U.S. U18 MNT tops Canada in physical clash

by J.R. Eskilson
November 22, 2012

CARSON, Calif. – The U.S. U18 Men’s National Team defeated Canada 3-1 on Wednesday night at the Home Depot Center in a physical clash that featured a handful of yellow cards.

Piakai Henkel, Ben Spencer, and debutant Amando Moreno scored for the U.S. in the victory. Canada’s goal came via a miscue by U.S. outside back Suliaman Dainkeh that resulted in an own goal.

Dainkeh was not only notable for the own goal though. The D.C. United Academy defender and Maryland commit set the tone for the game early with a legal but punishing challenge in the opening three minutes against one of the wingers from Canada.

The visitors from the north never responded from the physical clash and the U.S. had their way in the midfield for much of the opening stanza.

“It is the style,” U.S. U18 Men’s National Team head coach Javier Perez said. “We want to compete against the best nations; we want to compete against Spain, Brazil, Germany, Argentina. To do that we have to be very good technically, understand tactically, and physically very strong as well.”

The final yellow card tally was three to the U.S. to zero from Canada, which gave a pretty strong indication of how the home team was getting after challenges all over the field.

The U.S. did display some moments of flair and technique as well.

Henkel’s opening goal right before the half time whistle was a touch of class. The attacking midfield from Arcata, California ripped a shot from 30 yards out into the upper corner of the net, which left the Canada keeper helplessly diving at air.

Canada responded 18 minutes after the break with a seamlessly innocuous cross. The ball eluded goalkeeper Zackary Steffen’s diving attempt and awkwardly caught Dainkeh in midstride. The defender tried to turn it away but it bounced off his knee and into the open net.

The U.S. responded minutes later when LA Galaxy Academy winger Paul Arriola broke free and looked like he was going to put the U.S. back in the lead with a shot from seven yards out.

Arriola’s initial effort was blocked, and his follow up hit off the bar. Chivas USA target forward and UC Santa Barbara commit Ben Spencer headed in the rebound for the game-winning goal.

On the last kick of the game, U.S. went ahead by two goals when Moreno followed up a rebound and blasted it into the net. The New York Red Bulls Academy player was electric off the bench in his first camp with this age group.

“It has been a fantastic camp for him,” Perez said. “Amando was under the radar for a very long time. For whatever reason, we could not get him into camp before, but we were happy to get him into this camp. I’m glad he did a great job.”

The U.S. and Canada play again on Friday at the Home Depot Center at 3:00 p.m.

U.S. Starting XI:

Zackary Steffen, Suliaman Dainkeh, Trevor Haberkorn, Michael Amick, Jordan Allen; Marco Delgado, Kellyn Acosta, Piakai Henkel; Paul Arriola, Ben Spencer, Zach Pfeffer

Subs: Travis Wannemuehler, Benji Lopez, Amando Moreno, Jacori Hayes

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