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U.S. NOTES

Ahn Shows His Icy Demeanor

June 11, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DAEGU, South Korea — When Ahn Jung Hwan scored the tying goal for South Korea on Monday against the United States, his reaction was immediate.

The forward raced to the corner flag and went into a peculiar crouch, curling his left arm behind his back and pumping his legs, not unlike an Olympic short-track speedskater. That was exactly Ahn's intention.

The display, not at all impromptu, was in honor of South Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung, who, many Koreans believe, was robbed of a gold medal at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when judges disqualified him in the 1,500-meter race for allegedly impeding U.S. skater Apolo Anton Ohno.

Ohno was awarded the gold and South Korea has harbored a sporting grudge ever since. Kim had intended to be at Monday's game, but opted out, one of his sponsors said, because of "concerns that his presence at the stadium would arouse anti-American feelings among the audience."

Ahn walked through the post-game mixed zone without fielding reporters' questions about his goal or his subsequent celebration.

*

Clint "Mohawk" Mathis was asked why he had shaved his head, leaving the distinctive strip down the middle, which he dyed brown, then spiked.

"I have no idea," he replied. "You get bored, sometimes, when you don't get to leave your hotel room."

*

Midfielder Claudio Reyna was worried before the game that because he was coming off a thigh injury he might not be able to last.

"If you start a match, you have to plan to go for 90 minutes, so hopefully I can," he said a couple of days before the game.

Afterward, he said he is fine and ready to play against Poland on Thursday.

"I felt good," he said. "I haven't played since the Holland game [in Foxboro, Mass., on May 19] and there was probably a week that I didn't train at all, so I was happy with my fitness, and running around was good. Adrenaline kept me going for a while. I was hoping it would and it kind of worked out, so I'm happy."

*

The heat that was supposed to have a negative impact on the U.S. team's performance never showed up. The game was played under overcast skies and cooled by a breeze that kept the temperature at a reasonably comfortable 77 degrees.

"It was warm out there," goalkeeper Brad Friedel said, "but we were quite thankful that there was a lot of cloud cover because it was a lot more warm and humid than in Seoul where we've been training."

*

Ludwig Von Beethoven, as far as is known, never saw a soccer game, but his music made an appearance Monday. Music by Beethoven, lyrics by South Korea's fans, that is.

Late in the game, with the score tied and South Korea pushing for the victory, the fans in Daegu Stadium tried to lift their team even further by singing to the tune of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

On an afternoon when the atmosphere was tremendous throughout, it made for the perfect ending.

*

By bringing Eddie Lewis and Josh Wolff on as second-half substitutes, Coach Bruce Arena increased the number of American players who have appeared in this World Cup to 18.

Only defenders Gregg Berhalter, Steve Cherundolo and David Regis, and goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Tony Meola have not played so far.

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