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For U.S., It Turns Into a Marquee Event

Donovan, Keller and Beasley steal the show and play leading roles in 3-0 win over Costa Rica.

June 05, 2005|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — On the movie poster, the billing would be simple. There would be only three names.

"Starring Landon Donovan, Kasey Keller and DaMarcus Beasley."

The order of the names and their relative type size might cause an argument, however.

The United States soccer team shut out Costa Rica, 3-0, on Saturday night to take a sizable step toward the 2006 World Cup in Germany in front of 40,586 at Rice Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus.

The qualifying victory was a three-man show, with a supporting cast that played its role almost perfectly.

Donovan scored two of the goals, and helped set up the third for Brian McBride.

Goalkeeper Keller was outstanding, making a series of remarkable saves early in the second half as the Ticos fought to get back into the match.

And Beasley, well, all Beasley did was play 85 minutes in his first game in more than a month, shrugging off the lingering effects of a knee injury suffered in Europe that sidelined him in late April.

"I thought his career was in jeopardy after I saw the tackle," Donovan said of the play that caused the injury. "For him to be back in three or four weeks is incredible. He's amazing.... He's a great player."

Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach, agreed, adding that because opponents must keep a close eye on Beasley it ultimately helps Donovan as well as the team.

"When he's on the field, that gives Landon a little bit more room to operate and makes us a more dangerous team going forward," he said.

"Landon and DaMarcus are a great duo and, arguably, DaMarcus is our best player."

Arena reserved his highest praise for Keller, who made six saves in earning his 44th victory and 39th shutout for the national team.

"Kasey's play in the early part of the second half was the difference in the match," Arena said. "His reactions on the line are fantastic. He's still every bit as quick as he was five years ago."

The match, the fourth in a 10-game qualifying series for the Americans, was barely five minutes old when Donovan gave the U.S. the lead.

Steve Ralston crossed the ball from the right, a Costa Rican player failed to clear it and Donovan, sprinting into the penalty area, unleashed a shot that flew into the top left corner of the net.

"There are some goals you score, you see them coming and you think about it and you place it where you want to place it," he said. "That was more of an instinctual one. It [the chance] came quickly and I just said, 'Just hit it.'

"I was pleasantly surprised to see it go that well in the corner. It was nice."

The goal meant that the Galaxy player has at least a goal or an assist in 11 of the U.S. team's 12 games so far on the road to Germany '06.

There was a brief revival from Costa Rica at the start of the second half, but Keller blunted that threat.

"We're fortunate to have probably one of the top three goalies in the world, if not the top," Donovan said. "I don't know what we were doing, we were sleeping in the second half, and he made at least two or three, maybe four, incredible saves.

"It was phenomenal. He kept us in the game."

Donovan scored again in the 62nd minute, this one a mere tap-in from a yard out after Costa Rica goalkeeper Alvaro Mesen failed to hang on to McBride's diving header off a cross by Josh Wolff and Donovan was on hand to finish.

"Opportunistic," Arena called it.

"The second goal broke their backs," he said.

McBride completed the scoring, getting his reward for an afternoon of hard work, when he scored his 27th goal for the U.S., tops among active players, in the 87th minute.

The U.S. heads for Panama on Monday with nine points in the bag from four games, only a point behind Mexico, as both begin thinking about Germany next summer.



How they stand

Standings for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 World Cup:

*--* GP W L T GF GA Diff. Pts Mexico 4 3 0 1 7 3 +4 10 United States 4 3 1 0 8 3 +5 9 Guatemala 4 1 2 1 5 5 0 4 Trinidad-Tobago 4 1 2 1 4 7 -3 4 Costa Rica 4 1 2 1 3 6 -3 4 Panama 4 0 2 2 2 5 -3 2


Saturday's results

* United States 3, Costa Rica 0

* Panama 0, Trinidad and Tobago 2

* Guatemala 0, Mexico 2


* United States at Panama, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. PDT (TV delayed on ESPN2 at 10 p.m., Channel 52 at 11:30 p.m.) -- The U.S. closes out the first half of the final round of qualifying with a return to Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, where it escaped with a 1-1 tie on Cobi Jones' 92nd-minute goal on Sept. 9 in the semifinal round of qualifying.

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