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Wolff's goal off deflection lifts U.S. over Costa Rica 1-0.

Mexico ties Trinidad 1-1, Jamaica and Honduras draw 1-1.

Analysis

Give Razov bench act an assist in U.S. victory over Costa Rica.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Wednesday, April 25, 2001) -- Striker Ante Razov waiting at the scorer’s table has become a potent weapon for the United States.

World Cup Qualifying
CONCACAF 2001
Team W L T GF GA Pts
United States 3 0 0 5 1 9
Costa Rica 1 1 1 5 3 4
Mexico 1 1 1 5 3 4
Jamaica 1 1 1 2 5 4
Honduras 0 1 2 4 5 2
Trinidad Tobago 0 2 1 1 5 1
Each nation plays 10 games

Wedneday's games
United States 1, Costa Rica 0
Jamaica 1, Honduras 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1, Mexico 1

For the second time in four World Cup qualifiers, the player he was waiting to replace scored a key goal in a victory. Tonight, he watched Josh Wolff’s opportunistic tally give the United States a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica at Arrowhead Stadium for a commanding lead in CONCACAF’s final World Cup qualifying round robin.

"Sure I saw Ante coming down the path," said Wolff of Razov who also was about to go in for Clint Mathis when he scored in a 4-0 semifinal-round victory over Barbados in November. "I figured he was coming in for me, so I thought I had better get something done. Good thing the ball came to me."

Arena started essentially the same team he did last month for a 2-1 decision in Honduras. The only differences were Kasey Keller replaced Brad Friedel in goal, and a healthy Claudio Reyna resumed his midfield chores with Mathis moving to the front line instead of Razov.

The result was a typical U.S.-Costa Rica match with tight marking from two improving defenses that did not allow many openings.

"Over the last 10 matches our guys have gotten better and better in back," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said "We are playing very well in back and that showed tonight."

With Arena taking advantage of his players’ versatility, not every American was playing at his best position. At times, especially in the first half the, U.S. looked disjointed and displayed a reluctance to shoot. Things improved in the second half, when the U.S. started controlling play and capitalizing on its chances.

With as much offensive firepower as Costa Rica possesses with players like Paulo Wanchope, Hernando Medford and Rolando Fonseca, the Ticos are deadly at home, but surprisingly punchless on the road. In the previous three meetings between the two nations on U.S. soil, Costa Rica has played defensively all three times, losing 1-0 and 2-1 and drawing 0-0.

So it was not surprising that Costa Rica brought as many as nine players behind the ball in the first half, hoping for a quick counter by Wanchope and Medford. In the first half, that is essentially what the U.S. saw. Neither team had much of a look at goal in the opening 45 minutues.

After Wolff scored in the 70th minute, the Ticos opened up and dominated the action, but the U.S. defense and a well-positioned Keller were able to maintain the shutout, the sixth for the Americans in their lasy seven outing.

"Costa Rica always seems to play its very best against us," U.S. midfielder Earnie Stewart said. "Playing against the U.S. seems to lift their spirits. This is becoming probably our best rivalry, even better than the U.S.-Mexico."

U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 7.5: Right where he should have been every time. Good decisions and perfect positioning.

Defender David Regis - 5.5: Made a few good plays, but was not a factor for much of the match. Possibly his strong point was a couple long, accurate crosses.

Defender Steve Cherundolo- 5.5: A good effort for his third nationa- team appearance, but is still has much to learn.

Defender Jeff Agoos - 6.5: The best U.S. defender, marshaling the back line. Was lucky not to have been ejected for undetected hand ball which prevented a Wanchope breakaway in first half.

Defender Carlos Llamosa - 6.5: As he has done before, held Wanchope in check and was a rock in the back.

Midfielder Chris Armas - 5.5: Disappeared for much of the first half, but had a much stronger second 45.

Midfielder Tony Sanneh - 5.5: Good defensive performance. Less effective offensively, but did create several chances.

Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 5: Seemed out of sync most of the night. Played hard, but was closely marked and not much of a factor.

Midfielder Earnie Stewart - 5.5: Certainly not his strongest match after a string of effective performances. Good early when he was in the center of the field, but was less a factor on the wing. Better in second half when he moved back into the middle.

Forward Clint Mathis - 5.5: Took a pounding and was not given much space. Was dangerous at times, but he has been better and seems more comfortable in the midfield.

Forward Josh Wolff - 6: Came close twice and then was in the right place at the right time to net the winner. Better than he was in his last outing, but not an outstanding performance.

Reserves

Forward Ante Razov (71st minute for Wolff) - 6: Brought in to be physical and to win balls in the air. Did exactly what was asked of him.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis (81st minute for Mathis) - 5.5: Made several clearances in brief role.

Defender Greg Berhalter (89th minute for Reyna) - no rating: Again called in for last-second defense.

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

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