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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SOCCER

U.S. Doesn't Medal but Makes Progress

Soccer: Men outdo predecessors by finishing fourth after 2-0 loss to Chile in bronze-medal game.

September 30, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — For a pool player, Brian Dunseth should have known a bank shot from that angle wasn't going to work.

Nevertheless, had Dunseth's shot been a few inches lower Friday night, the United States today might be celebrating its first Olympic medal in men's soccer.

Instead, the Americans fly home knowing they did better than any U.S. men's Olympic soccer team before them, finishing fourth after a 2-0 loss to Chile in the bronze-medal game.

The match was far closer than the score might indicate, with both of Chile's goals--each one courtesy of Ivan "Bam Bam" Zamorano--coming in the final 21 minutes.

The large contingent of Chilean fans in the crowd of 26,381 at the Sydney Football Stadium survived a nervous hour, watching the Americans apply most of the offensive pressure.

Josh Wolff created a glorious chance early, only to see Nelson Tapia, Chile's World Cup '98 goalkeeper, fling himself low to his right to make the save.

Tapia also was forced to tip a fierce shot by Conor Casey over the bar in the first minute of the second half.

Dunseth, who was making his Olympic debut after injury and the solid play of Danny Califf kept him out of the lineup, came even closer to scoring, driving a corner kick from Jeff Agoos against the crossbar in the 66th minute during a period of U.S. domination.

The ball rebounded away and with it went the U.S medal chances.

"Zamorano was marking me and he left me free," Dunseth said, "so I decided to fake in and come back out [at the far post]. The ball bounced to me and I tried to put it in. I just got a little under it and got it a little high.

"I was shocked. I thought when I hit it it was going in. Unfortunately, it hit the crossbar. It's one of those [moments] I'm going to think about all night long."

Zamorano, 33, from Inter Milan in Italy, is worth tens of millions of dollars and was always going to be dangerous for the U.S. It was Dunseth and Califf's job to keep him in check.

They did it so well that by halftime Zamorano was furious at his teammates.

"The little bit of Spanish that I do know, there was a lot of cursing," Dunseth said. "They were getting frustrated. Danny and I just tried to focus on standing him up as much as possible and limiting their chances."

Chile finally broke through in the 69th minute when Califf brought down substitute Sebastien Gonzalez in the penalty area and Australia referee Simon Micallef awarded Chile a penalty kick.

Zamorano scored and then added a second goal in the 84th minute after a six-pass sequence involving five Chilean players.

"You have to look at it in the most positive light," Dunseth said of the Olympic experience. "Of course we're disappointed that we haven't had the opportunity to bring home something.

"But at the same time when you look at what we have accomplished in this tournament, the quality of games we've played and the quality of the players we've played against, it's something to be proud of.

"It's tough right now to swallow, because you always want to come home proud, showing it off that you have a medal. But at the same time we've proven that not only can we compete, we can beat teams that always are considered better than we are.

"Getting fourth place in the Olympics is something that no one really thought we were capable of doing."

There's something else that will be in Dunseth's baggage on the flight home.

He will be bringing with him Zamorano's jersey, a memento of the night the former Damien High and Cal State Fullerton player from Upland came very close to upstaging one of the world's top strikers.

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