CARSON, California — The U.S. U20 Men’s National Team started the 2014 NTC Invitational with a come-from-behind victory over Chile on Monday. Second half substitutes Andrija Novokovich and Zach Pfeffer made an immediate difference as the U.S. scored twice in the final 30 minutes to snag the three points.
Earlier in the day, Australia scored twice in stoppage time to sneak away with a 4-1 win over Bermuda. Chile takes on Australia on Wednesday while U.S. will meet Bermuda in the afternoon fixture.
U.S. U20 Men’s National Team 2-1 Chile
Chile struck first in the 21st minute when a ball over the top of the U.S. backline had everyone scrambling. U.S. goalkeeper Santiago Castano channeled his inner Manuel Neuer and came charging off his line to handle the situation.
Castano was caught in two minds though. The pass did not have the pace to make it into the 18-yard box, which forced him to abort his punch attempt and try to clear the ball with his head. In the end, nothing was cleared.
Chelsea midfielder Cristian Cuevas, who is currently on loan with Universidad de Chile, picked up the failed clearance and passed the ball into the open net for the opening goal.
Chile had a couple of more chances in the first half via similar means as the U.S. center back tandem had a little trouble dealing with the Chilean strike force. However, the U.S. weathered the early storm.
U.S.’s first goal scoring chance came in the 33rd minute when recent Club Tijuana signing John Requejo Jr. streaked down the left side of the field and opened up the Chile defense. Requejo delivered a crafty pass into Romain Gall’s path just inside the 18-yard box. Gall’s first touch was perfect, but his shot went right to Chile goalkeeper Brayan Cortes.
Seconds before the halftime whistle, U.S. had another chance when Fernando Arce drifted wide to the right side and whipped in a cross for club teammate Paul Arriola. Cortes tipped away Arriola’s shot for a corner kick.
Arce was active throughout the first half and had two of the best shots for the U.S. The Club Tijuana midfielder ripped an effort from 20 yards out that had a nasty dip and just barely missed the frame of the goal. Arce also took a free kick from 25 yards out that was inches wide of the post.
In the second half, the U.S. finally broke through the Chile defense. Substitute Zach Pfeffer supplied a free kick into the perfect spot for Andrija Novakovich to head home with his first touch of the game.
"We worked on that in training in the days leading up to the game so I just wanted to sure that I put it on frame and made it difficult for the goalkeeper," Pfeffer said after the game. "Andrija [Novakovich] got in and got a good head to it."
“All I know is I got a head on it and it went in,” Novakovich said. “That’s all that matters to me.”
Two minutes later, U.S. appeared to have the go-ahead goal when Arriola sliced through the midfield and slipped Gooch in on goal for a 1v1 with the goalkeeper. However, the assistant referee flagged Gooch for being in an offside position.
The U.S. did not wait long for the winner though. In the 73rd minute, Arriola won the ball back and charged down the right side of the field. With his pace, Arriola had a step on his mark and whipped in an early cross to the far post for Pfeffer who slotted it home.
The U.S. withstood some late pressure from Chile, but Castano was not tasked with any more saves on the day and the U.S. captured all three points for its opener.
“I thought in the second half we played pretty well,” U20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos said after the game. “We were down but it was kind of against the run of play so I was happy with our start. Overall, I think we do make enough mistakes to lose games. I think it’s normal. We are still early in identifying guys. I think we have a good group of guys here. We are in a good spot.”
U.S. U20 MNT Starting XI (4-3-3): Santiago Castano; John Requejo Jr., Michael Amick, Conor Donovan, Shaquell Moore; Russell Canouse, Fernando Arce, Lynden Gooch; Romain Gall, Benji Lopez, Paul Arriola (captain)
Substitutes: Zach Pfeffer for Gall [62’], Andrija Novakovich for Lopez [62’], Marco Delgado for Arriola [74’], Jacori Hayes for Gooch [82’]
Chile U20 MNT Starting XI (3-5-2): Brayan Cortes; Sebastian Vegas, Benjamin Kuscevic, Camilo Rodriguez; Luis Pavez, Cristian Cuevas, Sebastian Diaz, Bryan Carvallo, Juan Fuentes; Ignacio Jeraldino, Christopher Diaz
Australia U20 MNT 4-1 Bermuda
The score is realistic to the difference in quality between the sides on the day, but a momentary lapse in the stoppage time of the second half is the main culprit for Bermuda’s deficit.
Australia scored in the 90+2 and 90+3 minutes to capture the win from the opening game of the NTC Invitational.
The Young Socceroos dominated possession from the opening whistle and probed the Bermuda defense for a cavity early. Australia was rewarded for the possession advantage in the 23rd minute when Adelaide United’s Awer Mabil finished off a chance in the box.
Bermuda, serendipitously, returned to level footing just before half time when an innocent ball into target forward Rai Simons was expertly controlled before a retreating Australian defender toe-poked it away and into his own net.
Australia regained the lead in the 55th minute when ballyhooed prospect Daniel De Silva showed a moment of brilliance that left the opposition flatfooted with his quick burst of pace. De Silva’s initial effort on goal was pushed wide, but he recovered and played the ball back to Mabil for his second goal.
Marc Marino and Stefan Mauk scored in stoppage time to put the cherry on top of the sundae.
Australia Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Jordan Thurtell; Ben Garuccio, Riley Woodcock, Daniel Alessi, Scott Galloway; Awer Mabil, Hagi Gligor, Stefan Mauk, Shannon Brady; Daniel De Silva, Brandon Borrello
Bermuda Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jahquil Hill; Oliver Harvey, Terrance Webb, Jaylon Bather, Jair Minors; Dakai Grant, William White; Lejuan Simmons, Willie Clemens, Jaz Ratteray Smith; Rai Simons