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Behind Grisales goal, Colombia records 1-0 victory over Americans.

Analysis

Improved U.S. performance not enough to stop young Colombians.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

MIAMI (Saturday, February 3, 2001) -- Although the United States probably played better than it did a week ago in beating China 2-1, it played a much better team today against a youthful Colombian side which came away with a 1-0 victory.

The Colombians were more determined and more physical, and, in the second half, they were continually dangerous.

The U.S. came out aggressively and had a number of good chances early on, but Colombia absorbed the pressure of the Americans who began to lose their shape and seldom threatened after that.

In the second half, Colombia pushed forward and was the far the more dangerous side. Midfielder Freddy Grisales’ 53rd-minute goal was a result of a mistake on defender Greg Vanney’s part and a lack of communication among the U.S. backs who were being tested in different positions.

Vanney lost Nestor Salazar, who looped around to the right side from his position on the left. Defender Jeff Agoos moved out to help cover and in doing so he left open space behind him for Grisales to charge onto a pass from Salazar and blast a bullet past helpless goalkeeper Tony Meola.

"He really didn’t outrun me," Vanney said. "I knew what he was doing but somehow he got the ball under me. I was off balance and wrong footed and it just got underneath me."

There were some good points for the U.S. Meola was strong in goal, certainly much better than a week ago. He made a good save on Salazar midway through the second half, in the 70th minute he parried two good shots during an offensive flurry by Colombia, and then in injury time, made a stop that was strictly world class.

"I felt better this week," Meola said. "On the goal, the guy almost mis-kicked it at first, but it bounded right up to him and he put it high. I got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough."

The best chance for the U.S. was on a blast from midfielder Clint Mathis in the 62nd minute, just seconds before he came out of the match in favor of Josh Wolff. The rebound came to Chris Albright who shot over the crossbar. "The ball just was there and I got a strong shot off," Mathis said. "I looked up and it was going for the back post. I thought it was in. But then I saw the goalie dive. It was a great save."

The young Colombian players were desperate to impress coach Luis Garcia in their final chance to be included in the World Cup qualifying squad that has two key matches in March. Resultantly, they played physically. Fitness, made a difference with the U.S. running out of gas the final 15 minutes.

"This result doesn’t really mean anything," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "What counts is Mexico on the 28th (of February, the opening American qualifier against Mexico)."

U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Tony Meola - 6.5: Rebounded from poor showing last week, making several excellent saves. Not at fault on the goal.

Defender Jeff Agoos - 5: Not his strongest match, finding himself out of position on the goal. Was almost beaten a couple of other times, but recovered. Seemed to tire in the final 20 minutes.

Defender Eddie Pope - 5.5: Played better than a week ago, perhaps because he is more comfortable in the middle than out on the right side. Most likely showed enough to guarantee his position against Mexico

Defender Greg Vanney - 4.5: Showed pretty clearly he cannot play as an outside back. Was beaten several times down the wing and was especially vulnerable when Colombia overloaded his side of the field.

Defender Carlos Llamosa - 5.5: Showed he can play on the outside. Clearly, he is not as comfortable as he is in the middle, but handled Nestor Salazar, Colombia’s biggest threat.

Midfielder Chris Armas - 5.5: A quiet match. Clearly is not near midseason fitness and two matches in a week seemed to affect him. Was pressured in the second half.

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 4.5: Not a good match. His speed helped at times, but his lack of experience showed and he was physically overmatched and marked out of the match.

Midfielder Cobi Jones - 4.5: Disappeared for much of the match and was never a factor.

Midfielder Clint Mathis - 5.5: At times played well and rocketed one shot, the best American scoring chance in the 62nd minute, just before he went off. But for much of the time drifted far back into defense and did not provide the distribution needed from his position

Forward Landon Donovan - 5.5: Played well at times, but was pushed back into the midfield by the strong Colombian defense and was not effective for long periods.

Forward Chris Albright - 4.5: Does not seem ready for prime time. Came up empty on a couple of decent chances. Cannot create for himself.

Reserves

Forward Josh Wolff (63rd minute for Mathis) - 5: Coming off hernia surgery, is not fit to go even a half. Came in as the rest of the team was beginning to fade and was not a factor.

Midfielder Chris Klein (72nd minute for Beasley) - 5: Did not make his presence felt. Needed more time.

Midfielder Richie Williams (80th minute for Vanney) - 5.5: Was brought in for an offensive lift, but instead had to shore up the tiring defense.

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

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