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Red card hurts U20 MNT in loss to Mexico

Published: March 29, 2010
FRISCO, TEXAS – A battling effort by Thomas Rongen’s U.S. U20 Men’s National Team wasn’t enough to overcome a 1st half red card as Mexico defeated the Americans here Sunday night in the SuperGroup opener of the Dallas Cup for both teams.

The loss will make qualification for the event semifinals very difficult for the U.S., as the 16-team format this year means a team must win its group to qualify. The team will definitely need to get some help if it is to advance.

The match was played before a crowd of several thousand, including a large number of Mexico supporters. The atmosphere was greatly diluted however by the presence of a loud rock concert being performed inside the stadium while the match was going on.

The all professional Mexico team was met by a starting lineup chosen by U.S. coach Thomas Rongen that included 6 college players.

mens college soccer player dillon powersDillon Powers (left)
Both Dillon Powers and Amobi Okugo, two of the better performers for the U.S. along with Houston Dynamo winger Francisco Navas Cobo, said the red card had a tough effect on the team’s effort.

“We were a little unlucky with the red card. We tried to grind out at least a tie but it didn’t work out,” Powers said. “Toward the end when we pushed a little higher we created some chances. It was unfortunate to give up that quick set piece goal.”

“Unfortunately we got the red card so we had to work a little bit harder than we needed to. It is not really surprising since we are in Texas that the crowd is against us,” Okugo, who moved back to central defense as a result of the dismissal, said. “Cesar and Dillon did a good job in the midfield trying to battle it out. We had a couple of chances but we couldn’t put them away.”

U.S. coach Thomas Rongen said the referee might have issued a yellow card instead of red on the incident late in the 1st half, calling for some “common sense” to be exercised. Still, he said he is taking some positives from the match.

“It becomes a tough game with the red card. In the 2nd half we hung in there after giving up an early goal on a set piece. That was a disappointing goal and then we were chasing the game,” he said. “I can’t fault the effort and we even put them on their heels a little bit in the last 10 minutes, but it was a typical U.S.-Mexico game, with some fireworks, a little bit of flair and two teams going after each other.

“You’re never happy to lose, but I found out a little bit about character and resilience of players and the willingness to sacrifice, the ability to push the threshold of pain, all the little things that are important outside the fact that most of them are talented players. It was a good exercise to get things done.”

Mexico had a dangerous sequence in the early going, bringing a roar from their fan support before a teasing cross was headed away by U.S. defender Chad Barson. U.S. goalkeeper Zac MacMath had a nervous moment in the 10th minute, failing to scoop up a dipping shot, but Tyler Polak was there to clear the danger.

Mexico’s Saul Villalobos, who plays his club soccer with Pumas, made a nice run into the middle before striking a 25-yard drive that went just over the bar. On the other end, Moises Orozco earned a free kick deep in the Mexico end. On the ensuing set piece, Zarek Valentin put a good move on to beat his marker on the left, then sent a ball to the top of the area where both Dillon Powers and Bryan De La Fuenta failed to connect, but Orozco hit a low shot that Mexican goalkeeper Carlos Lopez did well to stop.

Philadelphia Union rookie Amobi Okugo, only in town for this one match, was doing a nice job of playing simple and helping the U.S. team keep possession in the center of the park. Barson was playing especially well in the back line, staying composed and dealing with all aerial threats well.

An interception in the back by Mexico’s Eduardo Gamez led to a good-looking chance from Taufic Guarch, but MacMath made the acrobatic save from point blank range on a finish that left something to be desired.

With a full moon rising over a half-full Pizza Hut Park, Mexico began to assert itself on the match.  Some nice combination play in the penalty area led to a shot from Cristofer Castillo that sailed just over the bar. Abraham Coronado then sent a cross from the right that Miguez Sansores headed wide in the 39th minute. The U.S. defensive line appeared to be set quite deep in the 1st half.

former boyss club soccer and current mens college soccer player zach macmathZac MacMath (keeper)
The pressure almost paid off for El Tri. On a lob into the area, Barson slipped, and in recovering, knocked down a Mexico forward in the area. A penalty was awarded by 2010 World Cup referee Peter O’Leary of New Zealand, and Barson was sent off, ostensibly for denying a clear, goal-scoring opportunity.

But Maryland goalkeeper MacMath came to the rescue for 10-man U.S., diving to his left to save Mexico captain Marvin Pinon’s spot kick, eliciting a huge roar from the U.S. faithful. A free kick awarded to the U.S. on the other end saw Dillon Powers force Lopez to tip the ball over the bar, but the teams went into the break 0-0.

Jesus Gonzalez came in for the U.S. at halftime to replenish the squad’s back line, Moises Orozco the sacrifice for tactical purposes. Mexico had a dream start to the 2nd half however, winning an early corner and then going up 1-0 on Taufic Guarch’s header from a perfect cross by Marvin Pinon.

Mexico was exploiting its advantage well, and a low shot by Castillo took an adept save from MacMath to keep the U.S. deficit at 1.

Dillon Powers nearly earned an equalizer for the U.S. with a mazy run through the middle capped by a 360-spin move. His shot was caught by Lopez however. On the other end, Mexico’s Abraham Coronado put a nice move on his marker but then drove his shot off the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

On the other end, the U.S. nearly snatched a draw at the end. Powers drove a great cross that Okugo headed off the top of the crossbar. Mexico then went down to 10 men as substitute Carlos Campos was sent off for a bad tackle at midfield in the 90th minute. With four minutes of injury time added, it might have given the U.S. a chance to equalize in 10v10 action, but the goal was not coming.

The U.S. plays Vancouver Whitecaps Monday afternoon. Rongen says he will insert nine new starters for the match as he continues to search out a squad for 2011 international events.



GK: Carlos Lopez
D: Nestor Araujo, Luis Ramos, Marvin Pinon, Saul Villalobos
M: Taufic Guarch, Cesar Ibanez, Eduardo Gamez, Miguez Sansores
F: Abraham Coronado, Cristofer Castillo
Subs: Diego De Buen, Diego Avila, Jorge Valencia, Luis Rodriguez, Carlos Campos
Coach: Juan Carlos Zarate

GK: Zac MacMath
D: Kofi Sarkodie, Zarek Valentin, Chad Barson, Tyler Polak
M: Bryan De La Fuente, Dillon Powers, Amobi Okugo
F: Moises Orozco, Francisco Navas Cobo
Subs: Jesus Gonzalez, Ryan Finley
Coach: Thomas Rongen
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