England edges U.S. men

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Even a second-rate England squad was too much for the Americans to handle.

Kieran Richardson scored twice in his first appearance for England on Saturday, leading his short-handed nation to a 2-1 victory over the United States in the teams' first meeting in more than a decade.

The loss was the Americans' first on U.S. soil in more than two years.

Clint Dempsey prevented it from being a shutout with his first career goal late in the second half.

''Down 2-0 at the half, they could have really embarrassed themselves. But they hung in there and showed pride,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. ''I told our young players, these experiences, they've got to benefit from.''

They're going to have to, because the next couple of games count. While England now flies to New Jersey for another exhibition against Colombia, the Americans have World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica next Saturday and Panama on June 8.

The United States currently is 2-1 in its region.

''We played fairly well,'' Landon Donovan said. ''They finished chances. We didn't. I had a couple of good chances. We need to get more chances. We have to make the plays.''

Aside from the Americans' stunning 1-0 victory at the 1950 World Cup — still considered one of the sport's greatest upsets — the English have pretty much run roughshod on their little cousins.

They've won six of their eight meetings, and came into Saturday's game with a 31-7 advantage of shots on goal.

And except for one group of fans behind the south goal who held up a large American flag and a banner reading ''Yank Army Don't Tread on Me,'' Soldier Field looked more like an English ground. Banners featuring the English flag and various English teams — Everton, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, just to name a few — covered every spare inch of the walls ringing the field and the first row of seats.

But this game was by no means a gimme.

Not only have the Americans gotten better, advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, but England essentially brought its JV team. Joe Cole was the only player with more than one goal for his country, and coach Sven-Goran Eriksson made it clear this tour is a testing ground for young players.

But the youngsters showed the Americans plenty.

When Eddie Pope fouled Andy Johnson in the fourth minute, Richardson took the free kick and made a beautiful curving shot that was just out of reach of diving U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller. When the ball settled into the net for a 1-0 lead, Richardson was mobbed by the rest of the English team.

He wasn't done, either. In the 44th minute, Pope whiffed as he tried to knock down the ball on a throw-in, and Joe Cole darted in to collect the ball. He made a perfect pass to a wide-open Richardson and, without missing a stride, the rookie took a shot from about the penalty mark to give England a 2-0 lead.

''He had a great free kick and the finish on the second goal,'' Arena said. ''Give him credit. It was a bit of a quiet day and he walks away with two goals. I could use a quiet player like that on my team.''

The Americans weren't at full strength, either, missing Claudio Reyna, Eddie Johnson, Eddie Lewis and DaMarcus Beasley. But they had their chances, blowing two scoring opportunities in the first half, both by Donovan.

His free kick in the 20th minute banged off the far post, and a perfect shot from about 15 yards out in the 37th sailed wide of the far post.

The Americans finally scored in the 79th minute, when Donovan took a free kick and Carlos Bocanegra flicked it while sliding in front of the goal. James made a nice kick save, but the ball caromed straight back at Dempsey, who headed it in.

Still, this game was only an exhibition, meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It's next week's World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Panama that matter.

''The English team got our attention,'' Arena said. ''The game we lost today will hopefully help us win the next two.''

Notes: James ended the game with the captain's armband after Campbell left early with a twisted ankle. ... Campbell will have an MRI on his ankle Monday. ... Arena announced that he's bringing veteran Cobi Jones, Frankie Hejduk and Pat Noonan into the training camp for next week's World Cup qualifiers.

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