U.S. Comeback Falls Short in 3-1 Loss To Colombia

May 26, 2001

Le Pontet, France - The United States Under-20 Men's National Team could not come back for their second win in 48 hours and fell 3-1 to two-time defending champs Colombia at the Toulon Festival in Le Pontet, France. The U.S. were unlucky not to go ahead early in the match, but as the match wore on, the North American side was unable to overcome the combination of stifling heat and the two-time defending champs. Alecko Eskandarian scored in his second consecutive game for the United States on an assist from UCLA freshman Alex Yi.

The United States is still in position to advance to the tournament semifinals, and they will do so for just the second time in U.S. Soccer history with a win against the Netherlands on Monday (Fox Sports World, 1p.m. ET). The Netherlands topped Italy 2-0 in the second match of the evening. The results will make for an interesting Monday night (May 28), as the United States (3 points), the Netherlands (4 points) and Colombia (4 points) are all still alive in the race for the two Group A semifinal spots.

After going down 2-0 in the first half, the U.S. team picked up the pace and drew one goal back just five minutes into the second half. Yi, who played a very solid game in the U.S. backline, sent a brilliant bending ball into space behind the Colombian defense. Eskandarian timed his diagonal run perfectly and got behind the defense and collected Yi's ball just outside the penalty area, where he unloaded a left-footed rocket from 10 yards.

Eskandarian's goal gave the U.S. confidence, and the team pushed for an equalizer for 15 minutes before Colombia finalized the scoreline with a goal in the 60th minute. The goal came after UCLA freshman goalkeeper DJ Countess did well to deflect a Diego Valdes cross, but the American defense was slow to clear the ball. Aldo Leao Ramirez, who assisted on the first goal, made the U.S. pay and hammered the ball home from eight yards out.

The U.S. was extremely unlucky to go down 1-0 after 20 minutes, as the U.S. was the side dominating play and on the verge of breaking the 0-0 deadlock. Kelly Gray, who was a commanding presence in the U.S. midfield throughout the match, gave the U.S. a great chance in the 14th minute. Gray made a great run down the right side and drew the 'keeper out of the net, but his cross into the middle couldn't find a theammate. Two minutes later he tested Martinez from 35 yards out, but the Colombian goalkeeper dropped Gray's free kick attempt, but was able to recover before a U.S. attacker could pounce on the loose ball.

Between Gray's opportunities, Conor Casey and Eskandarian nearly combined as they had for the gamewinner on Thursday. Casey flicked on Countess goalkick and put Eskandarian into space behind the defense, but Eskandarian's right-footed blast went wide of the net.

Colombia went up 1-0 after Countess produced a great save on a free kick and, and he pushed the ball out for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick, Luis Felipe Charra slipped in front of the near post unmarked and nodded home the opening goal from three yards out.Five minutes later, Colombia made the score 2-0. Yi tried to head a Colombian cross clear, but Nestor Cuadros collected Yi's header and scored from 18 yards out.

The warm weather seemed to effect the U.S. players, as did the physical play of the Colombians. Colombia was whistled for 20 fouls in the match, and the U.S. team seemed to tire in the second half as the temperature on the field approached 90 degrees.

Despite the three Colombian goals, Countess still produced a quality performance in goal for the U.S. Countess was forced into seven saves, and many were of the difficult variety. He produced one of his best in the 28th minute, after a Colombian shot took a deflection in the penalty box. With Countess diving to his right to save the initial shot, the ball deflected back to his left and he was forced to reach back across his body with one hand to save the deflected shot.

The United States will end group play against the Netherlands on Monday, May 28, at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET) at Stade De Lattre in Aubagne, France, in a match that will be shown live on Fox Sports World. With a win, the U.S. will secure a spot in the tournament semifinals. A draw against the Netherlands, and the U.S. will be forced to await the outcome of the Colombia - Italy match.

The U.S. is using the Toulon Festival as a final warm-up before to the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina. The World Youth Championship will run from June 17 - July 8, and the U.S. will begin the tournament in Group C in Mendoza, Argentina. The U.S. opens against China PR on June 17, before playing Chile on June 20 and Ukraine on June 23.

2001 U.S. UNDER-20 MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT

SCORING SUMMARY

COL - Luis Felipe Chara (Aldo Leao Ramirez), 20.
COL - Nestor Cuadros, 29.
USA - Alecko Eskandarian (Alex Yi), 45.
COL - Aldo Leao Ramirez (Diego Valdes), 60.

Lineups:
USA - 1-D.J. Countess, 2-Phillip Salyer, 4-Nelson Akwari (capt.), 5-Alex Yi, 3-Oguchi Onyewu, 9-Brad Davis, 6-Kelly Gray, 10-Kyle Martino (11-David Wagenfuhr, 61), 15-Brian Carroll (8-Seth Trembly, 66), 12-Alecko Eskandarian (7-Logan Pause, 72), 17-Conor Casey.

COL - 12-Luis Martinez, 16-Ruben Dario Bustos, 3-Aquivaldo Mosquera, 18-Diego Valdez, 4- John Edwin Garcia, 19-Nestor Cuadros (6-Alex Segura, 63) 14-John Jairo Culma (17-Jaider Rodriguez, 71), 20-Luis Felipe Chara (capt.), 8-Jorge Lopez, 13-Carlos Ceballos, 11-Aldo Leao Ramirez (9-Leonardo Enciso, 77).

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