BRENT LATHAM - Monday, October 26, 2009
Spain vs United States
Under-17 World Cup - Monday October 26, 2009
Sani Abacha Stadium
A disappointing United States fell in the opening match of the Under-17 World Cup, despite having a lead and a man advantage the entire match.
The US got off to a dream start when defender Sergi Gomez hauled down Jack McInerney just outside the 18 as he was in clear on goal. The Barcelona defender saw red and the US was looking at 89 minutes with a man advantage.
Just two minutes later McInerney improved matters further for the Americans. Off an innocuous looking throw-in, Marlon Duran was caught in possession outside the box and popped a ball high into the air towards the area.
McInerney went up strong to challenge Spanish 'keeper Edgar, who let loose of the ball on the goal line, allowing McInerney to knock it in.
Short-handed Spain took the initiative almost immediately from there, with Real Madrid playmaker Pablo Sarabia switching over to the left flank. Seventeen minutes in, he made a zigzagging run past the American defense, eventually feeding a teammate who was in an offside position.
Sarabia would do it again five minutes later, as his run down the left flank was rewarded, and he fed a cross to Borja, who despite being clearly offside, finished to equal matters in the 22nd minute.
Spain would strike again minutes later on a moment of pure class by the Real Madrid midfielder. American defender Justin Watts whiffed on a bouncing ball freeing Borja down the right, from where he sent a long cross towards a streaking Sarabia. Sarabia took one touch on the run then slammed the ball into the roof of Earl Edwards' net to put Spain up.
"They reacted very well, they had ten brilliant minutes, and they put themselves in a good position," US coach Wilmer Cabrera evaluated of the Spanish team's comeback following the game.
"When they had the options they were clinical with the options and with the finishing, and that's why they're at the level they are."
The Americans would have a golden chance to re-tie the score in the 38th minute when Stefane Jerome put himself in alone on Edgar, but his full speed half field run ended when he touched the ball too far past the goalkeeper and could not finish from an angle.
Alex Shinsky had a final chance as time ran out in the first half when he sliced into the box, only to sky his shot well over the Spanish net.
Cabrera was pleased with the resilience of his team after losing the lead, but admits that the inability to quickly nullify their disadvantage against a ten-main Spain ultimately fell upon their own shoulders.
"After that our kids started to react, put pressure and to come back. They did a good job, dropping a little bit more and we created chances, but couldn't score."
Cabrera made a couple of changes at the half, hoping to sure up the back by bringing on Eriq Zavaleta for Kitchen, and taking off Jerome for Victor Chavez.
The first real action of the second half would come in the 64th minute when Chavez was put in clear, but with all the time in the world to finish, he fired right at Edgar and the score remained 2-1.
The Americans dominated the possession the rest of the half but could never find an equalizer, their momentum stymied by Spain's delaying techniques and lights at Sano Abacha Stadium which could not stay on, breaking the Americans' momentum and leaving them thoroughly frustrated on a humid night in Kano.
"It was a good game, [however] different circumstances because we're not used to having to stop two times because of the lights," Cabrera admitted of the technical disruptions to the game.
Even fifteen minutes of stoppage time were not enough for the Americans to overcome the determined Spanish defense, as the Americans had all of the ball but could never put away their chances against the short-sided Spanish.
"With ten men they were able to hold us, to hold a team coming after them for 89 minutes," Cabrera concludes of the quality of the Spanish opponents. "They scored two goals, we scored just one, so they beat us at this point."
A disappointed Cabrera and team will now regroup for their second match Thursday in Kano against Malawi, who played well but fell to the UAE 2-0 in the earlier game of the day at the stadium.