USA and Brazil tie 4-4 in Friendlies opener

USA and Brazil tie 4-4 in Friendlies opener

jdill@bradenton.comNovember 29, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Down a goal, Rubio Rubin didn't flinch.

Neither did his teammates.

It's why the United States U-17 Men's National Team began the 2012 NIKE International Friendlies with an offensive performance worthy of victory.

However, Team USA was also playing a Brazil side bent on avenging last year's championship match defeat.

Consequently, the two teams played to a 4-4 draw in front of a few hundred spectators on Wednesday at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus.

"We just made some errors on the defensive end, which cost us," USA head coach Richie Williams said. "You always think if you score four goals against Brazil, you probably should win … unfortunately, we didn't. But I thought the guys did a lot of good things. And it's a

good experience for them."

The two sides sit with one point in the round-robin tournament, while Portugal is atop with three points after a 4-3 victory over Turkey in Wednesday's opening match.

In the nightcap, the United States fell behind in the first half after Robert hit a curling shot past goalkeeper Paul Christensen in the 21st minute.

And Brazil nearly made it 2-0 when a shot was rattled off the post some five minutes later.

Nonetheless, Uncle Sam's Army pressed forward and turned things in their favor through Rubin's play.

First, the 5-foot-9 forward from Beaverton, Ore., took a pass from Christopher Lema and rounded Brazil's keeper before flicking the ball into an empty net to level things at 1-1 in the 29th minute.

Then just before halftime, Rubin delivered a Brazil-esque play when he back-heeled an inch-perfect pass to Alan Winn that armed the U.S. with a 2-1 lead heading into the break.

"It was pretty cool to get that assist," Rubin said. "I knew I couldn't turn, so I just decided to take a chance and back-heel it. He finished it off really well … I think that's what you call the awareness around you as a player. I just feel like I knew he was behind me and the reaction time to that he was there, and he was able to call it. It took a lot of skill to get that off, but at the same time, it's just the awareness and the quickness."

Not to be outdone from his solid first half, Rubin bagged a brace with his second goal in the 57th minute that gave the U.S. what looked like a commanding 3-1 advantage.

However, the Samba Kings steadily fought back and capitalize on a couple Team USA defensive lapses.

Most notably, Brazil's equalizer came on a corner kick that Christensen bobbled into his own net.

But that letdown only lasted two minutes, because Rubin found Ahinga Selemani in space for his second assist and another go-ahead Team USA goal.

"It was unfortunate to give up the last two goals for them to tie it, but I just felt like the team stayed positive with each other," Rubin said. "And I got the opportunity to get the ball again. And I knew Ahinga would make that great run, and I just slipped him and he did a (great) job beating the keeper and finishing it off."

Brazil, though, leveled at 4-4 three minutes following Selemani's score and it came just six minutes from time.

Now the USA will have to dust itself off and head into Friday's encounter with Turkey needing a positive result in order to defend its Friendlies title.

That match is scheduled for 5 p.m.

And with a player like Rubin, who had two goals and two assists, the firepower won't be lacking.

"He's a talented player," Williams said. "That kid, not only is a very good soccer player, but he works his butt off. He's a good kid and he's been great for our team. Two goals and two assists against Brazil is pretty (expletive) good."

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