Under-20s Qualify For World Youth Championship After 2-0 Win Over Panama

Jan. 15, 2005

Carson, CA - The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team, which starts four UCLA players, solidified a spot in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Holland with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Panama Friday evening in its second match of Group A of the U-20 Final Round CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament at The Home Depot Center. Bruin freshman defender Marvell Wynne was selected the Chevrolet Man of the Match.

This is the fifth straight time the U.S. has qualified for the world championship and their tenth overall. The U.S. qualifying streak ties Mexico's five straight (1977, '79, '81, '83, '85). The 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship will take place in Holland from June 10-July 2.

The U.S. will have the chance to win the group with a victory or tie over Costa Rica on Sunday, Jan. 16, which would be the first time ever the U.S. Under-20s have finished in sole possession of first place in CONCACAF qualifying. The U.S. sits atop Group A with six points, with Costa Rica in second with four points, Panama with one and Trinidad & Tobago at the bottom with zero.

After a uneventful first half, a quick Chad Barrett throw-in led to the USA's first goal as Will John was taken down in the box and Freddy Adu put home the resulting penalty kick in the 55th minute. Continuing to put pressure on the Panama goal, the U.S. assured their trip to Holland in the 90th minute when Jacob Peterson flicked a shot over goalkeeper Jose Calderon after receiving a nice through ball from Eddie Gaven.

'We did what we set out to do, qualify for Holland,' said U.S. Under-20 head coach and former UCLA head coach Sigi Schmid. 'We came out a bit sluggish in the first half, but the guys responded in the second half and showed their true game. I'm extremely pleased with their performance and look forward to a tough challenge against Costa Rica on Sunday. If we win that, we win the group and that is another goal for this team. '

The U.S. came out with less firepower in the first half against Panama compared to their five-goal output in the first 25 minutes against Trinidad & Tobago, only getting three shots at the Panama goal before the break. The quiet first half was replaced by an explosive second as the U.S. quickly began to take control of the match, peppering Panama's goal often.

Early in the half, the U.S. found its first opportunity when a Panama defender misplayed a ball along the right sideline near the midfield stripe and Barrett was able to run onto the loose ball. He dribbled toward the endline before putting in a cross that was deflected, and fell to the feet of Gaven, who hit a left-footed shot from the top of the box. Calderon made a kick save, before Raul Loo cleared out for a corner.

After three consecutive corners and a blocked attempt from team captain Patrick Ianni near the right post, Barrett made a heads-up play, tossing in a quick throw-in from the left sideline for John. Streaking onto the toss, John got into the box before being whacked down by defender Jose Venegas, forcing the referee to point to the spot. Adu stepped up and buried home his fourth penalty in five international matches into the upper-right corner in the 55th minute, leaving no chance for Calderon.

In the 59th minute, it appeared the U.S. was going to have another penalty kick when Adu was tackled from behind by Roman Torres after just getting inside the box on the top-left corner, but no call was made.

A minute later, Adu was involved in another chance but was called offside. The U.S. quickly found Barrett on the right and crossed in a low ball for Adu that he finished past Calderon, but the assistant's flag rose as Adu was just a split second behind the line when he received the ball.

It was Adu getting things started again in the 65th minute when he played in a ball from the left flank and Gaven dummied it to give John a great look just inside the top of the penalty area, but he didn't put enough on his shot as Calderon easily made the save.

Two minutes later, Adu decided to test Calderon from deep. After taking a corner on the right that was cleared out, Adu was able to get the ball back and ripped a 30-yard shot that whizzed past the left post, missing by a few feet.

Between John's and Adu's attempt, Panama looked dangerous a few moments later when Armando Gun found space atop the penalty area, but the captain put his shot right in the path of Westberg.

That attempt would be Gun's last of the match as in the 84th minute as he was given a straight red card for a dirty foul after a tough challenge near the Panama endline on Benny Feilhaber. After sliding in from behind for a tackle and tumbling on top of Feilhaber, Gun quickly got up, stepped over him and intentionally kicked his heel into the UCLA sophomore midfielder's back.

In the final minute, Peterson punched the USA's ticket to Holland when Gaven found him with a through ball and he flicked the ball over the sliding Calderon. It was Peterson's second goal in two straight games at The Home Depot Center, the first coming on a similar goal for Indiana University in the NCAA Championship against UC Santa Barbara.

Despite being down a man, Panama came close to getting one back in extra time, but the U.S. defense was able to hold. Celse Polo pushed a ball through for Alvaro Salazar in the right side of the penalty area, but with Patrick Phelan closing in he put his shot well over the bar. Salazar had another chance a minute later, bringing the ball along the endline to the right of the goal and trying to put in a low cross, but Westberg did well to make a kick save and then collect the ball.

The backline of Ianni, Phelan, Hunter Freeman and Wynne were outstanding for the second straight game as they held Panama to just four shots on goal and eight overall and made life relatively easy for Westberg. Freeman and Wynne were also confident in the attack, sprinting up the wings and serving in well-placed crosses into the box.

In Holland, the U.S. will look to improve on its impressive fifth place finish in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, when they reached the quarterfinals before falling to Argentina in overtime. The 24-team tournament will take place at six venues in Holland with games in Doetinchem, Emmen, Enschede, Tilburg and Utrecht.

Along with the U.S. and the host, ten other teams have already booked a place at the world championship. Korea Republic, China PR, Japan and Syria are the Asia qualifiers and Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Switzerland, Italy and Germany are in from Europe.

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