CHAD WINGER - Saturday, June 11, 2005
Argentina vs United States
Under-20 World Cup - Saturday June 11, 2005
The US Under-20 National Team put in a steady performance to open their 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships campaign with a hard fought victory over Argentina at Arke Stadion in Enschede, Holland.
The South Americans had staged a late rally to oust the Americans from the quarterfinals of the 2003 edition in the United Arab Emirates, but on Saturday there was to be no such disappointment as Chad Barrett's 39th minute goal stood up for the winner.
The win may have come at a cost as Jonathan Spector was forced out of action late in the first half with a thigh injury.
Freddy Adu, the only member of that losing team two years ago, received a warm ovation and caused the crowd to 'ooh' and 'ah' on several occasions with his pace and trickery.
Surprisingly, his young phenom counterpart, 17-year old Lionel Messi of Barcelona was not in the starting lineup, and the team would suffer for it until he entered after halftime.
In the opening minute, Adu stole near midfield and took off up the middle, but his rush was expertly halted by Lucas Biglia.
Argentina replied immediately with a good combination build from Emiliano Armenteros, Pablo Zabaleta and Gustavo Oberman, but the latter's poor final touch allowed Quentin Westberg to race out and collect the loose ball.
Barrett began his impressive evening by testing Oscar Ustari's goal from the left after a lead pass from Spector. Scant moments later, he was able to load up the left foot again, and Hunter Freeman would win a corner kick from the Argentinean's save.
The Albiceleste were finally able to mount an attack on the quarter hour, but Oberman's cross landed on top of the net.
The Yanks quickly went back on attack with Eddie Gaven running freely down the right until he was fouled near the corner flag. Adu picked out Patrick Ianni with the resulting free kick, but the defender was not able to match his fine positioning with an accurate header.
In the 19th minute, US wide back Marvell Wynne stumbled, allowing Oberman space to fire from the top of the area - fortunately, his low drive slammed off of Westberg's right post and was cleared away.
Argentina midfielder Fernando Gago won a corner kick with a deflected effort; Westberg appeared to strand himself on the restart, but Zabaleta pushed his header well wide.
Shortly thereafter, Freeman nodded away another corner kick, and Adu rambled 40 yards to cross midfield before Gago could trip him up.
Just in front of the half hour mark, Gaven received a yellow card for tapping away the ball when Argentina had earned a throw-in.
Gabriel Paletta was nearly able to slip through the backline for a breakaway, but Spector made an excellent tackle from which he got up slowly.
Three minutes later, the Manchester United prospect had a collision with Oberman that drew a call for twin stretchers from the sidelines. Spector gutted it out for a few moments before motioning to Sigi Schmid for a substitution. Clemson defender Nathan Sturgis entered for the limping player, and would fill in admirably.
In the aftermath of the change, the US would strike for the only goal of the contest. Captain Craig Dalby found Wynne streaking down the right; his deflected cross fell to Barrett at the far post, and the MLS rookie dutifully buried a clinical downward header past the lunging Ustari.
The next time down the field, Gaven rounded Lauturo Formica with a sweet touchline move and was shoved down from behind upon entering the area. Referee Terje Hauge was unimpressed, however, and waved for play to continue.
The teams would exchange chances before the break with Paletta heading over from a corner kick and US midfielder Benny Feilhaber bouncing a 25-yard shot wide.
Messi replaced Armernteros at halftime, and immediately identified himself as the true danger man for Argentina with an exciting 30-yard surge up the middle that Wynne cut short with a pocket pick.
Ustari was caught off his line in the 52nd minute, and was certainly relieved to see Feilhaber's 35-yard lob sail wide.
Messi returned to causing trouble on back-to-back rushes, with Freeman and Sammy Ochoa called on to break up the attacks. Ochoa then made way for Indiana forward Jacob Peterson precisely on the hour.
Barrett continued his impressive display on successive trips forward, winning a corner kick and then rolling agonizingly wide with a turnaround attempt from 16 yards.
Just after the hour-mark, Messi nearly leveled matters with run-and-fire from the top of the box, but Westberg was equal to the task with an outstanding low save.
"I wasn't thinking anything, I was just reacting," the Troyes keeper told YA. "At that point, you don't think, you just react. That's the beauty of it."
Moments later, the Americans had a golden opportunity to build the lead when Adu was chopped down by Formica at the very corner of the Argentina area and Hauge pointed to the spot. The DC United man stepped up to slam his penalty try off the right post, much to his shock.
"I had it, I picked my corner, I hit it hard, I was just unlucky it hit the inside of the post and I don't even know how it didn't go in," said Adu. "But hey, we won the game."
The game predictably switched to a struggle between the Argentina attack and the US counter punch; Gaven made a strong 35-yard run up the middle without giving up a final ball and Messi nodded a nice lob feed directly into Westberg's gut.
Argentina had perhaps their best chance to draw level with 12 minutes remaining, but forward Pablo Vitti partially fanned on Zabaleta feed at the doorstep and Sturgis booted clear.
Barrett also came up gimpy after being caught offside, and Danny Szetela was brought on for the scorer in the 83rd minute.
Messi and Vitti made threatening gestures in the late going, but the Argentines were unable to put another shot on goal.
"It's a great feeling to get out of this game with a victory plus a shutout," commented Westberg. "The guys did a great job in front of me. I was surprised. I wasn't tested as much I expected. The guys walked on the pitch and weren't scared."
The US stand second after Group D opening day action, with a showdown against leaders Germany set for the same park on Tuesday night.