Sunday, February 03, 2002

Gold Cup: United States 2, Costa Rica 0

US wins championship

AP Sports Writer

        PASADENA, Calif. — U.S. soccer coach Bruce Arena was extremely pleased, even though part of his job just got tougher.

        With young players providing most of the key plays, the Americans capped an unbeaten trip through the CONCACAF Gold Cup by beating Costa Rica 2-0 in Saturday's title game.

        The United States won the championship of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1991.

        Josh Wolff scored in the 37th minute, and Jeff Agoos got his first goal in six years on a curling free kick in the 63rd.

        The U.S. team was missing most of its regulars who play in Europe but still dominated Costa Rica, which was at full strength. The showing raises the possibility Arena will have some tough decisions on which players to bring to this summer's World Cup.

        Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, both 19, and the 24-year-old Wolff looked particularly good Saturday.

        “I wouldn't sell any of these players short, although there are 12 to 15 of our players in Europe. This was a very good team,” Arena said. “I think winning this gives us momentum as we continue to prepare, and it makes it look more competitive for one of the 23 spots on the (World Cup) roster.

        “I hope it gets really tough to pick a team. That would be a nice problem to have.”

        Arena did say Donovan will be on the U.S. squad that will play an exhibition match against Italy in Catania, Sicily, on Feb. 13.

        Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes, whose team finished ahead of the United States last year in World Cup qualifying, was impressed by the Americans' Gold Cup team.

        “They have some young players with fire and desire,” he said. “They took us out of our normal game.”

        Kasey Keller, trying to revive his chances of becoming the starting World Cup goalkeeper, recorded his fourth shutout in the Americans' five Gold Cup games. Keller, on the bench most of this season for Tottenham Hotspur in England's Premier League, was one of the few American players to return from Europe for the Gold Cup.

        Wolff, who plays for Chicago in Major League Soccer, missed much of World Cup qualifying last year because of a broken foot. He showed his speed and strength on his goal Saturday, outsprinting defender Luis Marin to reach Frankie Hejduk's through pass, then dribbling several steps with Marin trying to knock him off-stride.

        With the defender hanging on him and goalkeeper Erick Lonnis rushing toward him, Wolff tapped the ball with his left foot, rolling it past the sprawling Lonnis, across the box and inside the right post.

        About half the fans in the Rose Bowl cheered wildly as the shot rolled in. The crowd of 14,432 appeared evenly split between supporters of Costa Rica and the United States, with many fans clad in a variety of red, white and blue — both teams' colors.

        The score was Wolff's first since April 25, when he led the Americans over Costa Rica 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Kansas City, Mo.

        “This was only my fourth or fifth game in seven months,” Wolff said. “I was happy to start, to get an opportunity to help our team, and to get a goal. It makes me a little more confident.”

        Agoos, who plays for MLS club San Jose, curled a left-footed shot from 25 yards, sending it just inside the right post. His previous goal for the U.S. team was against Guatemala on Jan. 21, 1996.

        Keller, trying to overtake Blackburn's Brad Friedel as the No. 1 goalie, had to make just four saves. The best was in the 70th, when he tipped away Wilmer Lopez's liner from 15 yards.

        The Americans finished with a 16-12 edge in shots.

        Costa Rica's Paulo Wanchope had one decent chance in the first half, but his volley from near the left post in the 23rd went wide.

        U.S. striker Brian McBride, who had three goals in a 4-0 win over El Salvador and a tournament-high four goals, was voted the Gold Cup's MVP.


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