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Luck and fatigue finally catch up to Americans
by Ridge Mahoney, July 16th, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  men's national team, under-20 world cup


rogers[U-20 WORLD CUP] Two consecutive overtime matches took a severe toll on the U.S. under-20 team, which battled all the way but couldn't summon the moment of magic or the ounce of luck they needed to stay alive in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. An early goal by Jozy Altidore, his fourth of the tournament, brought the USA a 1-0 lead Saturday but it conceded an equalizer just before halftime and in overtime, down to 10 men, succumbed to a second goal that swept Austria into the semifinals with a 2-1 win.

Click HERE for video Austria-USA highlights

Tired legs and nagging injuries plagued the Americans in this match, just three days after an exhausting 2-1 overtime victory over Uruguay in the round of 16. Keeper Chris Seitz returned to the starting lineup after sitting out with a thigh contusion suffered against Brazil. Sal Zizzo and Jozy Altidore also came back into the team after injuries forced them out of the Uruguay match early in the second half.

They were forced to work hard from the first minute by a determined and organized Austrian team, which closed ranks efficiently and despite falling behind, cleverly probed for weakness and signs of fatigue as a steady rain fell. The match brimmed with incident; there were 37 shots, 41 fouls, 11 cautions, and numerous excruciating near-misses in addition to three goals.

Little about this match could be labeled pretty but as a fiercely waged contest, it rocked.

Zizzo's dribbles up the right flank, potent and dangerous in the first round, seldom troubled the Austrians, who immediately slid over a second defender just about every time the ball came to him. On the opposite side, Robbie Rogers breached the back line several times, but either didn't have enough support to attempt telling passes or wasn't quite incisive enough to get a clear shot at goal.

Warning signs of Seitz's condition surfaced late in the first half, when he bobbled a long shot that came in on the bounce. When captain Sebastian Proedl attempted the same shot five minutes later, it rebounded off Seitz, and this time neither he nor his teammates could stop Rubin Otokie from sliding in the rebound.

While many of his teammates tired noticeably as the match unfolded, Michael Bradley ran and battled for the entire 120 minutes. He occasionally dropped into the back line to help central defenders Nathan Sturgis and Julian Valentin but never shirked from the task of pushing the ball upfield and twice popped up in the Austrian goalmouth but couldn't lure a pass. More of this duty fell to him after the 63rd minute, when McCarty replaced a very fatigued Danny Szetela.

McCarty worked mostly as a shield for the back four as the Austrians tore upfield but played a role in a few buildups as well.

Austria twice nearly won it late in regulation. Okotie overpowered Sturgis and evaded Seitz's challenge to roll a shot goalward only for a recovering Sturgis to clear it just in front of the goal line. Another Austrian attack forced a superb save from Seitz and on the rebound Seitz deflected Zlatko Junuzovic's shot onto the post.

Rogers nearly reached a through ball from Freddy Adu in the final minutes but Austrian keeper Michael Zaglmair collected it at his feet. In the first minute of overtime a dangerous Rogers cross dropped for Zizzo at the far post unmarked but rather than go for goal he tried to center it and the Austrians cleared.

In both overtimes the Americans squandered good chances. Adu fired wide of the near post when put through by Dax McCarty and both he and Altidore elected to shoot when clear on the left side with teammates in the goalmouth. Altidore forced a save from Zaglmair, and Adu again missed the frame after switching over to his weaker right foot.

At the end of the first OT Anthony Wallace left with a second caution, whistled for a late tackle, and from the ensuing free kick Austria scored. Not for the first time in this match the U.S. failed to clear a set play; a deflected free kick bounced off Bradley's arm and Tim Ward's foot before Proedl poked it toward the U.S. goal and Erwin Hoffer slid in to nudge it over the line as it came off the goalpost.

Substitute Gabe Ferrari misfired on a header with 10 minutes left in the second overtime and after Adu and Altidore couldn't convert, Adu fired a long blast that Zaglmair punched out. Altidore was following up but had no play. At the final whistle, the Americans either flopped to the turf in despair or embraced, consumed by the bitterest of disappointments.

This under-20 team accomplished much in Canada: a record victory (6-1) over Poland; a historic 2-1 conquest of Brazil; a brave, comeback defeat of Uruguay; and another heroic rally while playing a man down that fell just short. One more step forward wouldn't have been undeserved but a place in the final eight -- as was the case when Thomas Rongen coached the under-20s in the United Arab Emirates four years ago -- will have to suffice.

GAME SUMMARY Under-20 World Cup
July 14 in Toronto

Austria 2 USA 1. Goals: Okotie 43, Hoffer 105; Altidore 15.
Austria - Zaglmair, Panny, Proedle, Suttner, Madl, Stanislaw, Kavlak, Junuzovic (Hoffer, 103), Hackmair, Morgenhaler (Harnik, 37), Okotie (Pirker, 120).
USA - Seitz, Sturgis, Wallace, Valentin, Beltran (Ward, 85), Bradley, Szetela (McCarty, 63) Adu, Zizzo (Ferrari, 106) Rogers, Altidore, 15-Beltran.

Stats: Austria-USA
Shots 22-15
Shots on goal 12-6
Saves 5-10
Fouls 13-28
Corner Kicks 12-8
Offside 1-1

Yellow cards: Austria -- Kavlak 33 Junuzovic 44, Stanislaw 70, Madl 115, Hoffer 122; USA -- Rogers 46+, Wallace 48, Szetela 51, Bradley (caution) 56, Sturgis 72, Wallace 104
Red cards: USA Wallace 104.
Referee: Martin Hansson (SWE)
Att.: 19,526

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