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U.S. men

Lewis makes statement he belongs in World Cup, nailing winner in 1-0 defeat of Ecuador.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Sunday, March 10, 2002) -- Midfielder Eddie Lewis, making a statement that he belongs on the United States World Cup team, found net midway through the first half, lifting the U.S. to a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in an ugly, contentious match before 24,133 at Legion Field this afternoon.

Lewis’ tally came on the only American shot on goal in the game. Ecuador, losing to the U.S. for the first time, managed three shots on frame, but only one was the least bit dangerous. The Americans are 1-4-4 against Ecuador after scoring for the first time since 1984, having been shut out in six straight meetings.

"Certainly, Eddie Lewis continues to improve himself in my eyes," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "He's not going to get games in England (for his club Fulham in the Premier League.) He hasn't in over a year and I don't expect that to change. The important thing now is that he gets games with us. Eddie has helped himself by playing with us. He's keeping sharp with his club team. He's working hard every day and playing with the reserve team. We just have to keep him active."

The U.S. was able to post its sixth shutout in eight outings in 2002 despite playing the final 32 minutes a man short after striker Clint Mathis was sent off with a red card. The Americans are 6-1-1, outscoring opponents 14-2.

While each side only managed four shots apiece, 36 fouls were called, 19 against the Americans. In addition to the expulsion, U.S. players were cautioned twice and Ecuadoreans three times. There probably should have been more yellow cards and maybe reds.

"What I enjoyed the most out of this game today was that it was not a friendly type of game," Arena said. "Ecuador came out and played a hard 90 minutes. It had the look and smell of a World Cup qualifier out there. You have to play in games like this. When things don't go right, you have to find a way to win, and I think our guys did that. In our first eight games in 2002, I think we've shown marked improvement."

In the 21st minute, midfielder Cobi Jones sent a long ball from the defensive half of the center circle deep into the left corner for Mathis who faced no pressure as he collected the ball. Mathis carried to the perimeter of the penalty area, near the end line, before feeding Lewis eight yards in front of the near post. Lewis laced a left-footed drive that curled away from goalkeeper Jose Cevallos and stretched the far side netting for the 1-0 advantage.

"They played fairly narrow and they gave us good opportunities to get into the channels. I think Clint did a good job breaking off wide, and there was quite a bit of space inside," Lewis said. " Basically the guy that was with me kind of cheated and didn't track me and I think Clint did a real good job to set me up on my left foot. I'm never really extremely pleased with my own play, but it always feels good to score.

"Over the last five or six games I've turned in some pretty positive performances. It's no secret that everybody likes to score and everyone remembers the guys who do. I definitely feel good about this."

For Lewis, who has appeared in six of eight U.S. games this year and now has 36 career caps, the goal was his first in international competition since January 29, 2000.

"I think scoring goals helps (getting selected for the World Cup squad), but I think Bruce is a very good manager and he’s' looking for 23 players who work well together in all types of situations," Lewis said. "Scoring is a bonus, but I don't think it should be the focal point. There’s a lot more to a person's play then one moment."

Keeper Tim Howard, making his first appearance in the U.S. nets, made a quick reaction save in the 32nd minute to protect the lead. Midfielder Edwin Tenorio send a ball forward to striker Carlos Tenorio who fought off defender Gregg Berhalter to get free in the left side of the box. With the Ecudorean coming at a sharp angle, Howard help his ground and kicked away Tenorio’s shot with his right foot.

Howard previously represented the U.S. at the under-17, U-20 and U-23 levels, playing in the 1999 FIFA World Youth (U-20) Championship

In the 58th minute, Mathis was ejected with his second yellow card for leveling Edwin Tenorio, apparently in retaliation for Tenorio knocking over Brian McBride to end an American attack moments earlier. Tenorio was not called for a foul.

"It was a real challenge for our players," Arena said of playing with 10 men. "We dealt with a lot of adversity with the red card early in the second half, but I think our team showed a lot of maturity and composure did a great job in killing off the game and walking out of here with a win. You have to play in games like this.

"(In) Mathis again we see the good and the bad in a game like today. He's still a very dangerous attacking player. He just needs to be a little more mature in these situations.

"The game didn't really have much rhythm," McBride said. "You rarely saw a team connect two or three passes. The intensity was very high. In turn, I think it got chippy at times and we needed to keep our heads a little bit better. Sometimes, they did too. Overall, I think it was a great way to prepare for what's ahead of us."

Defender Jeff Agoos played in his U.S.-best 16th straight international match, last missing a game June 7, 2001, coincidentally, against Ecuador. Agoos now has 125 caps, three shy of defender Marcelo Balboa for second all-time in U.S. history.

United States 1, Ecuador 0

Lineups: United States Tim Howard, Richard Mulrooney, Carlos Llamosa, Gregg Berhalter, Jeff Agoos, Chris Armas (captain), Cobi Jones (Brian West 82), Eddie Lewis, Landon Donovan, Clint Mathis, Brian McBride. Ecuador Jose Cevallos, Edison Mendez, Agusto Porozo (captain), Raul Guerron, Marlon Ayovi, Geovanny Espinosa, Edwin Tenorio, Alfonso Obregon, Cleber Chala (Luis Gomez 66), Nicolas Asencio, Carlos Tenorio.

United States - Lewis (Mathis) 21.

Shots: United States 4, Ecuador 4 Saves: United States 3, Ecuador 0 Corner kicks: United States 4, Ecuador 3. Fouls: United States 19, Ecuador 17. Offside: United States 1, Ecuador 5. Yellow card cautions: United States - Mathis 39, Donovan 50; Ecuador - Tenorio 9, Mendez 39, Porozo 73. Red card ejection: United States - Mathis 58.

Referee: Rodolfo Sibrian(El Salvador).

Assistant referees: Raul Cardona (El Salvador), Gilberto Gonzalez Ramirze (El Salvador). Attendance: 24,133 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. Weather: 55 degrees, brisk.

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