KANO, Nigeria (Oct. 26, 2009) - The U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team took advantage of an early red card to Spain to get on the scoreboard in the fourth minute of their opening game of the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, but the seven-time European champions soon showed their class in clawing back two goals of their own to take a 2-1 victory at Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano. With the result, the U.S. is now 6-7-0 in FIFA U-17 World Cup openers, and 4-7-2 at the event against European teams. Five of their last eight matches at the event have come against UEFA foes, and the U.S. has come away with a 2-3-0 record.
The two group favorites played a crowd-pleasing match up and down the pitch. The U.S. started the match on the attack, taking it to the Spaniards down the right side. Luis Gil launched a deep ball for Jack McInerney to run onto, and run onto it he did—clearly beating Spanish defender Sergi Gomez, who could do little but try to tackle the ball away from behind. The resulting foul was an obvious red card for denying the goal-scoring opportunity, and Spain quickly found themselves down a man in the second minute.
Two minutes later, the U.S. took full advantage with a goal by McInerney, who challenged the Spanish goalkeeper on a high, lofted ball from Marlon Duran off a throw-in. The high cross fell through the hands of Edgar at the edge of his six-yard box and McInerney only had to tap the ball across the line behind the goalkeeper. The goal was a team-leading tenth in 2009 for the forward from Alpharetta, Ga.
Spain settled down and began to pass the ball up towards their own No. 9, Borja. The striker kept trying to get behind the U.S. line, even appearing to put one past Earl Edwards before seeing the linesman’s flag up for offside in the 17th minute.
Despite bouts of U.S. possession, Spain finally evened the score in the 22nd minute with a goal from Borja. Dribbling up the middle, Spanish forward Iker Muniain – the youngest player to ever score in La Liga – passed the ball to his left for an onrushing Pablo Sarabia. Sarabia beat the U.S. offsides trap and sent a cross through the box for Borja who only had to redirect it past Edwards into the right side of the goal to tie the game.
Spain took the lead just eight minutes later on a quick goal that started with a punt from Edgar. Misjudging the bounce, U.S. defender Jared Watts missed the header, leaving Borja alone to run down the punt as it rolled down the right sideline. Taking one touch, Borja drilled it across the box in the air to the far side where it found the feet of Sarabia. Collecting the ball in the air, the Spanish striker rocketed a shot from a very sharp angle on the left side of the goal box, beating Edwards to the right upper 90.
"I think it was a very good match," U.S. head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "We had to play against one of the favorite teams, and we started off with some positive things, we scored quickly. They reacted very well, they had a brilliant 10 minutes and they put themselves in a good position. After that obviously our kids started to react, to put pressure on Spain and start to come back, but they (Spain) did a very good job defending. We tried to play and we created options but we didn’t score. When they had the opportunities, they were clinical with their finishing. That’s why they are at that level right now."
Attempting to regroup, the U.S. again managed to slip a forward behind the Spanish defense in the 39th minute. Stefan Jerome displayed a great piece of skill just inside midfield circle, receiving a ball from Gil and chipping it over his defender. Sprinting past his marker, Jerome pushed the ball forward with nothing but 40 yards between him and the goal. With Edgar rushing out, Jerome tried to dribble the ball around to his left, but Edgar stayed on his feet and forced the forward to the end line, where he was unable to get a clean cross off.
Halftime brought two changes for the U.S.; Cabrera took off right back and captain Perry Kitchen for defender Eriq Zavaleta, and forward Jerome for forward Victor Chavez.
The second half saw the U.S. retain most of the possession, with Spain forced to defend in their own half. In the 65th minute, the U.S. created their best chance of the second half with a pass from Gil. The midfielder sent Chavez through unfettered, and he raced in on the right side of the goal box. Unaware of an open Alex Shinsky on the left side, Chavez blasted a shot that Edgar’s left hand stopped to keep Spain in front.
With a spell of late possession, the U.S. earned three corner kicks, but each time, the header was either high or blocked by a Spanish defender. In the 81st minute, Chavez was again sent through up the right side of the pitch, and managed to turn on his defender. Eduardo Ramos wrapped up Chavez, eventually tackling him to the ground and earning himself a yellow card in the process. The free kick from just outside the box was cleared by Spain, leaving the U.S. still searching for the equalizer.
With 14 minutes of stoppage time due to repeated stadium lighting malfunctions, even as the clock reached the 90th minute the U.S. still had time to score. In the sixth minute of extra time, exquisite passing by the States led to a late chance. Starting at the midfield stripe, Tyler Polak played it to Nicholas Palodichuck, who found Shinsky in a seam on the left side. The midfielder touched it square to McInerney, who one-touched it forward into the left side of the box for 89th minute substitute Dominick Sarle. Seeing Gil at the top of the box, Sarle centered it but Gil’s shot rolled straight at the ‘keeper.
With the loss, the U.S. falls to third in Group E after Matchday 1 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, ahead of Malawi, who fell to the United Arab Emirates 2-0 earlier in the day. Spain takes second in the group, behind U.A.E. The U.S. will look to rebound against Malawi in their next match on Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. ET. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN360.com. Fans can also follow along with ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.
U.S. U-17 Men's National Team Match Report
Match: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. Spain
Date: Oct. 26, 2009
Competition: 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup; Group E
Venue: Sani Abacha Stadium; Kano, Nigeria
Kickoff: 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET)
Weather: 98 degrees, cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
ESP 2 0 2
USA – Jack McInerney (Marlon Duran) 4th minute
ESP – Borja (Pablo Sarabia) 22
ESP – Pablo Sarabia (Borja) 30
USA:1-Earl Edwards; 4-Perry Kitchen (capt.) (15-Eriq Zavaleta, 46), 6-Zachary Herold, 2-Jared Watts, 3-Tyler Polak; 10-Luis Gil, 11-Nick Palodichuk, 5-Marlon Duran (13-Dominick Sarle, 89), 8-Alex Shinsky; 9-Jack McInerney, 7-Stefan Jerome (19-Victor Chavez, 46)
Subs not used: 21-Keith Cardona, 12-Spencer Richey; 20-Boyd Okwuonu, 14-Carlos Martinez, 17-William Packwood, 16-Juan Agudelo, 18-Andrew Craven,
Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera
ESP: 1-Edgar; 3-Jon Aurtenetxe, 4-Sergi Gomez, 5-Marc Muniesa, 20-Albert Dalmau; 6-Koke (capt.), 8-Eduardo Ramos, 17-Pablo Sarabia; 7-Iker Muniain (12-Alvaro Morata, 84), 9-Borja (19-Kevin, 62), 10-Isco (14-Jordi Amat, 7)
Subs not used: 13-Julen Celaya, 21-Yeray, 2-Albert Blazquez, 11-Adria Carmona, 15-Javier Espinosa, 16-Kamal, 18-Sergi Roberto
Head coach: Gines Melendez
Stats Summary: USA / ESP
Shots: 14 / 9
Shots on Goal: 9 / 5
Saves: 3 / 8
Corner Kicks: 6 / 3
Fouls: 20 / 14
Offside: 2 / 3
ESP – Sergi Gomez (sent off) 2nd minute
USA – Zachary Herold (caution) 6
USA – Eriq Zavaleta (caution) 66
USA – Marlon Duran (caution) 76
ESP – Eduardo Ramos (caution) 81
ESP – Koko (caution) 88
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)
Assistant Referee 1: Gabor Eros (HUN)
Assistant Referee 2: Tibor Vamos (HUN)
Fourth Official: Subkhiddin Mohd Salle (MAS)