Monday, June 13, 2005
The rest of the world may call their 1-0 victory over pre-tournament favorites Argentina to kick off the World Youth Championships surprising and unexpected. For those who have been following this U.S. Under-20 National Team for the past year, it may not have been expected, but it was far from an upset.

Coach Sigi Schmid fielded a lineup of college stars and green pros and called upon them to represent their country, one of the highest honors in all of sport.

As fans, all that we can really ask of our players is that they give 100 percent and that they leave it all on the field - no matter the competition.

Listening to the players talk after the match, it was evident that this was the case, both in the way they spoke about the match and from their weary mental and physical state.

"I can hardly even think right now," Eddie Gaven, one of the unsung heroes of the match, told YA. "That game was mentally and physically a lot of work."

It was clear Argentina had scouted their opposition. Gaven found it difficult to get into the match, and for most of the first half was involved mostly in doing the dirty work.

In fact, had Chad Barrett not shot wide of the post on 63 minutes, Gaven ends up with an assist in the second half.

Gaven was man marked for most of the match, and when he did have the ball was immediately surrounded by the Argentine defense. He, along with Freddy Adu - just their presence on the field, that is - did a lot to open up the game for players like Barrett and Marvell Wynne on the right side.

Another thing that was evident in this match was that our players came out without any hint of being intimidated by the mighty Argentineans.

"The guys walked out on the pitch and weren't scared at all," goalkeeper Quentin Westberg said after the match.

Of course, as is par for the course for United States teams, much of the reasoning for the win will suggest that Argentina didn't play so well, when in fact it had a whole lot to do with the way the Americans played them.

The defense, led by Jonathan Spector until he was subbed in the 37th minute for an equally impressive Nathan Sturgis, showed what it takes to beat a quality side like Argentina.

They won the game in the air, they closed down space and forced the game out to the wings where the South Americans were ineffective.

"I was surprised," Westberg added. "I wasn't tested as much as I expected, not like three months ago when we faced them in Argentina."

The win over Argentina was a big one for the young Yanks. Argentina has won three of the last five World Youth Championships, but don't expect the U.S. team to think their job is done.

"Anytime you beat Argentina, it's great," said Gaven. "It feels good to get a win to kick off the tournament. This is huge for us and puts us in the drivers' seat [but] now we're just going to focus on Germany game and try to keep on getting points."

Germany figures to be a different type of match-up for the U.S. side both physically and in the way the team plays the game. Germany has traditionally played big, and this team doesn't look much different with over two-thirds of the team measuring in at least six feet tall.

That may put the pressure on Westberg, whose shot blocking was great versus Argentina, but whose ability to handle crosses was hardly tested.

Germany will be missing a few players Wednesday, including Oliver Hampel (who started against Egypt) and Bayern Munich wunderkind Mario Gomez Garcia (who was injured just before the tournament started).

Westberg once again echoed the spirit of this team that's come away with three big points after their first match

"They can have ten players injured or everybody there, we really don't care," declared the netminder. "We're gonna focus on our game and that's what's gonna make the result."

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