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Olympic men's qualifying

Albright nets pair, Olsen, Thorrington shine for U.S. in 3-0 handling of Honduras.

By Robert Wagman

HERSHEY, Pa. (Friday, April 21, 2000) – The United States under-23 men took a large step toward the Summer Olympics tonight, getting two goals from Chris Albright, a goal and an assist from John Thorrington and two assists from Ben Olsen to down Honduras 3-0 to open the CONCACAF qualifying tournament Group D play before 11,229 at Hersheypark Stadium.

The U.S. completes play in the three-nation group here Tuesday night against Canada, with the top two finishers advancing to Friday’s semifinals against the first two from Group E which includes, Mexico, Guatemala (1-0) and Panama (0-1). With the winner of each group playing the second-place finisher from the other, the two semifinal winners earn entrance to the Olympics September in Sydney, Australia. Sunday’s championship game is ceremonial with no qualification implications.

With the three points and plus-three goal-differential from the victory, the U.S. looks certain to advance to the semifinals, but a triumph over Canada is important. By winning Group D, the U.S. has the best chance of avoiding Mexico, the strong Group E favorite, in a semifinal with qualification on the line.

Canada "will be difficult," U.S. coach Clive Charles said. "They are a team that does not give an inch. But we'll be ready on Tuesday."

Guatemala beat Panama 2-1 in tonight’s opener.

While the trio of Albright, Thorrington and Olsen provided the offensive highlights, the Americans were sparked by the outstanding play of their goalkeeper Adin Brown, including two point-blank saves in the first four minutes of the second half. With the U.S. clinging to a tenuous 1-0 lead, Brown parried away a strong shot from Luis Ramirez and then covered a blast from Hesler Phillips during a two-minute flurry.

"That was the key to this game," Charles said. "Our keeper came up with two great saves. He kept us in the match when it might have gone 1-1."

Commented Brown, who made five total saves and was extremely active throughout the match: "Luckily on the second shot I was in the right position. I was there so I could handle it. The ball did come with a lot of pace."

Albright and Olsen, who are both Pennsylvania natives and teammates on D.C. United in Major League Soccer, combined to put the U.S. ahead 1-0 in the 37th minute. Defender Ramiro Corrales started the sequence, sidestepping two defenders before sending a long ball from his own penalty area 40 yards up the middle of the field. Olsen eluded a defender and brought the ball quickly down the right side before sending a cross into the path of Albright, who was in full stride coming down the middle. Albright ran onto the ball and pushed his shot 10 yards just inside the right post past Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

The U.S. dominated the first half, but wasted several close-in scoring chances. Honduras showed renewed energy and applied constant pressure, keeping the U.S. pinned deep in its own end for the first 20 minutes after intermission. Only the aggressive play of Brown kept Honduras off the score sheet.

"They were all over us for the first 20 minutes of the second half," Charles said. "This is a very, very good Honduras team and they played very hard. They gave us al we could handle."

The tide turned in the 74th minute when Olsen, who played exceptionally well, hit a wicked long shot that Valladares barely reached. Three minutes later, Albright made it 2-0. Corrales again started the play, sending a pass to Thorrington who carried deep down the right flank before sending a cross into the penalty area. Valladares punched the ball to the top of the box where Albright hit it on the first touch off the left post and rolling across the goal line where two defenders failed to keep it from going in.

In he 85th minute, Olsen put Thorrington through the tiring Honduras defense for a 16-yard shot that made it 3-0.

"Overall it was a good match," Charles said. "Both teams played attacking soccer. We're just happy to get out of there with a win. This was a team win. The whole 11 and the substitutes all played well. Albright and Olsen were both something special. But all the guys played well."

The Hondurans had every reason to be weary. Because of a dispute with their national federation over bonus money, the team did not arrive from Honduras in Hershey until this morning, 15 hours before kickoff. Missing was their best player, Oscar David Suazo, who was not given his release by his Italian club team.

United States 3, Honduras 0

Lineups: United States - Adin Brown, Ramiro Corrales, Brian Dunseth (captain), Chad McCarty, Steve Cherundolo, DaMarcus Beasley (John Thorrington 67), John O'Brien, Peter Vagenas (Brian Winters 73), Ben Olsen, Conor Casey, Josh Wolff 80), Chris Albright, Honduras - Noel Valladares, Jamie Rosales, Junior Izaguirre, Elmer Montoya (Orvin Cabrrera 46), Danilo Turcios, Ivan Guerrero (captain), Maynor Suazo, Mario Chirinos (Carlos Oliva 69), Hector Gutierrez (Hestor Phillips 46), Francisco Pavon, Luis Ramirez.

United States - Albright (Olsen) 37.
United States - Albright (Thorrington) 77.
United States - Thorrington (Olsen) 85.

Shots: United States 17, Honduras 7. Saves: United States 5, Honduras 7. Corner kicks: United States 8, Honduras 4. Fouls: United States 20, Honduras 9. Offside: United States 2, Honduras 2. Yellow card cautions: United States - Corrales 67, Dunseth 68, McCarty 74. Honduras - Chirninos 34, Rosales 39.

Referee: Peter Pendergast (Jamaica). Assistant referees: Peter Kelly (Jamaica), Francois Clemroy (Jamaica). Attendance: 11,229 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. Weather: 50 degrees, cold, crisp, wet from rain prior to match.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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