- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

SUWON, South Korea Wake up, America! The United States soccer team can beat the big boys at the World Cup.
Times sure have changed since the last-place finish in 1998.
That was clear by the way the United States ran around heavily favored Portugal yesterday and took its first three-goal lead in a World Cup game since 1930.
And, by the way, "Sam's Army" the U.S. fans who made the 7,000-mile journey to South Korea ridiculed the Portuguese with chants of "Over-rated!"
Fans across the United States awoke at 5 a.m. in the East and stayed up late in the West to watch in shock as the red, white and blue pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
The 3-2 victory over Portugal, ranked fifth in the world, gave the new-look U.S. team a good chance to get to the second round of soccer's showcase event.
"This victory will grab the attention of a lot of people in the United States," coach Bruce Arena said. "However, this World Cup is not over. We've got to prepare for Korea, and our goal is to win that game."
While players were overjoyed after the opening game, they tried to keep their cool, knowing a lot of work remains. Monday they play co-host South Korea, which upset Poland 2-0 Tuesday. The Americans then play the Poles, a tough, physical lot.
But last night, it seemed as if anything was possible.
The Americans took a 3-0 lead in the first 36 minutes, despite the absence of Claudio Reyna, their best player, and Clint Mathis, their most imaginative attacker, because of injuries.
Using speed and a relentless attack, they got goals from John O'Brien on a rebound and Brian McBride on a brilliant header off a cross from Tony Sanneh. They also got a lucky bounce when a cross by Landon Donovan deflected off a Portuguese defender and into the net for the second goal.
A fist-pumping Arena had to be grabbed by an assistant to keep from running on the field after his team took a 2-0 lead. The U.S. players couldn't believe it.
"I was stunned," Donovan said.
After the final whistle, U.S. players jumped up and down in the corner nearest the several hundred members of Sam's Army, including Earnie Stewart, who limped on his injured left leg.
Meanwhile, the shock waves of what happened on a misty night in this suburb 30 miles outside Seoul reverberated around the globe.
"It's at these moments that great teams show what fiber they're made of," Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso said, blaming the defeat on "bad luck" and predicting his nation would have tied the game if it had lasted 15 minutes longer.
The reaction was quite different in the United States.
Mark Bernhardt, who watched the game with hundreds of other fans on big-screen TVs at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio, called the atmosphere "surreal."
"When we went up 3-0 in the first half I was wondering when I was going to wake up," he said.
A standing-room-only crowd at Soccer Sam's Pizza & Pasta Cafe in Webster, near Rochester, N.Y., broke into chants of "U-S-A" as the Americans held on.
"This is unbelievable," fan Kevin White said. "We were just praying for a tie going into this match."
In Britain, the oddsmaker William Hill cut the United States from a 300-1 shot to win the tournament to 100-1.
"It is probably the biggest win in the modern era," Arena said.
The Americans had not won a World Cup game since their 2-1 victory over Colombia at the Rose Bowl in 1994 and hadn't won one outside the United States since the Truman administration, when they upset England 1-0 in Brazil in 1950.
They had a total of three goals in their previous two World Cup appearances outside the U.S. and hadn't scored three in a World Cup game since they beat Belgium and Paraguay by 3-0 in the first tournament in 1930.
They started six players making their World Cup debuts, including a pair of precocious 20-year-olds, Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. They started six from Major League Soccer, viewed as strictly minor league by much of the international soccer community.
"The two 20-year-olds played with the best of the world and did very well. They were terrific," said Robert Contiguglia, the U.S. Soccer Federation president.
This new breed of American soccer player doesn't think about the failures of the past.
"Senegal beat France," Donovan said, referring to the tournament-opening upset of the defending champions. "We've played lots of games, tough games. Why can't we beat them?"
After taking its 3-0 lead, the U.S. team held under intense pressure from the desperate and stunned Portuguese, led by the world's top player last year, Luis Figo.
Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Tony Sanneh and Frankie Hejduk inserted at left back to replace inconsistent David Regis knocked away repeated forays. Goalkeeper Brad Friedel, picked to play over Kasey Keller, aggressively punched away shots and crosses.
The Portuguese, in their first World Cup in 16 years, closed on Beto's goal in the 39th minute on a rebound, and on an own goal by Agoos, who tried to clear a cross by Pauleta in the 71st minute but instead kicked it past Friedel. But they lost their legs in the final 10 minutes as the Americans played keepaway.


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