Hoffer makes U.S. vanish

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Shaved neatly into the left side of Erwin Hoffer's scalp is the nickname Jimmy, a reference to former teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa.

On a soggy afternoon at National Soccer Stadium, Team USA wished Hoffer would have done his best Jimmy Hoffa imitation -- and disappeared.

Instead, Hoffer was a veritable "Jimmy on the spot," nudging the water-soaked ball over the goal line in the 105th minute to give his underdog Austrians a huge 2-1 win over the heavily favoured Americans in quarter-final action at the FIFA under-20 World Cup yesterday.

"It's always great to score, especially when it's the winner," said Hoffer, who leads his team in goals with three in the tournament. "It was an amazing win."

The victory elevated Austrian into a semi-final game against the Czech Republic.

While he has been known as Jimmy to friends and teammates for a handful of years now, Hoffer decided to have the name carved into the side of his head just before the start of this tournament. It has proven to be a good-luck charm for the Austrian striker.

"Everyone calls me that," Hoffer said, adding that "most (teammates) know who Jimmy Hoffa is."

Hoffer missed three months with a broken foot during the season, a major reason why coach Austrian coach Paul Gludovatz at times has used him as a substitute instead of a starter in this tournament.

It certainly was the perfect recipe for success yesterday.

Moments after Hoffer came off the bench to enter the game in the 103rd minute, the undisciplined Americans were shaved down to 10 men when Anthony Wallace received his second yellow of the match.

The ensuing free kick resulted in a wild goalmouth scramble in front of the U.S. net, which culminated in Hoffer finding the ball nestled against the post and pushing it home.

Jose Altidore opened the scoring in the 15th minute for the Americans, converting a nice floating cross off the foot of boy wonder Freddy Adu to put the U.S. up 1-0.

But as the conditions deteriorated, so did the play of the Americans, whose insistence on being flashy by attempting no-look back passes cost them in the end.

Sure enough, Rubin Okotie's equalizer in the 43rd minute gave the Austrians the momentum they needed.

The U.S. also was done in by attempting to be soccer's version of the Broad St. Bullies in cleats. The Americans committed 28 fouls to Austria's 13, leading to six yellow cards and one red.

Said Gludovatz: "This is like a fairy tale for many (back home)."

And all because Jimmy Hoffer's late heroics helped Austria bid adieu to Mr. Adu.


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