George Weah Jr. Scores Equalizer for USA U20s against Columbus Crew
BRADENTON - The United States U20 National Team used a 75th minute goal from George Weah, Jr. to tie Columbus Crew, 2-2, today at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
After a mistake in the back by Columbus, Chad Barrett, the 2003 Pac-10 freshman of the year at UCLA, opened the scoring in the 4th minute from a Christian Jimenez through ball.
"I made the run between the leftback and centerback," said Barrett. "I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and took it (the ball) to the right of the 'keeper and slotted it in."
Columbus fought back, holding possession well and pressuring the U20s into mistakes, and was able to pull level in the 45th when Ross Paule put away Jeff Cunningham's cross from the right flank. The Crew's second goal came two minutes after the restart from a Jamal Sutton strike.
"We didn't have a lot of possession like we would against a team our age," added Barrett. "But that was expected. We had good chances though."
Barrett does have plans to turn professional and listed England as a place he would like to play. He would not commit to a specific time frame when this take place, but did acknowledge his development wouldn't progress as fast as it could as a professional. "You have players like Craig Capano, Arturo Alvarez and Freddy Adu turning pro after high school and getting playing time here and there," noted Barrett, "if I stay all four years I may not be at the same level as them."
There were no limits to the amount of substitutions either team could make, so U.S. Head Coach Thomas Rongen emptied his bench throughout the second half, except for two of the goalkeepers.
This opened the door for one of the newer kids - he is just 16 - in a U.S. shirt to score the equalizer in the 75th minute.
George Weah, Jr., still six months away from turning seventeen, easily beat Columbus Crew goalkeeper Matt Haefner and the rest of the Columbus defense by putting his shot past a defender covering on the line.
The sequence started with a ball out of midfield to a streaking Jaime Watson on the right flank. Watson taking advantage of the space given him by the Crew defense made a run down the flank towards the end-line. Weah was making his run at the same time down the middle of the field. Once both U.S. players reached the goal area, Watson played a beautiful ball between the Crew back-line and Haefner to Weah. Weah controlled easily and waited for Haefner to commit before scoring the equalizer.
Though he his very low key, Weah, Jr. knows what he is here for when he spoke about scoring the first time wearing a U.S. shirt: "It's a great feeling and experience because I know my coach is looking and a forward is supposed to finish and score goals to help the team win."
Weah, Jr., currently with the U18s of Serie A power AC Milan, is the son of George Weah, Sr., the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year. Weah, Jr. is eligible to play for the U.S. due to his mother being a U.S. citizen. He could also play for the country of his birth - Liberia - and for France as his father holds dual French/Liberian citizenship.
With his appearance today Weah, Jr. is not "cap-tied" to the U.S. due to a FIFA statute that came into force on January 1, 2004. The statute allows youth players to play as a youth international for one country and then apply, prior to his 21st birthday, to play for another country. Even if Weah, Jr. plays for the U.S. U20s in an official FIFA event, such as CONCACAF U20 qualifiers and/or the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2005 and 2007, he would still be eligible to play for Liberia or France. If Weah, Jr. were to play in an "A" international match - or in other words, with the senior team - for the U.S. prior to turning 21 he would then be cap-tied to the U.S.
It does not appear on the surface that Weah, Jr. has plans to change is current allegiance to U.S. Soccer, even though the Liberian Association has approached him to play for their county.
"It would be pretty hard to go there because of all the problems in Liberia," said Weah, Jr. "I would be very happy to play for my county, for Liberia. But as far as the future I'd rather take the chance to play with America because their growing talent, like Freddy Adu and other players I've seen here."
Though it's only been two days that the U20s have been together, he is surprised at the talent and commitment of the U20s.
"I didn't think they would be this good," said Weah, Jr. and they are hard working, just like professionals."
Thomas Rongen put the U20s out in 4-4-1-1. The following shows where players lined up in the formation at one point or another during the game.
Westberg - DiRaimondo (Sturgis, Folk), Spector (Hohlbein), Sturgis (Schilling), Ward (Curfman) - Watson (Arrua, DiRaimondo), Denny (Sloustcher), Szetela (Murphy), Arrua (Jimenez, Hidalgo) - Jimenez (Szetela) - Barrett (Watson, Weah, Jr.).
U.S. Squad (college signings in all caps): GOALKEEPERS: Justin Hughes (North Carolina/NCAA), Justin Papadakis (Concorde Fire SC; DUKE), Quentin Westberg (ESTAC Troyes/France); DEFENDERS: Greg Folk (So Cal United; UCLA), Aaron Hohlbein (Wisconsin/NCAA), Karl Schilling (Oakwood SC; UCONN), Jonathan Spector (Manchester United/England), Nathan Sturgis (Jacksonville KYX; CLEMSON), Tim Ward (Parkland SC; ST LOUIS); MIDFIELDERS: Mariano Arrua (UC-Davis/NCAA), Steven Curfman (Wake Forest/NCAA), Jay Denny (Stoke City/England), John DiRaimondo (St. Louis/NCAA), Christian Jimenez (Santa Anita SC; SOUTH FLORIDA), Dane Murphy (South Central Connecticut; VIRGINIA), Adam Sloustcher (Ballistic United; NORTH CAROLINA), Danny Szetela (World Class Olympic); FORWARDS: Chad Barrett (UCLA/NCAA), Rodrigo Hidalgo (Weston SC; SOUTH FLORIDA), Jamie Watson (North Carolina/NCAA), George Weah Jr. (AC Milan/Italy).
The U20s return to action again this week on Tuesday when they face Colorado Rapids and then finish up their week long camp with another match against Columbus on Thursday