Netherlands blanks U.S. World Cup men's texam

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. -- For 88 minutes, the United States looked like a world-class team. In the other two, the Americans showed the shaky defense that could lead to a quick World Cup exit.

In its last game before heading to soccer's showcase event, the U.S. team made a pair of defensive blunders and lost to the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday.

''This takes us down a notch to Earth,'' U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said. ''The goals were cheap goals.''

Eddie Pope fell while going for a pass in the final minute of the first half, allowing an easy goal for Roy Makaay. David Regis was stripped of the ball in front of the net by Andy van der Meyde, who hopped over goalkeeper Kasey Keller and put the ball into the open net in the 76th.

''We played well defensively for long periods of the game,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said, ''but we broke down on two plays that made a difference.''

The Americans, who leave for the World Cup on Thursday, had been 10-0 at home in warmup games. But more telling is their 0-4 record this year against European opponents, with losses at Italy, Germany and Ireland.

At the World Cup, the United States opens June 5 against Portugal, then plays co-host South Korea on June 10 and Poland on June 14.

''It's better to have a game like this than do it on June 5,'' said U.S. forward Clint Mathis, largely ineffective after breaking a toenail while scoring during Thursday's 5-0 rout of Jamaica.

Unlike the previous two games, which knocked midfielder Chris Armas and defender Greg Vanney out of the tournament, there didn't appear to be any major injuries for the Americans (10-4). Defender Jeff Agoos came out in the 41st minute because of tightness in his right calf.

Arena, who hasn't said which goalkeeper he'll start in the World Cup, used Brad Friedel in the first half and Keller in the second.

''That's a very difficult decision,'' Arena said. ''I'm not going to make it now. It won't be easy when I do make it.''

The Netherlands, the best team not going to the World Cup, brought a half-strength team and was outshot 18-14.

Goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus made 11 saves, including outstanding stops on Reyna, Pope and Cobi Jones. American midfielder John O'Brien, who plays with van der Meyde at Ajax Amsterdam, had an open net in the 10th minute but put the ball over the crossbar. In the 63rd, he was stopped by Waterreus from about 24 yards.

''We should have put a couple in the back of the net,'' Mathis said.

Arena, pleased with the performance, thought back to the only previous meeting between the Americans and the Netherlands, a 2-0 win for a nearly full-strength Dutch team.

''I remember the game in 1998. It was men against boys,'' he said. ''It was a game today. We pushed them, they pushed us.''

Like unfinished CMGI Field -- where the upper deck and luxury suites are still being built -- the U.S. team remains in formation, with youth pushing the veterans as the World Cup nears.

Mathis, Brian McBride and Josh Wolff are competing to be the two starting forwards. DaMarcus Beasley, who turns 20 on Friday, put himself in contention for a starting berth with his speedy, standout play this week, and 20-year-old Landon Donovan is another midfield option.

But, the defense remains troublesome, getting outscored 9-3 in the four games against European opponents. Agoos and Pope started in the middle, with David Regis and Tony Sanneh on the flanks.

Makaay scored after Philip Cocu sent a long through ball down, and Pope and Makaay both slid for it. While Pope stayed down, the Dutch forward popped up and tucked the ball inside the far post with his left foot, his first goal in 18 international appearances.

Regis looked shocked when van der Meyde, making his international debut, stole the ball for the final goal.

''The first goal was unlucky. The second was mental error,'' Sanneh said. ''For the most part, we're doing pretty good. We had a couple of lapses.''

In a taste of what's to come at the World Cup, Reyna had little room to work, with Edgar Davids all over him. In 1990 and '98, when they were eliminated in the first round, the Americans failed to cope with physical opponents.

This time, they say they're different. Their minds seem locked on the goal of getting out of the first round.

''I still think the Americans have a good chance to do it,'' Dutch coach Dick Advocaat said. ''It's not just quality and work rate, it's also luck.''

Notes: Patrick Kluivert, originally on the Dutch roster, didn't make the trip. Fs Ruud van Nistelrooy, Marc Overmars and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, D Ronald de Boer and GK Edwin van der Sar weren't included because of injuries. ... The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots play their first game at the stadium on Aug. 17. ... The United States was 7-0-3 in old Foxboro Stadium, including a 2-1 win over Jamaica last October that clinched the World Cup berth.



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