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U.S. Wraps Up Year With a Win

The men's national team beats El Salvador, 2-0, as attention turns toward 2006 World Cup in Germany.

November 18, 2002|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The United States men's national soccer team ended its most successful year ever with a 2-0 victory over El Salvador on Sunday in front of 13,590 rain-soaked fans at RFK Stadium in Washington.

A headed goal by winger Ben Olsen in the 31st minute and a neat finish by the Galaxy's Sasha Victorine off a Clint Mathis pass in the 60th minute were enough to give Coach Bruce Arena's squad a final mark of 12-6-2 for 2002.

It was a year in which the U.S. won the CONCACAF Gold Cup and reached the quarterfinals of the Korea/Japan '02 World Cup.

Arena, who fielded an all-Major League Soccer lineup featuring four players making their national team debut, was more interested in the future than the past, however.

"The last couple of months, we've received a lot of praise, and I'm grateful for all that," he said. "But enough already. We've had our congratulatory tour, and now we just want to get on with the business of starting all over again."

The El Salvador match marked that new beginning, the first step on the road to the Germany 2006 World Cup, and it was a positive one.

Victorine, in only his second game for the U.S., looked quite comfortable at right back, despite having never played the position before. Equally impressive was the San Jose Earthquakes' Wade Barrett, the starter at left back.

Catching the eye in particular, however, was Olsen, who was sidelined for 16 months with a succession of ankle and foot injuries and missed the World Cup as a result. His nonstop work on the left wing was rewarded with an excellent goal off a Chris Klein cross.

For El Salvador, only two players stood out: goalkeeper Juan Gomez, who made two superb saves off blazing shots by Mathis, and midfielder Rudi Corrales, whose tireless running and invention kept the U.S. defense busy.

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