Three players from the Washington area figured prominently in the U.S. national team's 2-1 win over host New Zealand yesterday in the opening match of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship.
The U.S. team, which entered the contest with a 20-game unbeaten streak, trailed New Zealand, 1-0, for much of a game that was played in a tropical cyclone that struck Auckland. Forward Abe Thompson of Fairfax Station entered the match in the 63rd minute and tied it six minutes later after beating a defender on the dribble and sending a well-struck, right-footed shot inside the near post.
The W.T. Woodson senior celebrated by sliding on his stomach through the wet grass and crashing head-first into the sign boards that lined the field.
"I didn't care. It just felt good to score," Thompson told reporters after the game.
The New Zealand squad had been reduced to 10 players five minutes before halftime when goal scorer David Mulligan was given his second yellow card. With the wind at its back, the United States team attacked relentlessly and had the short-handed All-Whites on their heels after Thompson's equalizer.
In the 74th minute, Oguchi Onyewu of Olney sent a cross from the left wing that found the foot of Landon Donovan 10 yards from the New Zealand net. The Californian redirected it for the game-winner. Onyewu was sent off in the 89th minute and will be suspended for the Americans' second first-round match against Poland on Saturday.
For his efforts in midfield, Crofton's Kyle Beckerman (Arundel High) was named FIFA's official Man of the Match.
"Any time you play the host nation, especially in a world championship, it is a game in itself," said U.S. Coach John Ellinger, who lives in Ellicott City. "This team finds ways to win and they showed that tonight in these adverse conditions."