- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001


A guy nicknamed "Tyson" KO'd the Americans at RFK Stadium yesterday, delaying the United States' plans of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
Honduran star Milton "Tyson" Nunez scored two goals as the feisty and talented Central Americans downed the U.S. team 3-2 before a boisterous and colorful crowd of 54,282.
Earnie Stewart had two goals for the United States but missed a crucial penalty kick with the game tied 1-1 just before the break.
A win for the U.S. team (4-2-1, 13 points) would have virtually sealed a berth at next year's World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea. The loss makes the United States' last three games especially Wednesday's match at Costa Rica even more important.
The Americans remain in second place in the six-team qualifying group, and the top three teams qualify. However, the loss ended a 19-game unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifying for the U.S. team. Not since May 1985 had the Americans lost a home qualifier. It was also the first defeat at RFK since Bolivia beat the Americans in 1996.
"The play of the game was the missed penalty kick," American coach Bruce Arena said. "[If it had been converted] we go in at the half 2-1 up, and they would have had to chase the game and it's a different game."
It all looked so hopeful for the Americans early on.
The United States got a dream start when Stewart, wearing the captain's armband in place of the injured Claudio Reyna, gave the home team the lead in the seventh minute.
The move began when Cobi Jones put defender Steve Cherundolo free on the right flank. Cherundolo sent over a cross, but Honduras goalie Noel Valladares blocked by American forward Jovan Kirovski failed to catch the ball and instead palmed it directly to Stewart, who blasted a low, left-footed shot from 14 yards out.
Honduras (3-2-2, 11 points) tied the game in the 28th minute on a delightful goal from Nunez, who earned his nickname because of his likeness to boxer Mike Tyson.
Carlos Pavon sent a perfect pass across the American goal, where the diminutive and stocky Nunez rushed between two American defenders and shot low from 10 yards out.
Cherundolo appealed for an offsides call, but the linesman's flag stayed down. The United States should have taken the lead in the 43rd minute on a penalty kick after Jovan Kirovski was pulled down in the box. However, Valladares guessed right, as he dived left to save Stewart's spot kick.
"I made a choice at the last moment to go to the other corner stupid," Stewart said. "My first thought was going left."
Ironically, Stewart also missed a penalty kick while playing club soccer in Holland last week.
In the second half the Hondurans seemed more alive than the Americans, stringing passes together and generally enjoying themselves. American defenders, especially David Regis and Jeff Agoos, had all sorts of trouble containing Nunez and Pavon, who plays his club soccer in Italy.
The United States went down 2-1 in the 53rd minute when Agoos, clearly beaten by Milton Reyes in a foot-race, pulled down the defender in the box. Unlike Stewart, Pavon buried the penalty kick, sending in a low shot to Brad Friedel's right.
"The only goal I question was the PK against Agoos," Arena said. "It looked like a shoulder push to me, but you expect the ref to make a makeup call."
In the 64th minute Arena replaced Kirovski with Joe-Max Moore and three minutes later brought on the 38-year-old Preki for Cherundolo.
But Nunez struck again in the 77th minute, giving Honduras a 3-1 lead with a blistering shot from 10 yards out.
Seven minutes later Stewart got a goal back when his long-range shot bounced down from under the crossbar, but it was all too late for the Americans.
Arena blamed Regis for mistakes on all the goals but added: "We need to fully accept responsibility for the loss because we were in the position twice in the first half to put ourselves in a good position."
D.C. United defender Eddie Pope saved what looked like an almost certain goal for Honduras in the 34th minute when he sprinted back to steal the ball from Pavon, who faced an empty goal from five yards out.
Notes U.S. Soccer faced tough criticism in The Washington Post this week for its attempt to create a home-field atmosphere at yesterday's game when it sold tickets first to American fans and left the upper-deck seats at RFK for Honduran fans. The U.S. policy failed badly.
Thousands of Honduran fans managed to get tickets and took up many of the seats in the lower deck close to the field behind both goals. The blue and white colors of Honduras were as abundant around the stadium as the red, white and blue of the Americans fans.
"For all those people complaining about the unfair treatment to the Honduran fans, they still managed to get 30,000 here," Arena said. "Those people who never walked-the-walk or talked-the-talk to criticize us is ridiculous." …
After his two goals Stewart is the leading scorer for the United States in 2002 World Cup qualifying with eight goals… .
Landon Donovan, the 19-year-old hero of Major League Soccer's All-Star Game, got his first start in a major game yesterday for the United States and played the full 90 minutes.

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