After 0-0 draw with Guatemala, win or draw needed for world berth.
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U.S. under-20 men
With world berth secured, Adu leads 5-0 rout of Panama.
PANAMA CITY, Panama (Sunday, January 21, 2007) -- The United States celebrated its advancement to this summer's world championship tournament, using two goals and an assist by midfielder Freddy Adu to pummel Panama 5-0 to win the CONCACAF Under-20 Final Round Qualification Group A before 17,180 tonight at Rommel Fernandez Stadium.
The U.S. secured its advancement to the Under-20 World Cup before taking the field, following Haiti's surprising 2-0 triumph over Guatemala in the opener of today's doubleheader. That gave the U.S. (2-0-1, 7 points) and Panama (1-1-1, 4) berths in Canada 2007.
"Our team was highly motivated this morning, wanted to finish the job on a high note and we did," U.S. coach Thomas Rongen said. "We showed in this game what we're capable of. We are a good team that came into a very tough surrounding against a very good opponent. Panama. . . deserve(s) to be (in the world championships), but we feel that we are one of the better teams in CONCACAF and we wanted to show that today.
"We prepared ourselves in the manner that we needed in order to ourselves through to the World Cup, regardless of (Guatemala's) result against Haiti."
CONCACAF, which includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean, will send four teams to the world championships. The other two qualifiers in the 24-nation field will be determined when host Mexico, Costa Rica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Jamaica meet February 21-25 in Group B.
Adu was coming off a sub-par performance in Friday's dull 0-0 draw with Guatemala, which despite being considered a co-favorite with the U.S., wound up last at 0-1-2 with two points, one point behind Panama (1-2). Adu scored once in each half, giving the Americans a 1-0 lead to take into intermission after putting away an easy shot in the seventh minute.
"Personally, I learned that I need to play higher up on the field because that's when I'm most productive for the team," said Adu, the 17-year-old team captain. "I was playing too far away from the goal and every time I got the ball, I had 40 or 50 yards to go and I wasn't dangerous in those situations. As a team, we figured out that to break down a team that likes to pack it in defensively, we need to go wide and send some crosses in and today we did that. We scored our first goal off a cross and we scored some more goals from crosses as well."
Striker Johann Smith, who did not play in the first two contests here, carried from his defensive half down the left flank, speeding past two defenders to get deep into the corner, including Marvin Mitchell, who missed a sliding tackle at the end-line. Smith's cross skipped past Eric Vasquez, who should have probably cleared the ball and went to the far post.
Adu raced alone to within six yards oh his target. Without an opponent within five yards, Adu received the perfectly-placed passed and calmly deposited a left-footer into the gaping left side of the net beyond helpless goalkeeper Luis Mejia.
"The ball went out wide to Johann and we know that Johann is the fastest guy on this team," Adu said. "I faked that I was going near post and made the run to the far post, and Johann put the ball in the right spot. I was wide open and just had to redirect it in."
Neither team was particularly dynamic for the remainder of the first half, but the U.S. scored early and often after the break. Forward Robbie Rogers was racing down the left center of the field when he took a pass from Adu in the center circle. Rogers carried into the left side of the box, then cut back, sending Mitchell sprawling before firing a nine-yard shot inside the near post to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute.
Eleven minutes later, Smith made it 3-0. Defender Nathan Sturgis sent a long ball over the top and Smith raced past his marker for a free run on goal. Collecting the ball 20 yards out, he touched with his left foot and then shot with his right, stroking the ball from the right side of the box into the left corner of the net with Mejia stranded.
Striker Jonathan Villanueva came off the bench in the second half and increased the American margin to 4-0 in the 71st minute. He beat a defender to run onto a long ball from midfielder Danny Szetala and used his first touch to fire a left-footer directly at Mejia from 17 yards out. The keeper made the save at his six-yard-line, but the ball rebounded on one hop to to Villanueva, who continued his run and headed the carom eight yards into the empty net. Mejia watched from the ground.
Adu polished off the romp with his second strike in the 90th minute. Rogers took the ball off the foot of a defender deep in the right corner, weaved toward goal through several Panamanians and touched to Adu who volleyed a 15-yarder into the left side of the net for the 5-0 final count.
"Robbie was awesome," Adu said. "He made a great play to get around two guys and spotted me at the top of the box. I hit it first time because, as they say, 'If you don't shoot, you can't score.' I felt I didn't shoot enough the first two games, so I tried to take a lot of shots tonight."
Rongen inserted two new starters against Panama -- Smith on the right and Josmer Altidore in the center of the three-man front line in a 4-3-3 formation. Quavas Kirk, who started at right back in the opening 4-1 win over Haiti, but did not play against Guatemala, returned to the starting lineup. Tony Beltran who started in place of Kirk against Guatemala, moved into a linking midfield position, sending Anthony Wallace to the bench.
"There were 20,000 people there, everyone wearing Panama jerseys and I told the guys, 'If you don't get excited for a game like this, in an atmosphere like this, then there's something wrong with you, because as athletes, this is what we live for.' Adu said. "You could just see it in the guys' eyes, they were ready to go. It was great."
Notes: The U.S. set a CONCACAF record by qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup (formerly the World Youth Championship) for the sixth straight time and will make its 11th appearance in the biannual event which will be held for a 16th time. Mexico advanced from CONCACAF five straight times between 1977-85.
The Under-20 World Cup will take place June 30-July 22 in six Canadian cities -- Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria. The draw will be held March 3 in Toronto. More than 350,000 tickets have already been sold for the competition.
With the addition of the U.S. and Canada, half of the 24-nation field has been filled. Already in are Canada as host, Japan, Jordan, South Korea and North Korea from Asia, and Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Scotland and Spain from Europe.
Rongen previously led the under-20s to the world championships in 2003, finishing fifth in the United Arab Emirates. Under coach Sigi Schmid, the Americans finished 12th in the event two years ago in the Netherlands.
The best U.S. performance in the world championships came in 1989, when goalkeeper Kasey Keller helped the team come in fourth.
United States 5, Panama 0
Lineups: Panama - Luis Mejia, Luis Ovalle, Eric Vasquez, Marvin Mitchell (Antonio Leslie 58), Christian Vergara, Javier Gonzalez, Josue Jafeth Brown (Pablo Gonzalez 46), Francisco Castaņeda, Luis Jaramillo, Gabriel Torres (captain), Fernando Barber (Armando Cooper 57). United States - Chris Seitz; Quavas Kirk (Ofori Sarkodie 46), Julian Valentin, Nathan Sturgis, Tim Ward (Bryan Arguez 70), Danny Szetela, Tony Beltran, Freddy Adu (captain), Johann Smith, Josmer Altidore (Jonathan Villanueva 53), Robbie Rogers.
United States - Adu (Smith) 7.
United States - Rogers (Adu) 50.
United States - Smith (Sturgis) 61.
United States - Villanueva (Szetela) 71.
United States - Adu (Rogers) 90.
Shots: Panama 7, United States 9.
Shots on goal: Panama 3, United States 9.
Saves: Panama 4, United States 3.
Fouls: Panama 17, United States 26.
Corner kicks: Panama 1, United States 11.
Offside: Panama 1, United States 1.
Yellow card cautions: Panama - Castaņeda 30, Cooper 78; United States - Altidore 2, Kirk 13, Sturgis 63, Valentin 81, Szetela 86.
Red card ejection: Panama - Castaņeda (second yellow card) 65.
Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador).
Assistant referees: Francisco Perez (Mexico), Edgar Mora (Costa Rica).
Fourth official: Manuel Glower (Mexico).
Attendance: 17,180 at Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, Panama.
Weather: Warm, 80 degrees.
U.S. roster for the Under-20 World Cup with players' names' followed with team and hometown in parentheses. Teams are identified either by college, or Major League Soccer or foreign affiliation:
Goalkeepers: Brian Perk (UCLA, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake, MLS; San Luis Obispo, Calif.).
Defenders: Ofori Sarkodi (Indiana University; Huber Heights, Ohio), Nathan Sturgis (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS; Redondo Beach, Calif.), Anthony Wallace (FC Dallas, MLS; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew, MLS; Waukesha, Wisc.)
Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Real Salt Lake, MLS; Potomac, Md.), Brian Arguez (D.C. United, MLS; Miami, Fla.), Tony Beltran (UCLA; Claremont, Calif.), Amaechi Igwe (New England Revolution, MLS; Belmont, Calif.), Robby Rogers (SC Heerenven, Netherlands; Huntington Beach, Calif.), Danny Szetala (Columbus Crew, MLS; Clifton, N.J.), Jonathan Villanueva (University of Virginia; Grand Prairie, Texas)
Forwards: Andre Akpan (Harvard University, Grand Prairie, Texas). Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls, Boca Raton, Fla.), Quavas Kirk (Los Angeles Galaxy, Long Beach, Calif.). Johann Smith (Bolton Wanderers, England; Bloomfield, Conn.), Julian Valentin (Wake Forest University; Lancaster, Pa.), Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg SV, Germany; Pasco, Wash.), Sal Zizzo (UCLA; San Diego).
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