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  • Second-half goals relieve pressure on U.S. for Grenada return leg.

    U.S. men

    Beasley's pair sparks 3-0 victory over Grenada to open qualifing series.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sunday, June 13, 2004) -- Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley scored twice while defender Greg Vanney added an important goal in the closing moments as the United States men survived a nervous start to record a 3-0 victory over Grenada in the opening leg of the CONCACAF second-round qualifying series before 9,137 at Crew Stadium this afternoon.

    The return match of this two-game, total-goals series will be staged next Sunday at National Stadium in St. George's, Grenada, at 4 p.m. (ET) match to be broadcast by ESPN2 and Telemundo.

    "I think the third goal was important, especially with aggregate scoring, so give our guys credit," U.S. manager Bruce Arena said. "If we're critical of anything, it was certainly our finishing."

    The U.S. outshot Grenada 34-6, 14-1 on frame, and held a 17-1 advantage of corner kicks. Kasey Keller was called on for one save to pass Tony Meola into first place on the all-time win list for U.S. goalkeepers with 38 in 69 appearances. Keller's clean sheet was the 34th of his career, extending his U.S. record, and increasing the American shutout streak to 381 minutes, compiled by four keepers.

    "I still feel good out there, even though Iím getting a bit older," said Keller, 34. "Iíve got plenty of more years left in me. I got the shutout record last year, so with both the national team and my club, itís been a nice year for me. Iíve had a good career with the national team and Iíve got some good years left to go."

    The Americans survived a couple of Grenadian near misses and its own failed opportunities in the first half. In the first half, the U.S. three times had shots from inside the penalty area cleared by defenders off the Grenada goal line.

    Grenada's "defensive effort, their commitment and the good play of their goalkeeper kept the game close throughout," Arena said. "We expected them to come out and play defensively, and rightfully so. When they have that many players behind the ball, it's not easy to break down and we need to be a little bit sharper. At the end of the day we are certainly pleased with a three-goal margin."

    Beasley finally broke through just as first-half stoppage time began. Midfielder Claudio Reyna took a pass from defender Carlos Bocanegra and forwarded it to midfielder Landon Donovan deep along the outside of the right perimeter of the penalty area. Donovan touched the ball back to the top corner of the box to Reyna who bent a perfect cross to Beasley at the far post. From five yards out, Beasley beat keeper Kellon Baptiste to the near post to make it 1-0..

    "It was frustrating, but in a game like this, it takes a lot to get the first goal," Beasley said. "Once you do, the second and third ones are going to come. Weíre confident going down to Grenada, and hopefully we can wrap it up there."

    Reyna said. "I just put it in the danger zone. We talked before the game about getting a lot of crosses in. We were able to get some openings out wide and DaMarcus did well to get on the end of it. We had a few chances on crosses before that and were finally able to get one at a good time."

    A quick counter-attack provided the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Eddie Pope's sliding clearance in his box went to fellow defender Steve Cherundolo for a quick pass to Donovan on the far right of the center stripe. Donovan carried unchallenged to the within 10 yards of the top right of the box before making a beautiful touch into the left center of the penalty area. In full stride, Beasley ran onto the ball 10 yards out and laced a left-footer with his first touch into the right corner.

    "Jovan made a great run to the near post and there was no one else around me," Besaley said. "I didnít know whether to hit it first time or take a touch, but I said. 'Hey, might as well hit it first time.' The keeper was leaning to the near post, so I hit it far post and it went in."

    Arena is impressed with the continued improvement of the 22-year-old Beasley. "Technically, heís getting a little bit better," he said. "Heís getting a bit stronger, too. Heís proven that he can play a full schedule in (Major League Soccer) and rarely misses a national-team game. The quality that he and Landon have as young players is that over 90 minutes they are unbelievably alert and never miss a beat. It doesnít mean that they are perfect and donít foul up plays, but DaMarcus is a load on both sides of the ball. Iíve always said that DaMarcus is about the best defensive player we have on our team. Today, he finished off two chances for us. He gets it done."

    Eddie Lewis, who replaced Chris Armas in the midfield in the 73rd minute, set up the third U.S. goal., chesting Bocanegra's looping pass back to Vanney who charged forward unchallenged into the left side of the box and drilled a left-footer off Baptiste's hand into the right corner for his first international tally in the third minute of injury time.

    "A two-goal lead is tough. You think youíre comfortable and youíre really not (in the second leg)," Vanney said. "Three goals makes it a lot easier. Going down there, you never know what the surface is like, and you donít want to leave it to chance. The goal was very important. It gives a little bit of comfort going down there. But we still have a lot of work to do and weíre going to be ready."

    Grenada nearly took a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who plays for MLS's New England Revolution, found striker Jason Roberts slipping behind Cherundolo into the box. With Cherundolo on his back, Roberts, who plays for Wigan Athletic in England's First Division and is rumored heading for the Premier League, weakly looped a shot over Keller. The keeper retreated and caught the ball over his shoulder, cradling it as he fell to the ground three yards from his line.

    In the 16th minute, a long pass from the defensive half again found Roberts behind the U.S. defense. With Bocanegra sliding in with a foot from behind, Roberts shot well over the crossbar from seven yards.

    A minute later, Reyna sent an accurate cross to striker Brian McBride whose seven-yard header went just wide of the right post.

    In the 38th minute, Bocanegra settled under Vanney's left-side corner and targeted a header on one hop for the left corner, beating Baptiste but watching defender Kennedy Phillip clear it. Four minutes later, Grenada midfielder Ricky Charles stopped McBride point-blank with his right foot at his right post. Charles, then got up, slid along the goal line to his left and used his left thigh to knock away Reyna's rebound blast from the middle of the box.

    "All along, we knew over 90 minutes that (Grenada's) fitness was going to be a question," Arena said. "However, itís a little bit easier when they just sit back and arenít running as much. After 35 minutes, you could see that they were basically done."

    Starting forward Conor Casey came out of the game in the 21st minute with a sprained right knee, replaced by Jovan Kirovski. His knee having buckled as he challenged for the ball, Casey is expected to be out for six weeks.

    Earnie Stewart, who returned to Washington, D.C., to help depleted D.C. United play a 0-0 draw last night against the Colorado Rapids in MLS, caught a 6:15 a.m. flight back to Columbus. He played the final minute to earn his 99th cap, 28 coming in World Cup qualifiers. He hopes to become the eighth American to cross the 100 milestone in international appearances.

    Should the U.S. win this series, it will face the winner of the Jamaica-Haiti series -- the two sides drew 1-1 yesterday -- August 18 on the road to begin the semifinal round of qualifying.


    United States 3, Grenada 0

    Lineups: United States: Kasey Keller, Steve Cherundolo, Eddie Pope, Carlos Bocanegra, Greg Vanney, Claudio Reyna (captain), Chris Armas (Eddie Lewis 73), Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Brian McBride (Earnie Stewart 92+), Conor Casey (Jovan Kirovski 21). Grenada - Kellon Baptiste, Anthony Modeste (captain), Franklin Baptiste, Brian Benjamin (Eric George 67), Kennedy Phillip (Byron Bubb, 75), Ricky Charles, Shalrie Joseph, Anthony Bedeau, Patrick Modeste, Jason Roberts, Everett Watts (8-Nigel Bishop, 52).

    Scoring:
    United States - Beasley (Reyna) 46+.
    United States - Beasley (Donovan) 71.
    United States - Vanney (Lewis) 93+.

    Shots: United States 34, Grenada 6. Saves: United States 1, Grenada 11. Corner kicks: United States 17, Grenada 1. Fouls: United States 20, Grenada 12. Offside: United States 1, Grenada 4. Yellow card cautions: United States - Pope 25, Lewis 82; Grenada 28.

    Referee: Mauricio Navarro (Canada). Assistant referees: Hector Vergara (Canada), Simon Fearn (Canada). Attendance: 9,137 at Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium. Weather: 82 degrees, cloudy.

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