April 11, 1999
BAUCHI, Nigeria - UCLA defender Carlos Bocanegra scored the game-winning goal as the U.S. Under-20 National Team defeated Cameroon, 3-1, to advance into the Round of 16 here at the 1999 World Youth Championship in Nigeria. The win, coupled with a 2-0 Japanese victory over England, gives the U.S. a runner-up finish in Group E and a second-round match versus Spain on Thursday in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
The result marks the first time a U.S. team has won two matches in the opening round of the World Youth Championship. The famed '89 team won two matches, but the second came in the quarterfinals.
"I'm pleased with how we played today," said U.S. and UCLA head coach Sigi Schmid. "As expected, it was a battle throughout, but we were determined to get into the second round and the only sure way of doing that was by beating Cameroon."
With three points entering the match, Schmid shuffled the American lineup, moving skillful center-back Steve Cherundolo into the midfield and pushing lightning-fast midfielder John Thorrington up front to pair with Taylor Twellman at forward.
Schmid's move paid dividends in the first half, as Thorrington's speed caused Cameroon problems up front and Cherundolo combined well with midfielders Nick Garcia and Francisco Gomez on several occasions to unsettle the Africans.
The U.S. took the lead in the first half after an impressive midfield combination allowed Taylor Twellman to score the first of his two goals. The play was made by the hard work of Cherundolo, who played a give-and-go with Gomez , slashed past a defender 35 yards out and sprinted towards goal. As a second Cameroonian defender closed, Cherundolo cleverly slipped a pass to a wide open John Thorrington in the penalty area. Thorrington took one touch to draw a defender and played a square ball to Twellman, who slammed a right-footer past the Cameroon 'keeper from 13 yards.
"It was a great team goal," said Cherundolo. "I think we strung five or six passes together before Taylor scored, so it's pretty satisfying."
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made just one save in the first half, but it was a tremendous effort to stop Cameroon star Gaspard Komol's free kick in the 42nd minute. The lanky Cameroonian, who had already scored three goals in the tournament, hit a vicious shot that glanced off Cherundolo and was heading for the lower right corner before Howard made the stop at full stretch.
The U.S. doubled the lead in the 58th minute after Twellman was fouled just outside of the area on the right side. Francisco Gomez hooked the ensuing free kick into the penalty area to Nick Garcia, who went up high at the far post to head the ball back across the goalmouth to Bocanegra. The 5-foot-11 Bocanegra pounded his header into an empty net from two yards out.
But in the 62nd minute, Spanish referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez whistled U.S. 'keeper Tim Howard for taking too many steps, giving Cameroon an indirect kick 16 yards from goal. With a seven-man U.S. wall in front of the goal, Daniel Ngom Kome touched the ball to Adissa Kioyo, who hammered his shot past Howard.
Twellman put the game away in the 79th minute though with his second goal of the match. UCLA midfielder Shaun Tsakiris intercepted a pass deep in the Cameroon end, took two touches and dished the ball to Twellman, who charged into the area on the right side. Twellman waited for the Cameroonian 'keeper to commit, and slotted a right-footed shot into the left corner of the goal to seal the win.
"Of course we're happy to be in this position right now," added Schmid. "But we fully expected to be here from the start. Failing to advance was not an option for us here and we showed today that we are a determined team. Having said that, we know that Spain is an exceptional team and we will have to bring our best effort to beat them."
The U.S. face Spain on Thursday in Port Harcourt, one of the southernmost cities in Nigeria. Kickoff for the match will take place at 4 p.m. (11 a.m. ET). The U.S. faced the Spaniards earlier this year during the 1999 Copa de Atlantico in the Canary Islands, and fell 1-0 to the Europeans. The U.S. will depart by plane for Port Harcourt tomorrow (April 12).