CONCACAF Futsal Championship
U.S. begins CONCACAF championship defense with 5-0 shutout of Puerto Rico.
The shutout is the second for Head Coach Keith Tozer since taking the helm in the 1998 and third overall for the U.S. Futsal program since its inception in 1986.
"I'm very impressed with the shutout and the way the team played," said Tozer. "We scored five goals in the second half and the team played excellent defense. Playing good defense will be a key for us to win this tournament."
After Puerto Rico held the U.S. scoreless in the first half, the Americans caught fire and broke the deadlock in the second stanza.
Just seven minutes into the second half, defender Sean Bowers (Detroit Rockers, NPSL) opened the scoring for the USA off a free kick just outside the penalty area for the 1-0 lead.
Defender Jeff Davis (St. Louis Steamers, WISL), who earned his first caps for the U.S., took a back heel pass from defender Josh Timbers (Milwaukee Wave, NPSL) and fired a low four-yard shot that went in-between the legs of the Puerto Rican goalkeeper Joseph Berlingeri for the Americans' second goal of the game in the 29th minute. Davis made it back-to-back tallies 25 seconds later off a free kick from Bowers for the 3-0 advantage.
"It feels great to score two goals in my first appearance with the USA," said Davis, who was named Man of the Match. "It's a great honor to play for your country in a tournament like this and it is even better when you score."
Forward Brian Loftin (Milwaukee Wave/Rampage, NPSL/A-League) made it 4-0 from a pass from defender Wes Wade (Kansas City Attack, NPSL) in the 31st minute.
Puerto Rico pushed players forward to try to get on the board but the U.S. took advantage of the spaces off the flanks as forward Matt Tirschman (Milwaukee Wave, NPSL) beat his defender off a fast break and fired a six-yard shot that was blocked by goalkeeper Berlingeri, but forward Bernie Lilavois (Harrisburg Heat/Connecticut Wolves, NPSL/A-League) grabbed the loose ball rebound and took a shot into an empty net for the Americans' fifth goal with five minutes remaining in the game.
Goalkeeper Victor Nogueria saved all 12 shots on goal by Puerto Rico and earned his second career shutout. Nogueria's last shutout was the 4-0 win over South Korea on December 2, 1999 at the Tiger's 5 Tournament in Singapore.
The first round continues tomorrow night (Saturday, July 22) with a Group A doubleheader as Cuba (1-0, 3 Points) will meet Nicaragua (0-1, 0 Points), while Costa Rica (1-0, 3 Points) hosts Surinam (0-1, 0 Points) in the nightcap. The USA will face the Netherlands Antilles in game two of the Group B play on Sunday night (July 23), while in the first match Mexico will take on Puerto Rico.
Only the top two teams from Group A & B will advance to the semifinals on Thursday, July 27. The two semifinals winners will not only play for the championship on Saturday, July 29, but both teams will earn the final two berths for the Fourth FIFA Futsal World Championship in Guatemala (Nov. 18 - Dec. 3).
The U.S., which are looking to advance to the world championship for a fourth consecutive time, won the bronze medal at the 1989 FIFA competition in Holland and then took the silver in 1992 in Hong Kong.
"This is the first step towards the world championship," said Alex Para, U.S. Futsal Federation President/Head of Delegation. "It was very important for us as a team to break the ice and win the first game. The success of this team will help us grow as a sport in the U.S."
United States 5, Puerto Rico 0Lineups: United States - Victor Nogueira, Sean Bowers (Captain), Jeff Davis, Lee Tschantret, Matt Tirschman. subs: Glenn Carbonara, Josh Timbers, Wes Wade, Brian Loftin, Bernie Lilavois, Temoc Suarez. Puerto Rico - Joseh Berlingeri (Captain), Jose Pereira, Omar Montero, Raphael Ortiz, Jose Ortiz. subs: Angel Mussenden, Dariel Collazo, Nelson Encarnacion, Anselmo Adorno.
Shots: United States 11, Puerto Rico 22. Shots on goal: United States 18, Puerto Rico 12. Saves: United States 12, Puerto Rico 13. Corner kicks: United States 8, Puerto Rico 5. Fouls: United States 9, Puerto Rico 8. Yellow card caution: United States - Davis 17, Puerto Rico - Ortiz 8.
Referee: Elke Gunthur (Germany). Attendance: 450 at Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia, Costa Rica. Weather: Cloudy, chilly breeze, 62 degrees.