BRENT LATHAM - Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The United States Under-20 national team managed to redeem themselves after a horrid performance in their opening match with a resounding victory over Cameroon Tuesday night in Suez.

Coach Thomas Rongen had seen enough of the inexperienced midfield he started with on Saturday, and brought on some experience in the form of Houston Dynamo's Danny Cruz and former Rutgers University man Dilly Duka.

The coach also opted for Bryan Arguez in a holding midfield role, and reintroduced Sheanon Williams at right back.

The Americans looked more confident from the onset, and managed to control possession and avoid turnovers against the Africans, who had won their first match against South Korea going away.

A back and forth first half almost began badly for the Americans when Williams was beaten around the corner in the 23rd minute, but defender Ike Opara came to the rescue and headed away a cross bound for a Cameroon attacker.

The Americans then had a pair of good chances, first when Cruz chipped a ball into the area which fell to Tony Taylor, but the Traffic man blasted his shot over everything. A few minutes later Brek Shea controlled in the area and slipped a ball across the goal mouth, but Taylor failed to make the back post run and the chance went begging.

The US would see their first goal before the end of the half, though, when Cruz won a free kick on the near side. Duka swung a ball into the area which Opara headed on goal. Cameroon 'keeper Francois Beyokol could only punch the ball to a waiting Taylor, who fed Arguez for an easy finish and the lead.

The Americans escaped danger early in the second half when Jorge Flores, in shades of his CD Chivas teammate Jonathan Bornstein, shipped a clearance attempt into his own box, but a Cameroon attacker muffed the chance.

Immediately after the break the US had the ball in the net again, as Duka broke down the left side and fed a streaking Taylor for an emphatic 2-0 lead which sent the Africans into disarray.

The Americans continued to pick their chances and looked like scoring again, when in the 68th minute Duka produced one of the best US soccer goals in recent memory. The soon-to-no-longer-be free agent carried the ball down the wing and sized up the goalkeeper from an angle at about forty yards, then chipped a perfectly weighted ball over the large, dazzled Beyokol and into the side of the net for a three goal advanatge.

Uruguayan referee and US-nemesis Jorge Larrionda managed to make his presence felt with a dubious penalty call against Opara in the 75th minute, but substitute Brian Ownby got that goal back in extra time with a breakaway finish to bring the Americans back to even in goal differential.

"Anytime you respond after a 3-0 loss in the way that we did today, it is important," said coach Rongen. "Our character was tested."

The coach seemed upset in the post-game press conference that the media had reacted so negatively to the opening game loss.

"There were some things written in the American press about our performance that weren't very kind," Rongen opined. "I think the players really took that to heart, because I think we really were a better team than we showed in the first game."

The changes to the starting lineup, he said, were a result of both the first match and the scouting report against Cameroon.

"At the end of the day, as coach you try to push the right buttons to get your guys to perform, but in the end it's the players that really dictate. They really showed a level of commitment that was very good in this particular game. As I said before, 4-1 is pretty flattering.

"They had three or four really good opportunities at 2-1 and 3-1 to get back in the game and didn't capitalize on them, so I expect that Cameroon will show up against Germany, which they have to, and will make it hard again. So against Korea, there's all to play for still."

On three points and ahead of Cameroon on goal difference, the US now awaits Korea in the final match. The Koreans also have everything to play for after tying Germany 1-1 in the night's opening match.