TAHARKA TAYLOR - Monday, June 27, 2011
The United States advanced to the knockout rounds of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday after a goalless draw with New Zealand at Pachuca's Estadio Hidalgo.
8,556 spectators were on hand to witness the match with both teams needing a result to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.
The young Americans came out aggressive creating dangerous scoring opportunities early and often frequently testing New Zealand goalkeeper Scott Basalaj.
US captain Marc Pelosi came close to putting the finishing touch on a spectacular individual effort in the 20th minute when the central midfielder beat four New Zealand defenders en route from the center circle to the opposition's six yard box. The seventeen-year-old gracefully side stepped each defender in his path but was unable to muster enough power on a shot that ended up rolling harmlessly into the hands of Basalaj.
Although the score line at the time was enough to get the US through, the team started the second half exactly as they started the first, aggressive and in search of a goal. Alejandro Guido nearly beat Basalaj in the 50th minute when the southern California native brought down a ball played in over the top perfectly with his chest and fired a laser on a half-volley that forced Basalaj to make a finger tip save. Mario Rodriguez came painfully close to cleaning up Basalaj's reaction save with a rather athletic effort of his own but the forward was unable to get a foot to the chest high, bouncing rebound.
The US were reduced to ten men in the 68th minute when Dutch referee Bas Nijhuis gave Pelosi a second yellow for what would have otherwise been an ordinary foul. The US captain gave New Zealand midfielder Stephen Carmichael a tug of the shirt as the two battled for possession after Pelosi had tracked back to catch up to a New Zealand counter attack. However Nijhuis had already carded Pelosi in the 27th minute and felt the foul was worthy of a second yellow thus ending Pelosi's day.
However the sending off did not damper the US attack as minutes later Kellyn Acosta came within inches of giving USA the lead when the FC Dallas Academy prospect fired a long range effort from nearly 35-yards out that Basalaj was just able to get a finger tip to, deflecting the shot over the bar.
In the end the two sides could not be separated, not in the match nor in the Group D standings. Tied on points, goals scored, goal differential, and a handful of other tie-breakers, the US and New Zealand needed a drawing of lots to determine the two teams final positions in Group D. As a result of the drawing, US finished in 2nd place with New Zealand officially finishing in 3rd place.
As a result, on Thursday the US will take on talented Germany which has outscored its opposition 11 - 1 so far in the tournament.