By John F. Molinaro, CBCSports.ca
TORONTO — Uruguay's hex on the United States is finally over.
Michael Bradley was the hero for the Americans in extra time, scoring in the 107th minute to lift the U.S. to a dramatic 2-1 win over Uruguay Wednesday in second-round action at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The U.S. levelled the score with three minutes left in regulation before Bradley blasted his shot into the roof of the net in the second overtime period in front of a sellout crowd of 19,526 spectators.
The Americans advance to the quarter-finals, where they will meet Austria Saturday in Toronto (CBC, 2 p.m. ET). Austria beat Gambia 2-1 Wednesday in Edmonton.
The U.S. had previously lost all three of its games against Uruguay at the U-20 World Cup, dating back to their first meeting, at the 1981 tournament in Australia.
Coach Thomas Rongen applauded his players' heart and determination in fighting back when the game appeared to be over.
"We knew this was going to be a hard game against a tough opponent," Rongen toldreporters after the game.
"It was really tough down to the wire. But we prevailed."
It was a sentiment echoed by star midfielder Freddy Adu.
"This win says a lot about the character of this team," Adu said. "We never quit.
"We never quit, regardless of the situation. Before the game I said we have to fight to the end, and we did just that."
Both teams were missing their starting goalkeepers.
Chris Seitz was still recuperating from a thigh injury suffered during a collision with a Brazilian player in the U.S.'s last game, but is expected to play Saturday.
UCLA product Brian Perk started in goal against Uruguay, making only his fourth career appearance for the American under-20 team.
Mauro Goicoechea earned a red card against Zambia in Uruguay's first-round finale, which meant he was suspended for Wednesday's clash. Yonatan Irrazabal started in his place.
The U.S. enjoyed more possession in the first half, but the potent American attacking trio of Adu, Josmer Altidore and Danny Szetela — who combined to score all nine of their team's goals in the first round — were tightly contained by Uruguay's defence.
Adu struggled to get past the Uruguay defenders, and when he did, it didn't lead to anything meaningful.
"It was one of those games that was chippy,"Adu said. "They had a lot of guys behind the ball, which made it hard on myself and whoever was up top trying to score goals."
Uruguay, on the other hand, made the most of its possession, moving the ball crisply and with purpose, keeping the Americans trapped inside their half of the field for long stretches thanks to the inspired play of forward Edinson Cavani.
Neither goalkeeper was really tested in the first half, although Luis Suarez's free kick whistled just over the American crossbar in the 26th minute.
Altidore aggravates calf injury
The U.S. suffered a big blow six minutes into the second half, when Altidore came out of the game with a calf injury.
Altidore said he had problems with the calf earlier in the tournament, but is hopeful he can play Saturday against Austria.
"I'm going to work on it tomorrow," Altidore said. "I'm going to treat it and get myself ready."
The deadlock was broken in the 73rd minute with Uruguay swarming the American goal. Suarez busted into the penalty area and played a ball into the middle to Cavani.
The forward directed a dangerous header on net that Perk could not handle, and when he spilled the ball, Suarez pounced on the rebound and blasted it into the net.
The U.S. levelled the score with three minutes left in regulation on an own goal, when Uruguay's Mathias Cardaccio, under pressure from American forward Andre Akpan, directed the ball into his own net.
The play was not without controversy, though, as Szetela handled the ball before making the pass that led to the goal.
Uruguay's Juan Manuel Diaz had a chance to win it in the 90th minute, but his powerful header slammed off the post.
Uruguay paid the price for that near-miss, as the U.S. notched the winning goal off a free kick in extra time.
Defender Julian Valentin scooped up a loose ball inside the penalty area and forced a shot on goal that was directed past Irrazabal by Bradley, his first goal of the competition.
A heated skirmish between the two teams broke out at midfield after the final whistle, with players needing to be separated by coaches and officials.
Uruguay coach Gustavo Ferrin did not address reporters after the game and his players were kept in the locker-room a little bit longer than usual before heading to the team bus so that they could "cool down," one official said.