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U.S. team still warming up for World Cup

By Ronald Blum The Associated Press
Tuesday May 21, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. — The United States isn’t quite ready for the World Cup. The way the Americans look at it, they don’t have to be just yet. 

“This takes us down a notch to earth,” U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Netherlands. 

In its last game before heading to soccer’s showcase event, the U.S. team made two key defensive blunders. 

Eddie Pope fell while trying to clear a pass in the final minute of the first half, allowing an easy goal for Roy Makaay. David Regis was stripped of the ball in front of the net by Andy van der Meyde, who hopped over goalkeeper Kasey Keller and put the ball into the open net in the 76th. 

“It’s not that bad that we lost today,” Reyna said. “As much as nobody likes to lose, if perhaps we won today, people would have set high expectations for us.” 

The Americans, who leave for the World Cup from New York on Thursday, had been 10-0 at home in warmup games. But more telling is their 0-4 record this year against European opponents, with losses at Italy, Germany and Ireland. 

At the World Cup, the United States opens June 5 against Portugal, then plays co-host South Korea on June 10 and Poland on June 14. 

Unlike the previous two games, which knocked midfielder Chris Armas and defender Greg Vanney out of the tournament, there didn’t appear to be any major injuries for the Americans (10-4). Defender Jeff Agoos came out in the 41st minute because of tightness in his right calf. 

Arena, who hasn’t said which goalkeeper he’ll start in the World Cup, used Brad Friedel in the first half and Keller in the second. 

“That’s a very difficult decision,” Arena said. “I’m not going to make it now. It won’t be easy when I do make it.” 

The Netherlands, which finished third at the 1998 World Cup, is the best team not going to the World Cup. The Dutch were outshot 18-14 and goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus made 11 saves, including outstanding stops on Reyna, Pope and Cobi Jones. 

American midfielder John O’Brien, who plays with van der Meyde at Ajax Amsterdam, had an open net in the 10th minute but put the ball over the crossbar. In the 63rd, he was stopped by Waterreus from about 24 yards. 

Arena, pleased with the performance, thought back to the only previous meeting between the Americans and the Netherlands, a 2-0 win for a nearly full-strength Dutch team.