BRENT LATHAM - Thursday, October 29, 2009
Malawi vs United States
Under-17 World Cup - Thursday October 29, 2009
Sani Abacha Stadium
The American under-17 national team managed to get the three points they needed Thursday night in Kano, edging a tenacious Malawi team, 1-0.
Coach Wilmer Cabrera started with the team he finished with against Spain on Monday night, putting Victor Chavez up front alongside Jack McInerney, and pairing Eriq Zavaleta and Justin Watts in the center of defense with Tyler Polak and Zach Herold out wide.
The U.S. got off to a fast start as McInerney was able to rise up and head a corner kick sharply down into the Malawian goal keeper in just the fourth minute, but the ball bounded high and out of play.
The Americans controlled possession, but couldn't find the last pass to create dangerous chances, until McInerney rose up again for a header in the 31st minute which he nodded just over the crossbar from the run of play.
Things were getting a little dicey for the Americans by the second half, and McInerney tried again to resolve matters himself in the 50th minute, when he cut back in front of goal and sent a shot just wide of the post.
The breakthrough finally came in the 54th minute, just after the insertion of Andrew Craven for the ineffective Chavez. Craven chased a ball down the right flank and sent a long cross over the area, which Luis Gil ran after and back heeled in for Marlon Duran. Duran's shot on goal was saved, but ricocheted out to Alex Shinsky who put it back on goal, where it found its way through the Malawian 'keeper's arms and legs and into the goal.
The U.S. would then squander a number of chances in just about every possible way as time ran down, and were lucky that Earl Edwards saved a Bruni Milanzi free kick in the 77th minute to preserve the victory.
"Tough game," said midfielder Luis Gil. "They were really aggressive and athletic. It wasn't the best game but we've got to take it."
"Coach told me to go at people and just be more confident with the ball, so that's my game and that's what I tried to do," said Shinsky of his play. "I didn't really know where the goal was so I just hit it hard and scored a goal, and that was great."
The coach addressed the problem with finishing after the match, saying he thought the team got what it needed Thursday, but still needed to improve.
"We've been practicing, now it's time for the players on the field to control that," said Cabrera. "We have been creating options. We crested the chances and we couldn't finish, but we're going to keep pushing in the area and be more creative."
The Americans will now need to beat the United Arab Emirates, 3-1 losers to Spain in the second game Thursday night, to move on in second place in the group. Malawi is on the brink of elimination.
"We were both motivated, history says that united States against African teams has been hard so far," said Cabrera. "Today we found the goal that gave us the lead and now we start thinking about the next game."
"From here on out we can't lose," said Gil. "We've just got to win."
With the three points, the U.S. remains in third place in Group E on goal differential, meaning they will need to beat the UAE on Sunday to claim at least second place in the group. A loss on Sunday would likely mean elimination for the Americans.