Late goal costs United States in Nike International Friendlies opener

jdill@bradenton.comDecember 10, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The noticeable height differential turned into a nightmare for the United States Under-17 Men's National Team.

Portugal connected with a free kick delivery that found Goncalo Viera, who rose above his defender to knock in the game-winning goal in the 91st 2013 Nike International Friendlies at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus.

The goal gave Portugal a 2-1 victory, and sends Team USA back to the drawing board when the tournament resumes Wednesday.

"We need to learn how to manage the game, the last minutes of the game we need to a better job," U.S. coach Richie Williams said. "We know the kids are young, they are learning and developing. But they need to recognize the situation and … not give up a silly foul in that part of the field. … When you see all their big guys on the back post, you have a feeling they are pretty much going to put it on the back post."

Portugal's Bruno Pereira delivered the cross off a free kick that found Viera's noggin, and it turned the game on its ear in the late stages as the Portuguese erased a 1-0 deficit to gain the full three points from the victory.

That 1-0 deficit was due to the chemistry displayed between Alejandro Zendejas and Haji Wright.

Zendejas picked up a pass in the 13th minute found a streaking Wright, who had slipped past Portugal's back line and deposited a right-footed scorcher into the net.

"Normally when he looks up, I just make the same run," Wright said. "And normally it works every time."

Zendejas said he and Wright are pretty well connected in the attacking third.

The goal gave Team USA an early lead, and confidence moving into the match.

However, Portugal began finding its own footing and had a few chances to equalize.

But U.S. goalkeeper Kevin Silva prevented two one-on-one efforts by darting from his line on one occasion, and standing tall on his line in the other instance.

"When I saw the guy have the ball right in front of me, I knew I had to make myself big," Silva said.

Undeterred, Portugal kept grinding and putting pres

States. That tactic eventually paid off when Joao Simoes lobbed an inch-perfect diagonal cross into the path of Generosa Correia, who chested the ball and slipped a low shot past Silva in a one-on-one situation in the box.

That 27th minute goal, though, was the lone bright spot for Portugal's attack as it found the final pass missing in the second half as the game opened into an end-to-end display.

Team USA had more of the chances in that second period, but all the momentum and energy was zapped with the late second goal.

Now the United States has to turn its attention to Wednesday's match against England, before Friday's finale against Brazil. Brazil defeated England 2-1 in Monday's opening match.

"It's all about experience in these good international games, and its good quality against some of the best countries in the world," Williams said. "We've got two more games against England and Brazil, so we're going to go out again and try to play well and learn and develop and also get results."

All the games are streamed live on ussoccer.com, and are open to the public at Ranch's Premier Sports Campus.

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