Americans beat Colombia, 2-1 A U.S. SOCCER SHOCKER USA WORLD CUP 1994

June 23, 1994|By John Eisenberg | John Eisenberg,Sun Staff Writer

PASADENA, Calif. -- At the sound of the final whistle, the American players cavorted on the grass and raised their arms in exultation. A sellout crowd at the Rose Bowl roared at the completion of a stunning upset.

Deal with it, America:

A fuss.

Over soccer.

The U.S. national team took a colossal step toward worldwide respectability last night by surprising Colombia, 2-1, in a first-round World Cup match.

The victory was the first in the World Cup by a U.S. team in 44 years. Colombia, a rising power, was considered a dark-horse contender to win the Cup.

"It's the biggest victory in the history of soccer in this country," said Alan Rothenberg, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The U.S. is now in second place in the Group A round-robin with one game remaining against Romania on Sunday at the Rose Bowl. With four points in the standings, the Americans stand an excellent chance of achieving their pre-Cup goal of advancing to the second round.

The top two teams in each of the six round-robin groups and the four third-place teams with the best records advance to the second round. For the United States not to be among those 16 teams, it would have to lose to Romania and have a series of other results go the wrong way. Very unlikely.

"This is very cool," said U.S. defender Alexi Lalas. "It's an indescribable feeling to be part of such a historic day."

Said U.S. forward Roy Wegerle: "If we don't get the respect of the world now, I don't know how we're going to do it."

Colombia is in danger of elimination because of this defeat and Saturday's 3-1 loss to Romania. The Colombians may have been shaken by a death threat against midfielder Gabriel Gomez that was sent earlier yesterday by fax to the team's hotel in Fullerton.

Colombia coach Francisco Maturana said the person who sent the fax threatened to blow up Gomez's house in Colombia. Maturana, who said he considered resigning before the game, ** replaced Gomez with Herman Gaviria.

"Unfortunately, I have still not been able to find the explanation as to why we played this badly," Maturana said. "The team wasn't up to the task when the time came."

The first U.S. goal was an "own goal," knocked into the net by Colombian defender Andres Escobar. It came in the 35th minute.

U.S. forward Ernie Stewart scored the second goal in the 52nd minute, assisted by Tab Ramos.

Colombia's Adolfo Valencia scored in the 90th minute.

The own goal was the critical one. The United States had almost scored twice in the preceding three minutes when midfielder John Harkes pushed a left-footed cross into the penalty area. Escobar, sliding toward the goal, caught the ball flush with his right foot and drilled it past his frozen goalkeeper, Oscar Cordoba, who doubled over backward in dismay as the ball nestled into the net.

It was the first time the United States had led in a Cup game since its 1-0 defeat of England in 1950.

The Colombians still were dangerous despite trailing by a goal. They recently had a 28-game unbeaten streak. No less an authority than Pele, the soccer legend, had picked them as one of the teams to watch in the Cup.

But they were beaten by Romania in their opener and played without flair yesterday.

"Two substitutions are all you can make, but I would have liked to make 11 substitutions," said Maturana.

Stewart's goal, coming seven minutes after halftime, put the United States in complete control.

Ramos, a veteran who played through the humiliation in Italy, set up the score with a long ball into an open space downfield. Stewart collected it as Cordoba came off his line to cut off the angle. Stewart banged the ball past him, setting off a roar among the American partisans in a crowd that was split about 50-50 in its loyalties.

"I was thinking about it all at the end of the game and I almost started crying," Stewart said. "To score a goal in a World Cup game, and particularly in a win like this, is just amazing."

The United States almost turned the game into a complete rout several minutes after Stewart's goal, but Cordoba deflected Lalas' well-aimed header just over the crossbar.

Lalas' header into the net was disallowed by an offsides call in the 49th minute. "I think we were the only people who thought we could do this," Harkes said. "But we controlled the ball and showed we can play."

The Americans also were as lucky as they were good. In the fifth minute, a loose ball bounced off defender Mike Sorber and headed for the U.S. net. The ball hit the goal post and bounced back into play. Colombia's Anthony de Avila directed it back toward the goal, but Marcel Balboa cleared it.

"We got a break there," Harkes said, "but we made the most of it."

Did they ever.

U.S. CUP VICTORIES

$Year .. Rd. .. .. Result

1930 .. 1st .. .. U.S. 3, Belgium 0

1930 .. 2nd .. .. U.S. 3, Paraguay 0

1950 .. 1st .. .. U.S. 1, England 0

1994 .. 1st .. .. U.S. 2, Colombia 1

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