U.S. beats Honduras, 3-0, in Olympic qualifier

American team finishes strong in its opener

April 22, 2000|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

HERSHEY, Pa. -- The U.S. Under-23 players needed some time to get organized in their Olympic qualifying opener against Honduras last night, but they finished strong and left their chilled, tired opponent behind in a 3-0 win.

D.C. United forward Chris Albright scored in each half for the Americans, and midfielder John Thorrington, a 67th-minute substitute who plays for Bayer Leverkusen's reserve team in Germany, scored once and posted an assist in the victory.

Midfielder Ben Olsen, another young D.C. United standout who grew up near Hershey, got two assists and put on a show before 11,229 at Hersheypark Stadium that dizzied right-side Honduran defenders at time.

The win gave the U.S. team three points in group play in the Olympic qualifying tournament, and with a win against Canada here Tuesday, the Americans will reach the semifinals, also here, on April 28. Winning the semifinal would guarantee the U.S. team one of two spots from North and Central America and the Carribean in the summer's Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

"Honduras is a very good team, and they put us under a lot of pressure in the first 15 minutes," U.S. coach Clive Charles said. "We're just happy to get out of there with a win."

"We knew that [Honduras] wasn't going to be as sharp as they usually are," Olsen said, alluding to the fact that the Hondurans arrived in Hershey at 6 a.m. yesterday after a brief strike back home over pay earlier in the week.

If anything, the margin of victory could have been wider had it not been for Honduran goalkeeper Belarmino Rivera's exceptional play. He robbed Albright at least twice and had several other diving or point-blank saves that frustrated the Americans. He was credited with seven saves.

The Americans took the lead in the 37th minute on sparkling combination work by Olsen and Albright, who played together one year at Virginia before turning pro.

Albright finished from about eight yards, slotting his shot to the near post past the diving Rivera.

Olsen had broken clear on the right flank, moved to the outside corner of the penalty box, and touched a perfect pass to Albright.

Albright gave credit to Olsen for his first goal.

"I was actually going to go for the ball, he said, "but Benny's better at handling the ball and passing. I just made a run to the near post, he played a beautiful ball, and I just got my foot on it."

After that score, the Americans created several more chances, the best by Albright in the 47th minute after taking a pass at midfield, splitting two defenders and sprinting toward the goal.

His hard shot from 18 yards was blocked crisply down by Rivera, who, four minutes earlier, made a diving deflection off a shot from the right side of the box by Connor Casey.

Honduras barely missed taking the lead in the 44th minute, against the flow of play, but American goalkeeper Adin Brown leaped to grab a chip off his goal line.

Honduras opened the second half on a chilly, damp night with its most assertive play but could do no more than rattle American defenders.

In the 75th minute, the U.S. attack began again, with Olsen snapping a 30-yard shot that Rivera barely deflected wide with a dive to his right. A minute later, Albright nearly scored again, but Rivera snuffed his attempt from seven yards.

Then, in the 77th minute, Albright made it 2-0 from 18 yards, ramming back a rebound off Rivera, who had blocked a dipping cross from the right side from Thorrington.

Albright's shot deflected off a stretching Honduran defender's foot but would have been in anyway.

Thorrington iced the win in the 85th minute, scoring from 16 yards off another terrific centering pass from Olsen on the right flank.

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