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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

April 23, 2015
YOUNG YANKS COAST
Injuries detract from U-23s' win over Mexico

By Scott French
LA Soccer News Contributing Editor

CARSON, Calif. -- Mario Rodriguez, Christian Dean and Jordan Morris scored second-half goals, and the U.S. under-23 national team, in an early prep leading to October's CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics, romped to a 3-0 win Wednesday night over Mexico at StubHub Center.

Galaxy forward/midfielder Jose Villarreal was one of three U.S. players to limp off with injuries, departing just before halftime with a hamstring strain some 16 minutes after coming on for Club Tijuana's Alejandro Guido (groin strain). Rodriguez, who plays in Germany for Borussia Moenchengladbach, exited after aggravating a hip-flexor injury with about 20 minutes to play.

The U.S. gained control just after halftime, dropping back to create space and then using the counterattack to great effect. They scored right at the start of the second half, then added goals at 10-minute intervals.

“I think 3-0 against our big rival, Mexico, is a great result for us, especially the second half,” U.S. coach Andreas Herzog said. “I think Mexico was better [in the first half], they created a few chances where we were lucky to get with a 0-0 into the locker room [at halftime], then we changed a little but our tactics.

“We dropped a little bit deeper to create more space. When we regained possession for our fast-trackers to play the ball behind the backline, I think that we were in a better team shape for the second half, and I think that was the key for the win today.”

Rodriguez, a Borussia Moenchengladbach forward from North Hollywood, tallied in the 48th minute, finishing a Luis Gil cross from the left flank, and Dean doubled the advantage 10 minutes later, heading home a Dillon Serna free kick.

Morris, a Stanford University star, made it 3-0 in the 68th, volleying home after Shane O'Neill got his head to a Gil corner kick.

Rodriguez and Morris were an impressive duo, especially with Real Salt Lake's Gil, a Garden Grove product, pulling the strings from midfield.

“I have a bunch of very good strikers, but these two guys are the starters, and they fit very well together,” Herzog said of Rodriguez and Morris. “They're very strong, very fast, score a lot of goals, and I thought today they showed again that they have a great future in the U.S., hopefully not only in my Olympic team, but even with the men's national team.”

Rodriguez described his on-field relationship with Morris as “like a yin and a yang.”

“We've known each other two or three camps [with the U-23s],” he said, “but I feel like I've known him for my whole life.”

Mexico was the better side most of the first half, and nearly pulled ahead in the first minute, when Angel Zaldivar forced a diving save from England-based goalkeeper Cody Cropper.

Marco Bueno, who was part of the full Mexican national team for last week's friendly against the U.S. in San Antonio, nodded a Daniel Hernandez cross wide left in the 27th minute, then hit the left post after beating Colorado Rapids defender Shane O'Neill in the 31st.

Zaldivar nearly struck just before halftime, but Cropper grabbed his glancing header from a corner kick.

The U.S. managed just one shot on frame in the first half, a Luis Gil shot in the 41st that caused goalkeeper Luis Contreras no trouble.


   
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