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Beasley’s winner in closing seconds finishes South Korea 2-1, puts positive spin on spotty Gold Cup performance.


Gold Cup standings, results

U.S.-South Korea analysis

Beasley gives U.S a Gold Cup win in match it easily could have easily lost.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

PASADENA, Calif. (Saturday January 19, 2002) -- In a little more than four months, the United States and South Korea will meet in the World Cup in front of more than 68,000 screaming fans in Daegu, South Korea, not to mention an international television audience. The match will be of immense importance because a loss will severely damage either nation’s hopes of advancing from group play to the second round.

Tonight, however, the U.S. defeated South Korea 2-1 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at the Rose Bowl, a victory the Americans didn’t necessarily deserve and a result that must have seemed unfair to the Koreans. Yet, the real meaning of the match was probably the impressions the players made on their coaches -- both good and bad -- as they battle for spots of their World Cup rosters.

U.S coach Bruce Arena certainly took note of Damarcus Beasley’s game-winner three minutes into stoppage time -- less than 30 seconds before the final whistle -- but the match had the feeling of a tie to him. "A point each probably would have been right," he said. "It was a good game, a physical game, but it was not very pretty. A draw would have been a fair result."

Going into the match, the conventional wisdom was that the Koreans were a team of high energy that can't finish, while the Americans, at least this version, shoot little and create few chances. Both sides pretty much lived up to that conventional wisdom.

Truthfully, the U.S. was lucky not to come out of the first half trailing 3-1 with the Koreans controlling the run of play, but demonstrating their usual dreadful finishing.

In the seventh minute, defender Danny Califf used the occasion of his first cap to drag down a Korean in his box, but Yoo Sang Chul hit his penalty kick directly into goalkeeper Kasey Keller's stomach.

While South Korea was squandering opportunities, the Americans made the most of theirs. In the 35th minute, Landon Donovan foiled an attempted offside trap and was alone to take a long pass from fellow striker Ante Razov just above the penalty area. As keeper Lee Woon-Jae rushed out, Donovan calmly volleyed a shot over his head for a 1-0 lead.

That advantage lasted three minutes. Keller, who made a fine save on Choi Yong-Soo in the 32nd minute, had no answer when Song Chong-Guy launched a 35-yard bomb to tie the score at 1-1.

The second half started much like the first, but a turning point came when South Korea's best defender Choi Jin-Cheul pulled down Donovan and correctly was shown a red card in the 65th minute. But even though the Koreans played a man down for the next 35 minutes, they continually carried the match to the U.S. and played like a team a man up and not a man down.

In the end, it was a moment of indecision that was the Koreans’ doom. A defender backed off and allowed Donovan to control on the right side and make a quick pass to Jeff Cunningham in the middle. When he was challenged, he found the charging Beasley who made no mistake with his winner.

Both U.S. goal scorers were 19-years-old. "Thank goodness there was no rule against playing teenagers today," Arena said.

South Korea's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink was left shaking his head in disgust. "A sloppy moment with 25 seconds to play. A loss of concentration, that's what happened," he said. "I tell my players you can't allow this to happen at this level."

If today's match was about players showing Arena they belong on the squad, not too many really helped themselves. Donovan was opportunistic, but inconsistent. Two European-based players really hoping to make an impression -- midfielder Eddie Lewis and defender Frankie Hedjuk -- drew the following comment from Arena: "They could play better."

Young American defenders such as Califf and Carlos Bocanegra were outclassed.

"It's a lot different game," Califf said. "The speed is much greater than in" Major League Soccer.

Hiddink said, "I think we dominated the match in the midfield, especially in the first half." He was correct. Veteran Chris Armas played his usual steady game, but the rest of the midfield was consistently beaten to the ball.

"We got pushed off the ball a lot today," Arena admitted. "I think that's what it will look like in June. They are a very physical team."

Today, the U.S. saw perhaps eight or nine of the players who will likely start for South Korea in the World Cup. Arena used far fewer potential Cup starters. Not only were most of the U.S.'s European-based players, including goalkeeper Brad Friedel, midfielders Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien, strikers Joe-Max Moore and Earnie Stewart, and defender Tony Sanneh not called in, but injured MLS players such as defenders Carlos Llamosa and Eddie Pope, and midfielders Clint Mathis and Ben Olsen were not on today’s roster.

After defeating South Korea for the first time for an all-time 1-3-1 mark, including a 1-0 loss last month in Seogwipo, Arena now thinks he knows what he needs to know about his first-round World Cup foe. "They didn't see the real U.S. team today," Arena said. "But I think we have gotten a good understanding of what Korea is all about. But it really doesn't matter. If one team or the other had won 10-0, it doesn't matter. The match in June will be vastly different."

Player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 6: Made three fine saves, more difficult than his save of the early penalty kick. Another solid performance from a veteran keeper.

Defender Jeff Agoos - 5.5: A few errors, but considering how little help he was getting from the rest of the defense, he can be forgiven.

Defender Danny Califf - 3.5: A truly awful match. Responsible for South Korea being awarded a penalty kick in the seventh minute and could easily have been called for another in the dying seconds.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 4.5: Not terrible, but made a lot of rookie errors. His inexperience showed often.

Defender Frankie Hedjuk - 5.0: Made some excellent defense plays and pushed the ball forward well. His crosses were inconsistent, but a few were on the mark.

Midfielder Chris Armas - 5.5: A solid performance. Had to play defensively all night, but handled his chores well.

Midfielder Manny Lagos - 4: Was out of his depth all day. Contributed little.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis - 5: Continues to be maddeningly inconsistent. Will make a wonderful cross one moment and an awful pass the next. A classy player with international experience, but didn't get the job done today.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6.5: Player of the match. In the right spot at the right time. Showed poise in chipping the goalkeeper for the first goal. Still tends to disappear for too long during matches.

Forward Ante Razov - 4.5: Did not receive much service, but contributed little himself. Tried to come deep to get the ball at times, but without result.

Forward Brian McBride - 5.0: At best when he is a target, he received no service today. Dropped deep at times trying to create for himself, but that is not the strength of his game.

Reserves

Forward Jeff Cunningham (64th minute for Lagos) - 5: Contributed little until the final seconds when his fine touch set up Beasley for winner, Seemed outclassed.

Forward Cobi Jones (74th minute for Razov) - 5: Gave the U.S. a spark in the late going. Contributed some fine play on the wing and a couple of strong crosses.

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (79th minute - for Lewis) - 6: In for 14 minutes and scored the winning goal with a very composed shot. Did little else in his short stint.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com..

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