Under-20s WYC Run Ends Against Italy

June 21, 2005

Courtesy U.S. Soccer

The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team's strong run through the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship ended Tuesday evening after falling 3-1 to Italy in the Round of 16 at Arke Stadium in Enchede, Holland. The U.S., led by current Bruins Benny Feilhaber, Patrick Ianni and Marvell Wynne, as well as former Bruin Chad Barrett, was the better team in the first 45 minutes and took a 1-0 lead into the half on a Hunter Freeman penalty kick. Italy stormed back with a formidable attack and a bit of luck, however, as two of their three scores were officially ruled own goals.

'Obviously, we are disappointed,' said U.S. Under-20 head coach and former UCLA head coach and player Sigi Schmid. 'You've got to finish opportunities when you get them, and we just weren't able to do that today, much to the efforts of Italy's goalkeeper, who came up with a number of good saves. We had a chance to go up 2-0 right before halftime, and if we score that goal, it makes a huge difference in the game. We just didn't handle the second half very well, and they used the chances they had.'

The U.S. was looking for their second-straight trip to the quarterfinals of a FIFA World Youth Championship, but knew it would be a difficult task in the early going as Italy came out and put the U.S. defense on its heels. Forward Graziano Pelle was the nucleus of Italy's attack and was dangerous every time he touched the ball. The tallest field player in the game, Pelle was able to bring down crosses in and around the U.S. penalty area, either turning his defender to get off a shot or laying the ball back for a midfielder to strike from distance.

Despite their barrage on the U.S. goal early on, Italy wasn't able to find the back of the net and the U.S. was able to get composed and find a rhythm. After the first 15 minutes, the U.S. had the better of possession and began to create chances.

The U.S. took the lead a minute before halftime when midfielder Freddy Adu was taken down in the box as he tried to move past a defender to the right of the goal. Adu, who had missed a penalty kick against Argentina, took the spot kick, but his strike was well-saved by Italian goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano. Fortunately for the U.S., the referee whistled Viviano for moving early, and Hunter Freeman stepped up to rifle home the second attempt just inside the left post. The conversion was Freeman's first-ever goal with the Under-20s.

The second half started like the first, as Italy was able to pressure the U.S. backline and finally broke through on an own goal in the 54th minute. Pelle fed midfielder Daniele Galloppa at the top of the box and he ripped a shot that would have sailed wide of the left post, but it deflected off the back of defender Jonathan Spector and goalkeeper Quentin Westberg had no chance as it ended up falling into the opposite corner.

Eight minutes later, Spector dribbled out of the back and was tackled about 40 yards from goal by Galloppa. The midfielder quickly pushed the ball up to Pelle, who faked a right-footed shot and cut back on defender Wynne before drilling a ball into the upper-left corner of the goal with the outside of his left foot.

The U.S. had yet to be behind during the competition, but did what it could to battle back. In the 71st minute Eddie Gaven came inches from getting the equalizer, but his 25-yard blast missed wide right.

The back-breaker came in the 75th minute as Italy got its second own goal of the game. Ianni attempted to clear a ball up the sideline, but Simone Bentivoglio was able to tackle the ball away and track down the ball before it went over the endline. Bentivoglio crossed the ball through the legs of Spector and as Westberg came out for the low service Sacha Kljestan accidentally toe-poked the ball into his own net.

'We had some mental errors that really hurt us in this game,' said Schmid. 'Plus we had some important players that didn't play as well as they could of today. That combination didn't bode well for us against a good team like Italy.'

Similar to the first round of play, the U.S. struggled to finish their chances against Italy. One of the crucial opportunities in the game came just moments before halftime as Barrett received a through ball from Feilhaber and was one-on-one with Viviano. Barrett tried to push the ball to his right around Viviano, but the `keeper did well to hold his position and was able to come up with the save.

Earlier in the half, Viviano also came up with a couple of other big saves to keep the U.S. off the scoreboard. In the 32nd minute, Barrett and Gaven played a great one-two near the left elbow of the penalty area and Gaven tried to bend the ball to the back post, only to see Viviano tip it over the bar with his fingertips. Three minutes later, Feilhaber, who once again was the best player on the field for the U.S., found some space at the top of the box and unleashed a low burner towards the left post, but Viviano did well to cover.

Barrett had a good chance to make the final moments interesting, but Viviano was up to the task one more time. Barrett made an angled run at the goalkeeper and got off a shot that looked destined for the left post, only to see the `keeper stretch out in mid air and kick the attempt clear.

The U.S. Under-20s finished their two-year cycle with a 16-6-4 international record, with 13 of the 16 victories coming under the direction of Schmid who took over in November of 2003. The U.S. will finish the tournament no lower than 14th place and no higher than 10th, depending on the other four results in the Round of 16 that will be played on Wednesday, June 22 in Holland.

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