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

U.S. men

Colombia, Grisales hand Americans first home loss in nearly two years 1-0.

Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

MIAMI (Saturday, February 3, 2001) -- Midfielder Freddy Grisalesí goal in the 53rd minute was the highlight of a second-half barrage that lifted Colombia to a 1-0 decision over the United States this afternoon before 14,169 at the Orange Bowl.

Buoyed by the raucous support of a distinctively partisan crowd of 14,169, the South Americans remained undefeated when facing the U.S. at the South Florida venue with a record of 5-0-2 dating back to 1988. The result also marked the first American home loss since March 12, 1999, when the Americans fell to Mexico as part of the Nike U.S. Cup Ď99.

Despite the end of the almost two-year unbeaten home friendly streak, the U.S. still has not dropped a home World Cup qualifier since May 31, 1985 to Costa Rica in Torrance, Calif. The next American match is against Mexico February 28 in Columbus, Ohio, to open the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

"This game was a lesson learned as we look ahead to the game with Mexico," said veteran U.S. defender Jeff Agoos. "Itís better to learn that lesson in a friendly as compared to a World Cup qualifier. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes, and tonight weíve got a little bit of learning to do."

The qualifier against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium will be televised live at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 and Telemundo.

"As a team you can see a change in attitude and fitness on the field as we get closer to the Mexico game," American goalkeeper Tony Meola said. "Weíre making progress and we should be in good shape for that game."

A large percentage of the game's first half was played in the middle third of the field where passing combinations were abundant, but neither team could sustain momentum toward the otherís goal, due in large part to the physical nature of the play and the number of fouls committed by both teams. Combined fouls outnumbered total shots on goal in the half by a whopping margin of 27-2.

The American lineup was bolstered by the return of midfielder Cobi Jones, who made his first start of the year after missing the 1- victory over China last weekend. Jones sprang Chris Albright on goal in the 49th minute with a great through ball to set up one of the best scoring chances of the first hour, but the tough-angle shot was scooped up by Colombia goalkeeper Farid Mondragon.

"I think we did some very good things for some long stretches of the game, but we didn't have the ability to break down their defense in the last third of the field," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who lost on American soil for just the second time in his U.S. reign. "We did a good job of getting in and breaking up their plays. I think we fell asleep a little bit on the goal, but overall we did a good job defensively. Overall our performance was much better this week than last week."

Colombia scored the game's first goal after attacking the left side of the American defense. Nestor Salazar received a pass from near midfield and angled toward the corner flag before pulling up and spotting Grisales moving into the middle of the 18-yard box. Grisales calmly took a touch on the ball toward goal and cracked a shot from eight yards into the near corner past a helpless Tony Meola.

"We got caught out of shape on a counterattack," said Agoos, who earned his 106th international cap. "I went out to mark the guy who had the ball, and he slipped one inside and past me to a runner coming through. Unfortunately, Greg (Vanney) couldn't get back and connect with it. The guy ran through and hit one. It was a bad goal to give up and we have to be better on those kinds of plays."

Defender and Colombia team captain Gerado Bedoya nearly doubled the visitorís lead in the 53rd minute, but his low blast sailed just wide of the right post. Seconds later, Salazar slammed a shot on goal, forcing Meola to make a save as the game opened up into an back-and-forth attacking match.

"They were a pretty good team, and we held our own and then some," U.S. defensive midfielder Chris Armas said. "They pressure well and have some very creative players, and for the most part we held them in check. Like any good team they got one good chance and put it in the back of the net.

Jones nearly set up the equalizer in the 62nd minute, switching Vanney's pass back across the box to Clint Mathis, who blasted a shot on goal from close range. After a quick reaction save by Mondragon, the rebound fell to Albright, but his twisting, hurried shot sailed high over the bar.

"They pay goalkeepers to win matches and to make saves," Mondragon said. "It was a good shot. But I saw it all the way and was able to get to it."

The U.S. will resume training camp in preparation for the qualifier against Mexico on February 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the team will train through February 24 before heading to Columbus.

Colombia 1, United States 0

Lineups: United States - Tony Meola, Jeff Agoos, Greg Vanney (Richie Williams 80), Eddie Pope, Carlos Llamosa (captain), DaMarcus Beasley (Chris Klein 72), Chris Armas, Clint Mathis (Josh Wolff 63), Cobi Jones, Chris Albright, Landon Donovan. Colombia - Farid Mondragon, Jerson Gonzalez, Wilmer Ortegon, Gerado Bedoya (captain), Arley Dinas (Carlos Castro 83), Felipe Arce (David Ferreira 33, Luis Asprilla 93+), Luis Alberto Garcia, Freddy Grisales, Alexander Viveros (Ivan Lopez 78), Julian Vasquez (Rubiel Quintana 75), Nestor Salazar.

Scoring:
Colombia - Griasales (Salazar) 53.

Shots: United States 9, Colombia 11. Saves: United States 5, Colombia 3. Corner kicks: United States 7, Colombia 0. Fouls: United States 22, Colombia 20. Offside: United States 2, Colombia 6. Yellow card cautions: United States - Mathis 49; Colombia - Arce 12, Garcia 91+, Mondragon 91+.

Referee: Rodolfo Sibrian (El Salvador). Assistant referees: Vladimir Fernandez (El Salvador), Raul Cardona (El Salvador). Attendance: 14,169 at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Weather: 82 degrees, partly cloudy, humid.

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

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