Trip's rocky start ends up OK for U.S. national team

April 02, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- Seven players came down ill, three others got hurt and a pair of leads disappeared last week when a young version of the U.S. national soccer team trekked to Central America.

Doesn't sound like a recipe for success, but the Americans came home feeling fine after earning a 2-2 draw with El Salvador before falling, 4-1, to Honduras.

The U.S. lineup, made up primarily of 1992 Olympians and others with little international experience, was bolstered by seven newcomers, several of whom had seen no outdoor action in months.

"The results weren't all we were hoping for," admitted defender Alexi Lalas, "but more important, this was a learning trip, and we learned a whole lot of things."

Among them: Don't eat the fruit.

Seven players came down ill apparently after consuming fruit upon the team's arrival in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for the second match. One player defender Jeff Agoos had to depart the field 28 minutes into the game when nausea overwhelmed him.

"I told the doctor to get me off because I was about to throw up or pass out," Agoos said.

He fared better than defender Erik Imler, a '92 Olympian who made his national team debut against El Salvador. Forty-three minutes into the match, while marking a Salvadoran closely, Imler went one way and his right knee another. Completely torn was his anterior cruciate ligament, which will keep the University of Virginia standout sidelined up to eight months.

Imler faces reconstructive surgery in about two weeks, and he says he plans to go at rehabilitation aggressively so he can return to the field quickly.

Imler, back in Charlottesville, Va., said he was "just starting to feel comfortable, starting to relax" when his knee blew out. "I heard a loud pop, and I knew. ... Unfortunately, these things happen."

Also hurt was defender Desmond Armstrong, who sustained a groin injury during training the day before the El Salvador match, and midfielder Chris Henderson, who tweaked his knee against Honduras.

Armstrong and defender Paul Caligiuri may miss next week's trip to play Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Armstrong isn't expected to return from his injury for another week or so, and Caligiuri is suffering from strep throat. Henderson is probable and defender John Doyle (hamstring) is questionable. Coach Bora Milutinovic will recall Hugo Perez, who plays for Saudi power Al Ittihad, for the April 9 match.

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