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Teen debutante Llanez lifts USA over Costa Rica

Los Angeles (AFP) – US teen debutant striker Ulysses Llanez scored on a penalty in the 50th minute and the Americans defeated Costa Rica 1-0 Saturday in an international football friendly.

The 18-year-old striker for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg’s under-19 squad returned to his hometown area to claim his first international cap in the home stadium of Major League soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

US defender Reggie Cannon of MLS side FC Dallas charged into the penalty area with the ball and was taken down by Costa Rican substitute midfielder Randall Leal of MLS expansion side Nashville, prompting Jamaican referee Oshane Nation to point to the spot, setting up Llanez’s blast into the lower right corner of the goal.

US striker Gyasi Zardes appeared to add a header goal in the 86th minute but the Columbus Crew forward was offside on the play.

The USA squad took a 17-16 with six drawn lead in the all-time rivalry with Costa Rica, both teams having appeared in four of the past five World Cups.

Llanez, Philadelphia midfielder Brenden Aaronson, Colorado back Sam Vines and Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira started for the Americans in their US debut.

They were part of the youngest starting 11 ever fielded by the US squad after their annual January training camp, averaging 23 years and 216 days of age.

They were also among six players on the US roster who will be eligible to play in Tokyo Olympic qualifying matches next month at Guadalajara, Mexico.

Colombian-born 19-year-old Ferreira was granted a FIFA waiver on Friday to enable him to play for the US squad. He has lived in the United States since he was eight years old.

Ferreira is the son of 2010 MLS Most Valuable Player David Ferreira, who scored 26 goals and set up 42 others for Dallas over 117 matches from 2009-2015.

The Ticos’ best chance came in the 23rd minute with Giancarlo Gonzalez of the Galaxy nodded a header off the crossbar and US goalkeeper Sean Johnson of New York City FC collected the ball to end the threat.

In the 24th minute, fans cheered and chanted “Kobe” in a tribute to the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed last weekend in a helicopter crash at age 41. Bryant wore 24 as one of his jersey numbers during 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Llanez got into the Bryant tribute feeling, pretending to shoot a basketball jump shot in celebrating his goal.

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