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U.S. NOTES

He Knows What It's Like to Be in Poles' Position

June 12, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

INCHON, South Korea — After the United States had lost its first two games at the France '98 World Cup, it went into its final match against Yugoslavia determined to prove something.

The fact that the U.S. lost, 1-0, is beside the point. It was the team's attitude that mattered, goalkeeper Brad Friedel said Tuesday, because Poland could easily bring that same attitude to Friday's crucial game against the U.S. in Daejeon, South Korea.

The Poles have not only been beaten but have been shut out in their first two matches at this World Cup, and a loss to the Americans is unthinkable in Polish eyes. The U.S. needs at least a tie to make sure of advancing.

"I think, first and foremost, you want to go out and try to save some face," Friedel said of teams that find themselves in that position.

"I think our performance against Yugoslavia was probably our best performance of the [France '98] tournament.

"It's a difficult situation when you know you're going home the day after, but I think when you're professional, and when you're competitive, you do want to prove yourself each and every day, and that's what the Poles will be doing."

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If the U.S. advances to the second round, it would play either Croatia, Italy or Mexico, depending on the outcomes of games in Group G.

Finishing first in Group D would give the Americans an extra day's rest since their second-round game would not be until Tuesday. But if they finish second, they would have to play Monday.

Coach Bruce Arena was in no mood to worry about that distinction.

"All I want to do is be in the next round," he said. "I don't really care whether we finish first or second."

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The U.S. team's injury jinx continued when it was revealed that defender Steve Cherundolo, a last-minute roster choice after Chris Armas and Greg Vanney had been sidelined because of injuries, will miss the remainder of the World Cup.

Cherundolo, who has not played in the tournament, injured his right knee in training, suffering a severe bone bruise.

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Arena, asked whether he had talked to defender Jeff Agoos, said he had. Agoos' World Cup has been highlighted by an own goal in the Portugal match, a yellow card and a foul that led to a penalty kick for South Korea, and a missed header that resulted in South Korea's tying goal

"Well, first of all he knows me," Arena said. "I've knocked him down and picked him up over the last 24 hours. We've talked about it. He's a big boy."

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