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U.S. soccer gets past Costa Rica

Golden

Posted: Sunday, February 03, 2002

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The United States won the championship of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region for the first time since 1991, upsetting Costa Rica 2-0 Saturday in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Josh Wolff scored on a breakaway in the 37th minute and Jeff Agoos got his first goal in six years on a curling free kick in the 63rd as the Americans won without many of their top players against a Costa Rican team that was at full strength.

Kasey Keller, trying to revive his chances of becoming the starting goalkeeper at this year's World Cup, recorded his fourth shutout in the Americans' five games.

The United States won the Gold Cup in the its inaugural year but has struggled since. The U.S. team was comprised mostly of Major League Soccer players. Keller, who has been on the bench nearly all of this season for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, was one of the few exceptions.

Wolff, who plays for Chicago, missed much of World Cup qualifying last year because of a broken foot. He showed his speed and strength on his goal, outsprinting defender Luis Marin to reach Frankie Hejduk's through pass, then dribbling several steps with Marin frantically trying to knock him off-stride.

With the defender hanging on him and goalkeeper Erick Lonnis rushing toward him, Wolff tapped the ball with his left foot, rolling it past the sprawling Lonnis, across the box and inside the right post.

About half the fans in the Rose Bowl cheered wildly as the shot rolled in. The crowd of about 24,000 seemed about evenly split between supporters of Costa Rica and the United States, with many fans clad in a variety of red, white and blue -- both teams' colors.

The score was Wolff's first since April 25, when he led the American over Costa Rica 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Kansas City, Mo.

Agoos, who plays for San Jose and is the national team's most reliable defender, gave the United States some breathing room, perfectly curling his left-footed shot from 25 yards in front of the goal over the Costa Rican players' wall and just inside the right post. Lonnis had no chance.

Agoos' previous goal for the U.S. team was at the Los Angeles Coliseum against Guatemala on Jan. 21, 1996.

Keller, trying to overtake Blackburn's Brad Friedel as the No. 1 goalkeeper, had to make just four saves. The best was in the 70th minute, when he tipped away Wilmer Lopez's liner from 15 yards.

The Americans' aggressiveness seemed to catch Costa Rica off-guard in the Gold Cup. Although Costa Rica put together a couple of scoring threats in the first half, the United States was on the attack most of the time. In a more defensive mode in the second half, the Americans finished with a 16-12 edge in shots.

Paulo Wanchope, who has 18 goals this season for Manchester City, had had one decent chance in the first half, but his volley from near the left post in the 23rd minute went wide.



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