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Second-half outburst sends Germany past U.S. 4-2 despite Mathis pair.

Kellerís heroics can only go so far in holding off superior German side from 4-2 triumph.

United States takes lucky Mathis goal, little else from uninspired victory over Mexico.

U.S. men

Mathis might deserve assist on his goal, sending U.S. to fortunate 1-0 victory over Mexico.

DENVER (Wednesday, April 3, 2002) -- Clint Mathis had a large, empty goal staring him in the face, but his shot managed to find its way into the goal only by a matter of inches.

After Mexico goalkeeper Oscar Perez and defender Manual Vidrio collided and fell into a heap after simultaneously going for an easy ball, Mathis rocketed his six-yard shot off the bottom of the crossbar and in for the only goal of the match, giving the United States an uninspired 1-0 victory over Mexico in a warm-up for both World Cup entrants before 48,476 at Invesco Field tonight.

Defender Carlos Llamosa started the winning sequence with a long looping ball from his defensive half that either Vidrio or Perez should have easily handled. Mathis probably should have been awarded an assist on his goal. While trailing Vidrio, he planted his right hand in the small of the Mexicanís back and gave a firm shove that might have precipitated the collision.

As Perez went airborne for what he surely thought would be an simple grab, Vidrio came flying into his waist knocking him off the ball. With Vidrio lying on the ground and Perez staring helpless with a horrified look, Mathis pivoted from the top right of the six-yard box for a right-footed side-volley that elevated eight feet but caught the bottom off the bar and bounced down a yard behind the goal line in the 66th minute.

For Mathis, the goal marked the seventh consecutive start in which he has recorded at least a one goal or assist. "Carlos just dumped the ball in and I didnít think anything was going to come out of it, but I went for it anyway and luckily those guys collided," he said. "The ball came to me and I definitely made it a little dramatic by hitting it off the crossbar, but a goal is a goal and weíll take Ďem how they come."

The U.S. has now won four straight home matches against Mexico, outscoring their southern neighbor 8-0 in those matches. Bruce Arenaís squad is also 7-0-1 at home in 2002 and is in the midst of a 712-minute shutout streak on home soil, a span that includes seven straight shutouts.

"We are obviously very happy with the win today," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena. "Anytime we can beat a quality team like Mexico we have to be happy. I thought in the first half, the Mexican team did a great job pressuring us and we were fortunate to go into halftime even. We played extremely well in the second half and deserved to win the game."

Even with the victory, it wasnít an impressive outing for either nation. The U.S. did not take its first dangerous shot until the 64th minute when Mathis slid a free kick behind a Mexican defensive wall in the penalty area to streaking midfielder Cobi Jones who turned and targeted a left-footer off the crossbar and out of play.

After a sluggish first-half for both sides, the U.S. made two changes after the break, altering its formation to a 3-5-2 with the loss of left back Greg Vanney (who played the first half despite a strained back). With the addition of Josh Wolff to the attack and Carlos Llamosa to the defense, the U.S. managed some offensive pressure.

"Itís still about 11 players on the field. I think sometimes people get into formations too much," Arena said. "I want to make it clear that I donít think that was the deciding factor in the game. Having said that, we started the game in a version of a 4-5-1. We wanted to play Vanney and (Frankie) Hejduk for 90 minutes to give them a good evaluation, so we were committed to play four in the back. So with the injury to Vanney, and (with (Carlos) Bocanegra unavailable because of a fractured toe, we only really had three defenders who could play. And then the other part was Mexico did a little better job in the midfield in the first half, and we needed to plant another player in the midfield. Lastly, I think it was difficult for Ante (Razov) playing up there alone. Maybe we didnít give him the fairest look in the way he was positioned in the first half, and we had to play two strikers."

Just seconds into the second half, Perez bobbled a well-placed cross from Wolff that bounced awkwardly in the penalty area in front of Donovan with the net open, but Vidrio was able to clear the ball. A few minutes later, Wolff freed himself for a shot on goal -- the Americans' first -- from 20 yards that was struck directly at Perez, who made the save.

"I am extremely proud of our team," Arena said. "It has been a tough four months of preparation for the World Cup. In all honesty, some of our players were simply exhausted today. This is a day where the soccer wasnít great and you had to have a big heart to win."

While not particularly skillful, the match was physical with 40 fouls called, 21 on Mexico. Each team had two players cautioned and there were several heated exchanges.

Mexico's Alberto Garcia Aspe and U.S. midfielder Frankie Hejduk received red cards in the 90th minute after getting into a shoving match in one corner.

Mexico midfielder Braulio Luna became agitated, yelling and gesturing at U.S. players several times after tackles while Perez charged out of the box after a tackle by Hejduk.

Mexico coach Javier Aguirre had to be restrained after Melvin Brown knocked into U.S. player DeMarcus Beasley at the end of the first half. Aguirre had an animated discussion with game officials for several minutes on the field during halftime.

In addition to winning four of their last five encounters with Mexico, the Americans are now 7-6-6 in the 19 games in the series since the start of the 1990s.

Goalkeeper Tony Meola made his 98th appearance for the U.S., earning his 32nd shutout and extending his American records in both goalkeeping categories. The victory also moved the 33-year-old veteranís record against Mexico to 4-1-1 in seven total appearances.

The match was the first full international for the U.S. men in Denver in almost 10 years, going back to a 1-0 loss to Scotland on May 15, 1992. More recently, the U.S. played at the original Mile High Stadium on July 13, 1999, defeating English club team Derby County 2-1.

Mexico lost captain and defender Claudio Suarez, 33, for the match and probably the World Cup Tuesday night when he broke his leg chasing down a ball on a slippery practice field. One of Mexico's most-capped players, his recovery time is listed at six-to-eight weeks.

United States 1, Mexico 0

Lineups: United States - Tony Meola, Frankie Hejduk, Pablo Mastroeni, Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney (Carlos Llamosa 46), Richard Mulrooney; Cobi Jones - captain (Brian Maisonneuve 69), Clint Mathis, Landon Donovan (Brian West 77), DaMarcus Beasley, Ante Razov (Josh Wolff 46). Mexico - Oscar Perez, Manuel Vidrio, Melvin Brown, Heriberto Morales, Alberto Rodriguez (Javier Saavedra 46), German Villa (Sigifredo Mercado 57), Braulio Luna, Jesus Mendoza (Adolfo Bautista 46), Gabriel Caballero (Johan Rodriguez 57), Daniel Osorno (Alberto Garcia Aspe 68), Carlos Ochoa.

United States - Mathis (Llamosa) 66.

Shots: United States 6, Mexico 9. Saves: United States 2, Mexico 2. Corner kicks: United States 2, Mexico 5. Fouls: United States 19, Mexico 21. Offside: United States 4, Mexico 7. Yellow card cautions: United States - Pope 17, Donovan 68; Mexico - Brown 46+, Luna 77. Red card ejections: United States - Hejduk 90; Mexico - Garcia Aspe 90.

Referee: Clive Wright (Jamaica). Assistant referees: Ricardo Morgan (Jamaica), David Miekle (Jamaica). Attendance: 48,476 at Invesco Field in Denver. Weather:. 42 degrees, clear.

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