MONTREAL (Saturday, June 30, 2007) -- The United States under-20 men were outplayed for most of the match, but managed a 1-1 draw with South Korea in their Group D opener of the Under-20 World Cup at Olympic Stadium tonight.
Midfielder Danny Szetala put the U.S. ahead with a diving header in the 16th minute with what turned out to be the Americans' only shot on goal for the game. The lead lasted for 22 minutes. South Korea had ample opportunity to score more, but was undone by the American goal frame, five saves by goalkeeper Chris Seitz and its own poor marksmanship.
"We are happy with tonight's result, but we're not happy with the way we played," said U.S. coach Thomas Rongen. "Quite frankly, we are lucky to have come away with a draw against a very good Korean squad. They were strong and fast and, to be honest, we didn't do our part to match up with them tonight."
Poland (1-0, 3 points) leads Group D, after defeating four-time champion Brazil 1-0 today, despite playing more than two-thirds of the match a man down. The U.S. (0-0-1) and South Korea (0-0-1) are tied for second place with one point, while Brazil (0-1) brings up the rear without a point.
The U.S. faces Poland here Tuesday night at 5 p.m. (ET), followed by Brazil and South Korea at 7:45. Both games will be broadcast by ESPNU, while the Americans will also be televised by Spanish-language Galavision.
"We can't be happy with the match because they dominated us," Seitz said. "That said, we're pleased with the result and this point will be important. In the second half, we lacked energy and strength. The disappointment comes from the fact we knew what to expect and we knew how they play, but we still couldn't contain them. I think Poland will be a better-suited team for us; closer to our style of play and more aggressive in the tackle. Because of that, I'm confident."
Though South Korea controlled the early going, the U.S. took a 1-0 lead. From 25 yards up the right sideline, striker Sal Zizzo sent a cross into the right side of the penalty area to midfielder Freddy Adu, who slid to get his left foot on it eight yards from the near post. The ball squirted into the center of the six-yard box where Szetala, having gotten a step on South Korea midfielder Chung Yong Lee, lurched forward with a diving header that had him tumble into the left corner of the net after the ball while keeper Jin Hyeon Kim could only watch.
Only a minute earlier, an exceptional defensive play by American Tony Beltran saved a goal and took his fellow defender Nathan Sturgis off the hook for an inexplicable lapse in judgment. Rather than allow a ball to roll over the end-line for a goal kick, Sturgis instead turned upfield, only to immediately be stripped by Lee at the right perimeter of the penalty area. Lee carried to the top right corner of the six-yard box and, deciding Seitz was well-positioned for the save, laid the ball off to a yard above the other corner of the keeper's box, where midfielder Young Rok Shin's blast was rejected by Beltran's sliding tackle.
Shin, however, was not to be denied from finding the equalizer in the 38th minute. Thirteen minutes after Seitz extended fully to deny a shot by Young Sung Shim and protect the U.S. advantage, a sloppy American pass at the center stripe allowed the Koreans to charge forward in numbers. After the Americans repelled the initial advance, South Korea passed the ball around until it was received by Shim three yards above the penalty arc.
Rather than step to his left to mark Shin, U.S. defender Tim Ward moved right in the direction of the Shim, leaving Shin wide open. Shim slid a pass into the box for Shin who, just managing to hold himself onside, used his first touch to send a hard right-footed roller from 12 yards out under a helpless Seitz into the right corner of the net for a 1-1 tie.
"We spent a lot of energy trying to get back into the game," Lee said. "If we hadn't missed so many chances at the start, the match would have been different and no doubt easier for us."
South Korea continued to be the better team after intermission, consistently quicker to the ball and more skillful when playing it. Shin came within inches of his second tally and a Korean lead in the 50th minute when he flipped the ball over a defender, carried into the top of the box, and then cut back to his right to beat defender Julian Valentina and fire a right-footed shot off the top right of the crossbar.
"I have to praise Korea. Their 3-5-2 was very effective, with a lot of movement, and they caused us problems for the whole 90 minutes," Rongen said. "I think they were just better than us tactically. I don't think we were disorganized. We didn't get enough of the ball and that made our task even harder. We wanted to dictate the play with our 4-4-2 formation and, to be fair, we scored the one time we put a move together. In the second half, we changed a few things tactically in midfield and tried to put a little more pressure on them, but it didn't work."
Seitz maintained the draw with a pair of saves in the 87th minute. "Chris Seitz was outstanding today," Rongen ssaid. "I can't put the blame for the goal on him, and he probably made about three saves that Korea could have put away and changed the game completely."
United States 1, South Korea 1
Lineups: South Korea - Jin Hyeon Kim, Chul Soon Choi, Kwang Hoon Shin, Sung Yueng Ki, Dong Suk Kim (Jin Hyung Song 70), Sang Ho Lee, Young Sung Shim (Hyun Seung Lee 84), Joo Ho Park (captain), Chung Yong Lee, Young Rok Shin (Tae Goon Ha 59), Seung Jin Bae. United States - Chris Seitz, Tim Ward, Nathan Sturgis, Julian Valentin, Tony Beltran, Danny Szetela (Dax McCarty 52), Robbie Rogers, Freddy Adu (captain), Michael Bradley; Josmer Altidore, Sal Zizzo.
United States - Szetela (Adu) 16.
South Korea - Shin (Shim) 38.
Shots: South Korea 13, United States 7.
Saves: South Korea 0, United States 5.
Fouls: South Korea 12, United States 26.
Corner kicks: South Korea 4, United States 2.
Offside: South Korea 3, United States 1.
Yellow card cautions: South Korea - S.H. Lee 56, Choi 78; United States - Rogers 18, Szetala 27.
Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador).
Assistant referees: Roberto Giron (Honduras), Daniel Williamson (Panama).
Fourth official: Steven DePiero (Canada).
Attendance: not reported at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
Weather: 64 degrees, mostly cloudy.
Under-20 World Cup
Group D (all times Eastern)
Saturday, June 30 (in Montreal)
Poland 1, Brazil 0
South Korea 1, United States 1
Tuesday, June 3 (in Montreal)
United States vs. Poland, 5 p.m.
Brazil vs. South Korea, 7:45 p.m.
Friday, June 6
United States vs. Brazil, 7:45 p.m. (in Ottawa)
Poland vs. South Korea, 7:45 p.m. (in Montreal).
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