- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Forget all the scenarios, Bruce Arena keeps telling his players just clinch a second-round berth on your own.

"We'd be insane to watch the scoreboards," the U.S. coach said yesterday, a day after a 1-1 tie against co-host South Korea.

With a victory or tie against Poland on Friday in their final first-round game, the surprising Americans would advance to the single-elimination round of the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

The United States also advances if South Korea defeats Portugal, or if Portugal routs South Korea while the Americans lose narrowly to the already-eliminated Poles.

U.S. captain Claudio Reyna expects a tough game, remembering what the Americans went through four years ago, when they lost their first two games, then played Yugoslavia, losing 1-0.

"We wanted to go into the game that night like we were still in it," he said. "We wanted to have something positive to go home with."

Poland has been a big bust, losing 2-0 to South Korea and 4-0 to Portugal. The Poles, making their first World Cup appearance since 1986, have put just seven of 24 shots on goal.

It's been a far different Poland team from the first European team to clinch a berth in qualifying. Emmanuel Olisadebe, who scored eight goals in 10 qualifiers, hasn't been much of a factor and goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek has looked slow.

"We have to look at it like Poland is going to come out and play their best game of the tournament," goalkeeper Brad Friedel said. "If we're expecting them to fall over and let us beat them and get whatever result we want, then we're sorely mistaken."

In the second round, the United States could face regional rival Mexico, Italy or Croatia, depending on today's games in GroupG. If the Americans win their group, they would get an extra day off and play the second-place team from GroupG next Tuesday. If they finish second, they would play the GroupG winner on Monday with just two days' rest.

"All I want to do is be in the next round," Arena said. "I don't really care whether we finish first or second."

Friedel, like Reyna, expects a difficult game against the Poles. He thought about the efforts of the squabbling American team to regroup four years ago after losing 2-0 to Germany and 2-1 to Iran.

"I think, first and foremost, you want to go out and try to save some face," he said. "I think our performance against Yugoslavia was probably our best performance of the tournament, and that was a tribute to the players on the team and maybe the American players' mentalities."

Friedel's stop of Lee Eul-yong's penalty kick in the game against South Korea was still the talk of the team.

Excluding penalty-kick tiebreakers in the knockout phase, no goalkeeper had denied a shot from the 12-yard spot in 12 years.

In the United States' first World Cup game in 40 years, Tony Meola stopped Michal Bilek's shot with one minute to go in Czechoslovakia's 5-1 rout on June10, 1990. Colombia's Rene Higuita stopped a weak, low shot by Yugoslavia's Faruk Hadzibegic four days later.

Friedel had a hard shot to handle. He guessed right because South Korea changed shooters and he figured the right-footed Lee would go to the easier side for him.

To Friedel's recollection, it was only the fourth penalty kick he's faced since the start of last season and all four times the shooter went to Friedel's right. Only two of those shots got by him, but Friedel refused to rank his best performances.

"To me, the most important game is the last one you played in," he said.

Arena, who chose Friedel in the first two games over Kasey Keller, is selecting goalies on a game-to-game basis.

"We look at every game, we play the game and then we decide what we do the next game," the coach said. "Goalkeepers are no different in my eyes for me than field players."


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