U.S. men top Argentina, 1-0

Stewart, Moore team for 88th-minute goal

'99 record now 4-1-1

June 14, 1999|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- One of soccer's flashiest plays, the back-heel pass in close quarters, set up midfielder Joe-Max Moore's goal in the 88th minute and gave the U.S. national men's team a scintillating, 1-0 victory over world power Argentina yesterday.

Moore, who had entered the game in the 60th minute, took the slick, short pass from Ernie Stewart near the top right of Argentina'a penalty box and put a rising shot to the left-top corner past diving goalkeeper German Burgos.

"I saw Joey in the back of my, er, lens," said Stewart, struggling for the right English word, "and heard Joey calling for it, so I back-heeled it to him."

The goal gave the Americans their second straight win over Argentina, this one before 40,119 at RFK Stadium. Though the game was a friendly, the win, coupled with the team's 3-0 defeat of Germany earlier this year, reinforced a message that the United States is back after going three-and-out in last year's World Cup.

"We're not going to blow this thing out of proportion," said a smiling U.S. coach Bruce Arena on a warm homecoming to RFK, where he led D.C. United to the first two Major League Soccer championships. "But it was a good win. That game could have gone either way. It was two teams competing for 90 minutes. I thought it was a great game.

"We're back in the right direction, yes, but it doesn't say a whole lot more than that," said Arena, who added that he still needs to see more players before deciding on an optimal mix. "We're about a year away from being a pretty good national team."

The game, offensive in tenor throughout, was loaded with chances for both sides as the Argentines, who started six players from world-regarded European club teams, outshot the Americans 17-14 and created more dangerous chances, but not by a lot. Stewart, for example, volleyed a restart by midfielder Claudio Reyna off the top-right corner of Argentina's goal in the 63rd minute.

Said Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, for whom the game had more importance given his club's nearing participation in Copa America, the South American national-team championships, "The way we played, we deserved this result."

He numbered his team's scoring chances at "10 to 13," but also said the Americans "did not surprise us today with their performance. Their defensive structure was very solid."

His estimate of serious scoring chances was exaggerated, although if not for American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, the English Premier League star playing for the first time under Arena, the score might have been quite different.

Keller, called by all in the game a world-class keeper, was credited with seven saves. Several were acrobatic, with a flying touch wide and a sliding, two-handed punch over the crossbar from the ground of hard, sharply angled shots in the 64th and 68th minutes, respectively, canceling what seemed sure Argentine goals.

Less spectacularly but maybe more importantly because of its timing, Keller also drew a sustained roar from the crowd by cleanly snaring a penalty kick in the 39th minute, a low, hard kick that forward Gustavo Lopez misdirected marginally just to Keller's left. Lopez had been taken down just inside the U.S. box by sliding defender C. J. Brown.

"I don't read a lot into penalty saves, to be honest," said the quiet, articulate Keller. "One of the saves in the second half was definitely more difficult. I'm just very happy that the team responded after that."

Goals: U.S.--Moore (88th minute). Assists: U.S.--Stewart. Shots: U.S. 14, Argentina 17. Saves: U.S.--Keller 7. Argentina--Burgos 4. Fouls: U.S. 10, Argentina 9. Yellow cards: U.S. 1, Argentina 2. Halftime: 0-0.

U.S. results, schedule

1999 record: 4-1-1

Date Opponent Result

Jan. 24 Bolivia T, 0-0

Feb. 6 Germany W, 3-0

Feb. 21 Chile W, 2-1

March 11 Guatemala-a W, 3-1

March 13 Mexico-a L, 2-1

June 13 Argentina W, 1-0

July 24 New Zealand-b

July 28 Brazil-b

July 30 Germany-b a-U.S. Cup '99; b-FIFA Confederations Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico

Pub Date: 6/14/99

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