Nov. 29, 2003
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team scored three unanswered goals in the second half to down Paraguay 3-1 tonight in the first match of Group F of the FIFA World Youth Championship at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Forward Ed Johnson led the way for the U.S. with a goal and an assist to Mike Magee, while Bobby Convey put the game out of reach with a stunning upper-90 finish late in the second half.
The victory gave the U.S. three points and pushed them to the top of Group F (after South Korea's 2-0 victory over Germany). The U.S. will face Germany in the second game of the tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 5:45 p.m. local (8:45 a.m. ET) at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The match will be televised live by Galavision beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET (delayed on the West Coast at 8:30 a.m. PT), and can also be followed live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
The three goals were the second most the U.S. has scored in an opening match of a World Youth Championship in nine attempts, only bettered by a 6-0 thrashing of Turkey in 1993.
"This was a great effort by every player on the field," said U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. "After going down a goal early in the game the guys didn't give in and came out in the second half and played excellent. It was a remarkable effort and a crucial win as it provides us with three points right away."
The U.S. was put on their heels early as Paraguay came out attacking and came away with a 1-0 lead after just five minutes of play, scoring off a set piece just outside the 18-yard box. Paraguay was awarded the free kick after U.S. 'keeper Steve Cronin flattened Paraguay forward Nelson Valdez just outside the box, while attempting to clear a long ball served in from the midfield. Cronin sprinted off his line to try and cut off the pass and knock it away, but made contact with Valdez, who was also being closely guarded by defender Chad Marshall. Cronin was given a caution for the foul.
On the ensuing indirect free kick, Julio Dos Santos quickly touched the ball to captain Edgar Barreto, who deadened the ball, leaving it for Santos to run onto. Santos struck the ball with an amazing velocity, driving it around the U.S. wall and off the lower left post into the net, giving Cronin no chance to come up with a save.
The U.S. struggled to find their rhythm in the first half after Paraguay's early strike. Attempts by starting midfielders Bobby Convey and Ricardo Clark at through balls were stifled during most of the first 45 minutes and the U.S. was only able to garner one shot on goal.
Despite being behind, Rongen didn't make any substitutions to start the second half, but he did make one change on the field, switching right midfielder Santino Quaranta and Mapp, who had started on the left midfield position.
The swap changed the match, as eight minutes into the second half Quaranta got free on the left flank and swerved in a ball to Johnson. Roaming the box before the cross, Johnson's quick first step got him free from defender Victor Mareco and allowed him to bury the header into the back of the net past a helpless Silva.
Led by Convey, the U.S. began to find more openings in the final third of the field after tying the match. At the same time, the U.S. defense was able to do a better job of closing down Paraguay's players up front and not letting them find open looks on goal.
In the 68th minute, the U.S. took the lead and never looked back. The attack started with Marshall hitting a pass upfield to Mapp, who gave a cheeky one-time back flick to a streaking Johnson down the right sideline. Johnson dribbled into the box and ripped a shot on goal that Silva couldn't handle as it deflected off the 'keeper's hands to Magee at the middle of the frame. Magee was able to outmuscle his defender and tap the ball into the wide-open net.
Twelve minute later, Convey guaranteed the U.S. three points from their first match with a spectacular finish. Getting the ball from Johnson on the right side, Convey turned up towards goal. After getting just inside the penalty area, Convey pushed the ball to his left past a number of defenders and let loose a left-footed bomb into the upper-left hand corner of the goal. The strike froze the Paraguay defenders and sent the U.S. players into a frenzy and was one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
In the first half, the U.S. had the most of its opportunities start from the left midfield, as defender Zak Whitbread pushed forward a number of times to team with Mapp and send in some dangerous serves. In the 38th minute, Whitbread served up a blistering cross that Magee flicked towards goal, just missing the right post by a foot.
The USA's best scoring opportunity came in the 23rd minute, after a nice buildup on the left flank. Justin Mapp was able to get free and send in a cross that found Magee wide open six feet from the far post, but the forward couldn't get enough power on his header sending it directly into the arms of 'keeper Anthony Silva.
On the opposite end of the field, Paraguay looked dangerous for most of the first half. In the 30th minute after a nice bit of play on the right side of the box by forwards Nelson and Dante Lopez, the ball was dropped to defender Victor Moreco, who tested Cronin from about 12-yards out. Cronin (5 saves) did well to stay in front of the shot, knocking it wide for one of six corner kicks Paraguay would have on the night.