A late fightback from the New Zealand under-17 men's football team was not enough to avoid defeat against the academy of Real Salt Lake in their final World Cup warmup match in Arizona today.
New Zealand lost to the Major League Soccer club's under-18 outfit 3-2 but fought back from 3-0 down with goals from substitutes Ken Yamamoto and James Debenham in an improved second half performance, which has given Young All Whites coach Aaron McFarland a selection dilemma ahead of their opening cup match against Uzbekistan in Torreon, Mexico, on Tuesday (NZT).
McFarland cleared the bench after an hour with his team down 3-0 and the substitutes set about reducing the deficit. Their hard work was rewarded in the 74th minute with Yamamoto tapping in after Stephen Carmichael collided heavily with the Real Salt Lake 'keeper leaving both players on the deck.
Seven minutes later it was 3-2 after Kip Colvey played the speedy Ryan Howlett in down the right with a delightful ball. Despite a heavy first touch the winger squared it for Debenham who made no mistake from an acute angle smashing the ball into the net, just reward for an industrious 45 minutes.
"There are a few players that have put their hands up for roles in the starting eleven or reinforced that they can have impact coming off the bench," McFarland said. "They (the opposition) were older than us and a very talented group of fulltime academy players.
"It was a good game for us as their style will emulate our first opponents Uzbekistan, who like to keep the ball and build possession."