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Keller saves U.S. men in 0-0 tie with Scotland.

By Gary Davidson
SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON D.C. (Saturday, May 30, 1998) -- Kasey Keller had little to do Saturday, but without the goalkeeper's one key save, the United States probably would have lost its final tune-up before heading to France for the World Cup.

As it was, the Americans played a scoreless tie with Cup-qualifier Scotland in their sendoff before 46,037 fans in humid 88-degree conditions at RFK Stadium.

"The biggest problem was (Keller) standing there getting heat prostration with nothing to do for 90 minutes," said sweeper Thomas Dooley, the U.S. captain.

In the 59th minute, Keller was called to action when Craig Burley intercepted Eddie Pope's clearance and quickly fed Kevin Gallacher free behind the U.S. defense. Gallacher carried alone into the penalty area, but made Keller's life easy, drilling his 14-yard shot straight at the keeper, who dropped quickly and had the bullet hit off his body and bounce safely away.

"We just made the one mistake, gave him something to do," Dooley said. "That's why we have a goalkeeper and he's one of the best. One mistake we made today and they got a chance, but we have a goalkeeper who can solve the problem."

Keller made two other saves, both times cutting down the angle so the Scots had little choice but shoot right at him. And in the 78th minute, defender Mike Burns made an ill-advised square pass into the box which Keller barely was able to kick away before Gallacher pounced on it for an easy goal.

"It's a game of mistakes," said Pope. "We all take Kasey for granted because he's so good."

While defense was a concern for the Americans during qualifying, they registered their fourth straight shutout and head to France 2-0-3 in their last five outings. The U.S.'s failure to finish good scoring chances, however, continues to be a concern for coach Steve Sampson.

"We have created dozens, dozens and dozens of good scoring opportunities in our last few games," he said. "Individuals must be more composed and precise, especially in front of the goal."

The Americans' best chances came within a one-minute span midway through the first half. In the 19th minute, Pope flicked a header to Dooley in front of the right post, but defender Bill McKinlay was able to get a toe on the ball before Dooley was able to put it away.

Soon after, midfielder Tab Ramos sent a cross to an unmarked Roy Wegerle, but the lone U.S. striker hit his six-yard blast off the crossbar.

"That's always the downside," said Eric Wynalda, who replaced Wegerle in the 62d minute. "The good side is we are creating chances. The chances are coming. We are getting on the end of things. If we were making passes that were going out of bounds, then I'd be worried, but we're connecting and that's all that really matters. When we get to the World Cup, I'm sure we'll score goals."

Wynalda nearly produced the game-winner in the 73d minute. He took a pass from Ernie Stewart, beat a defender around the corner and carried across the end line toward the right post. He tried to curl a shot around keeper Jim Leighton into the far corner, but missed by a foot.

Midfielders Preki Radosavljevic and Cobi Jones had good chances in the box with about 10 minutes later, but Leighton played the angles perfectly.

"I'm disappointed in the tie," said Sampson. "The first half we played well and created chances. The second half both teams were overcome with the heat and it made for a less entertaining match."

Scotland coach Craig Brown, with the unenviable task of playing defending champion Brazil in the World Cup opener June 10, was impressed with the Americans. "The U.S. is going to be extremely difficult to beat, as we found out," he said. "I fully expect the U.S. to advance from its group. Clearly, they're one of the top sides in the world now."

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at info@soccertimes.com.

United States 0, Scotland 0

Lineups: United States - Kasey Keller, Eddie Pope, Thomas Dooley, Mike Burns, David Regis, Tab Ramos (Preki Radosavljevic 56), Joe-Max Moore (Jeff Agoos 69), Chad Deering, Ernie Stewart (Alexi Lalas 82), Cobi Jones, Roy Wegerle (Eric Wynalda 62). Scotland - Jim Leighton, Tom Boyd, Colin Calderwood, Colin Hendry, Thomas McKinlay (Jackie McNamara 60), Kevin Gallacher, Christian Dailly, Darren Jackson, John Collins, Paul Lambert, Bill McKinlay.

Scoring: none. Shots: United States 9, Scotland 8. Saves: United States 3, Scotland 2. Corner kicks: United States 3, Scotland 4. Fouls: United States 14, Scotland 13. Offside: United States 1, Scotland 0. Yellow card cautions: United States - Radosavljevic 64, Burns 69; Scotland - Calderwood 25, Boyd 64.

Referee: Felix Ramos (Mexico). Assistant referees: Guadalupe Martinez (Mexico), Alfonso Alcala (Mexico). Attendance: 46,037 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Weather: 88 degrees, sunny, humid.