As World Cup nears, U.S. still works on team

May 26, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- There are 23 days before the United States plays its World Cup opener, and Tab Ramos explained the urgency of the challenge facing some guys who have spent this week getting reacquainted.

"Eric [Wynalda] is coming in from Germany, Ernie [Stewart] is coming in from Holland, Roy [Wegerle] is coming in from England and I play in Spain," Ramos said. "We're all used to doing something else, and we've got to get it going right away. We've got to do better than this to be successful in the World Cup."

Those four made their 1994 debuts with the national team in the second half of yesterday's 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia. A crowd of 5,576 watched the first game played at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field.

The United States needed some top-drawer saves from Tony Meola to preserve the shutout and couldn't capitalize on some decent chances against a team that isn't expected to advance )) past the first round of the World Cup, but at least coach Bora Milutinovic got a peek at some needed newcomers.

The United States has only two more scheduled exhibitions, Saturday against Greece and June 4 against Mexico, before its June 18 World Cup opener with Switzerland in Detroit. As the opportunities to mesh dwindle, so do chances to impress Milutinovic, who will cut the 25-man roster to the maximum 22 early next week.

Defender Cle Kooiman, another player who joined the U.S. team this week, is still looking to make his 1994 debut. John Harkes is helping Derby County's effort to be promoted to England's Premier Division, and the midfielder won't be available for any of the scheduled exhibitions.

The star of the 2-0 defeat of England in the 1993 U.S. Cup, Ramos didn't join the national team until Monday. He came on at halftime for Cobi Jones in the midfield, and immediately added to the United States' ability to attack.

Stewart and Wynalda also entered at halftime. Stewart replaced recent scoring sensation Frank Klopas up front and came closest to scoring for the United States, taking a pass from Claudio Reyna in the 66th minute and putting it off the left post. Playing an attacking midfielder, Wynalda wasn't as noticeable.

Wegerle substituted for Reyna in the 72nd minute. It was his first appearance at any level since Jan. 8, when a knee injury ended his season with Coventry City in England's Premier League.

Saudi Arabia, which will begin training at Catonsville Community College on June 11 for its games at RFK Stadium on June 20 (Holland) and 29 (Belgium), had most of its regulars. The Saudis, however, were without forward Majed Abdullah, the national folk hero who has been dubbed "the Desert Pele." He was resting an injured knee.

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