111213_isi_gallromain_usmntu20mj071814207 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
U.S. U-20 Team

Gall and Novakovich Help U.S. U-20s to 4-3 Victory

ASN's Brian Sciaretta spoke with U.S. under-20 players Romain Gall and Andrija Novakovich about Wednesday's rousing 4-3 victory over Russia in the Marbella Tournament.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 13, 2014
12:34 AM
IT WAS A WILD and unpredictable game, and in the end the United States U-20 team opened up the Marbella Tournament in impressive fashion with a 4-3 win over Russia.

Wednesday's match proved to be a difficult test for the U.S, which had to rally from two deficits and play a man down for the final 10 minutes to beat a more experienced Russian team. At the heart of the win was an effective attack run by Columbus Crew winger Romain Gall and Reading FC central forward Andrija Novakovich.

The United States fell behind early but equalized in the 19th minute through Gall. The U.S. started the game in the 4-3-3 with Gall, 19, playing on the left wing and Boca Junior’s Joel Sonora playing in the midfield. The two collaborated on the first American goal.

“I combined with Joel Sonora,” the Paris-born Gall said after the match. “We were trying to find each other and had some one-twos. The ball came out and he struck it. It deflected off a defender and it was up in the air. I just volleyed it in.”

Just a few minutes before halftime, the U.S. took the lead on a goal from Novakovich. A long ball was played to the Reading FC forward who then laid the ball off for Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Junior Flores. Flores quickly played the ball back to Novakovich and the Wisconsin native made no mistake on the finish.

“It started with an aerial ball that was played into me,” Novakovich said of the play. “I laid it off to Junior. He put me in. I touched it with my right and finished it with my left just inside the box on the left side.”

In the second half Russia took the lead with a pair of goals from FC Lokomotiv Moscow players. Aleksei Miranchuk equalized in the 55th minute and Arshak Koryan put the Russians back in front 3-2 in the 71st after he scored on a rebound from a saved penalty kick.

In the 77th minute, the United States equalized through a penalty after New York Red Bull defender Matt Miazga was pulled down in the box. Atletico Madrid youth player Boxi Yomba converted the penalty tie things up.

The United States was reduced to 10 players in the 82nd minute when Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman, one of the leaders on the team, received his second yellow card of the contest. Despite being shorthanded, the U.S. continued to press forward and it pulled ahead in stoppage time through a Romain Gall penalty that was awarded after a handball in the box.

“When we went down a man, we just stayed compact in the back,” Gall said. “We played in a 4-4-1. We just wanted to make sure we were solid and not giving up anything easily. When we had the ball we were actually going forward very fast. We had numbers up and that is how we were fortunate to get the handball. When someone tried to cross it, it came up and hit them in the hand. We got our PK.”

“It’s just amazing to be able to win down a man and get that late goal,” he added.

The game was an intense opener for the U.S. which will now face Ireland on Saturday before finishing the tournament on Tuesday against Canada. It was a difficult test but it was one that left the players feeling satisfied about their ability to adjust against an opponent that came out in an aggressive posture.

“It was definitely an entertaining and wild game,” Gall explained. “We didn’t come out as strong as they did. They came out really fast, especially offensively. They also came out aggressively and had a lot of fouls in the early stages of the game.

"Going into the game we knew they were going to be tough and physical. We just had to have our mindset of being physical and tough like them because we know we can do it. We just had to think fast and keep the ball moving. As the game went on, we were avoiding a lot of the physical battles. We were able to play.”

Novakovich agreed that the Russians controlled the game early but was happy with how the team found a way to win.

“It was a very chippy game,” Novakovich said. “It was a physical game and we just had to deal with it. Three penalties is a bit wild but that is how it goes sometimes. You have to keep it in your head and you just have to keep doing what you are doing and not let it affect you. It can be challenging sometimes.

“Russia started off quick and kind of caught us off guard. They were going at us 100 mph early on in the game and we just absorbed the pressure and were fortunate in some situations. We went a goal down and responded well with an equalizer. Then we took the lead right before halftime. We just kept ourselves in the game. In the second half we took it to them and found a way to win. We just had mindset to play our game and play to our strengths—keep the ball and create chances.”

Gall and Novakovich have been regulars with the U.S. U-20 team in recent months. Last year, Gall was an integral part of the U.S. U-18 team and this year he has made the transition to the U-20 side. Over the summer Gall signed with the Columbus Crew after developing with the youth teams of Lorient. As a natural right-footed attacker, he is comfortable in any offensive role but U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos likes to play him at left wing, affording the freedom to cut inside.

“We have a strong group for this trip,” Gall said. “Overall, anyone who comes into camp has been great and that’s how we’ve been able to get these results. Going forward we are going to do very well because we have a lot of guys who can put the work in."

Novakovich signed with Reading over the summer and has been featuring for both the club’s U-18 and U-21 teams. As a tall and technically strong forward, he made his debut with the U.S. U-20 team in May and has been regular player for Tab Ramos since then.

Both players are optimistic about the team’s chances heading into January’s World Cup qualifying tournament as well as next summer’s World Cup in January. The win over Russia gave the U.S. U-20 team a record of 3-0-2 in international play and a 9-1-2 overall (including club opponents).

“We have a good group of guys—a very talented group,” Novakovich said. “It’s going to be very competitive for spots in qualifying and the World Cup. But we all get along and have fun. It’s a good atmosphere and the level is high.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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