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Late heroics send USA to U-20 World Cup quarters
by Ridge Mahoney, July 12th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  under-20 world cup


bradley & valentinCoaches rhapsodize about talent, and sing the praises of the skillful, but what they relish above all else is toughness. If not for ample doses of resolve, the USA wouldn't be among the eight survivors that play in the U-20 World Cup quarterfinals this weekend. Misfortune and circumstance piled up against the Americans, yet still they beat Uruguay, 2-1, in Toronto Wednesday night with an own goal and an overtime winner by Michael Bradley. Of obstacles there were plenty. A charley horse sidelined its stud goalkeeper. A central defender returned to the lineup sporting a gash under his left eye suffered in the first game of the tournament. A wild tackle knocked its specimen of a striker out of the game early in the second half.

With just a few minutes left in regulation, the USA trailed, 1-0. Backup keeper Brian Perk, whose critical saves earned him Man of the Match honors, had fumbled a header in the 73rd minute and Luis Suarez knocked home the loose ball.

The Americans pushed forward, the Uruguayans defended desperately, and the minutes ticked by. Captain Freddy Adu exhorted his teammates. Danny Szetela stormed forward from midfield into the attack. Substitute forwards Gabe Ferrari and Andre Akpan, unused in the three group games, foraged and fought up front as the situation grew more and more dire. Akpan had replaced Jozy Altidore in the 51st minute and the Americans missed Altidore's speed and strength against a rugged Uruguayan defense.

But if effort begets luck, as many believe, the Americans earned their reward. Adu charged upfield and sprayed balls out wide, the Americans scrapped and scraped, and the nervous Uruguayans dropped deeper and deeper into their defensive third.

Dax McCarty, who had replaced right back Sal Zizzo in the 54th minute, pushed up into midfield as the U.S. left three men back and attacked with seven.

A corner that couldn't be cleared reached Szetela at the far post. He drove the ball low across the goalmouth and Uruguayan Mathias Cardaccio, battling Akpan just yards from the goal line, turned it into his own net.

The regulation drama didn't end there. For much of the game high balls had tormented the U.S. defense in the absence of the dominant Seitz, and in the final seconds, after a furious scramble in the U.S. goalmouth, Manuel Diaz rose to meet a corner kick. He drilled a header that cleanly beat Perk but caromed off the goalpost.

Fortunately for the Americans, Uruguay also struggled to repel set pieces. Early in the second overtime, goalie Yonatan Irrazabal swatted Adu's inswinging corner, defender Julian Valentin - he of the facial gash - booted it goalward, and Bradley reacted quickly to stick out his right foot and bang the ball high into the net.

Cautions piled up as Uruguay frantically pressed for an equalizer. Valentin, Adu, Ferrari and two Uruguayans were booked. Perk saved a low shot and smothered another loose ball.

Emotions boiled over after the final whistle, a scrum of arguing and gesturing players swirled around the field, and coaches and officials from both teams had to shepherd them away. A team that had blown away Poland, 6-0, and stunned Brazil, 2-1, to top its group had come from behind to win its first knockout match.

Come Saturday, and a quarterfinal against Austria, the tough shall be tested again.

July 11 in Toronto

USA 2 Uruguay 1 (OT)
own goal (Cardaccio) 87, Bradley 107; L.Suarez 73.
USA - Perk, Sturgis, Wallace, Valentin, Beltran (Ferrari, 81), Bradley, Szetela, Adu, Rogers, Altidore (Akpan, 51), Zizzo (McCarty, 54).
Uruguay - Irrazabal, Cacere (Vonder Putten, 117), Marcel, Kagelmacher, Cardaccio, D.Suarez, Diaz, Arismendi, Surraco (Figueroa, 108), Suarez (Viudez, 83).

Shots 8-17
Shots on goal 5-8
Saves 7-3
Fouls 30-27
Corner Kicks 6-11
Offside 4-1

Misconduct Summary:
URU - Arismendi (caution) 19.
USA - Bradley (caution) 24.
USA - Wallace (caution) 105.
USA -Valentin (caution) 109.
USA - Adu (caution) 110.
USA - Ferrari (caution) 112.
URU - Marcel (caution) 117.
URU - Cardaccio (caution) 118.

Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (UZB)

Att.: 19,526


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