.J. Klaas stepped in the way of a Biaio Pagano blast in the 22nd minute, and Mapp cleared a header off the line after an Italy corner kick in the 33rd minute.
The semifinals are slated for Wednesday, with the Group A winner taking on the Group B runner-up at 9 p.m. local time and the Group B winner taking on the Group A runner-up at 11 p.m.
The C.O.T.I.F. tournament will be the Under-20s final international games before World Youth Championship qualifying at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C., from November 13-17. The top two teams from the four-team qualifying tournament in Charleston will qualify for the 2003 World Youth Championship in United Arab Emirates from March 25-April 16, 2003.
Game Notes: In an afternoon press conference for the tournament, the U.S. was praised - along with Ukraine and Costa Rica - for bringing younger teams to this tournament in preparation for next year's Under-20 World Championship ... The five other teams brought players (born in 1982) that will be too old for next year's U-20 world championship ... The tiebreakers after the group phase are (in order): goal differential, goals for, head-to-head, sportsmanship points, youngest average age ... The U.S. wore white jerseys with blue shorts and white socks ... Italy wore their traditional blue shirts with white shorts and blue socks ... Rongen started the same 11 as he did in the Brazil match on Saturday ... Italy was playing their third match in three days ... Italy lost 2-0 to Brazil on Sunday, after topping Ukraine 2-0 on Saturday ... U.S. midfielder Ricardo Clark, who was ejected from Saturday's opener after receiving two cautions, was able to play today as tournament rules dictate that only a direct red card or a player's third caution in the tournament calls for a suspension ... Eddie Johnson and Ricardo Clark now have two cautions and will miss the USA's next game if they receive another caution ... The U.S. Under-20s also defeated Italy 2-1 in last year's Toulon Tournament in France.