Just For Kicks
THE United States Men's National Team found its offense in reclaiming the Waterford Crystal Nike U.S. Cup trophy.
U.S. soccer attack
In seven matches prior to last week's tournament, the Americans managed just 10 goals in seven matches. They scored eight in three Nike U.S. Cup matches.
Much of the credit goes to the developing on-field relationship between midfielder/striker Earnie Stewart and strikers Cobi Jones and Brian McBride.
They were able to create numerous chances with deft, pinpoint passing.
The U.S. attack was enthusiastic. It displayed a determination to put the ball in the net instead of just hoping an opportunity would end in a goal.
There is no doubt this increases the men's confidence heading into the six 2002 World Cup qualifying matches.
It also should be pointed out the Americans allowed just one goal, in a driving rain storm to Ireland, in the Nike U.S. Cup.
The U.S. team is still missing potential veteran starters Eddie Lewis, Joe Max-Moore, Eddie Pope and Robin Fraser, all out with injuries.
World Cup qualifying begins with an away match against either Guatemala or Antigua the second week of July and ends with an away match at Barbados, Nov. 14 or 15. Costa Rica is the other country in the group.
U.S. head coach Bruce Arena played down the fact Mexico didn't send its full international squad to the Nike U.S. Cup.
"We had everything to lose and, in some way, nothing to gain," Arena said after the 3-0 victory before 45,008 fans at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., last Sunday.
"We would have been ridiculed if we didn't win."
Jones became the all-time U.S. men's appearance leader in the Mexico match, surpassing Marcelo Balboa's record of 128 appearances.
Jones has 129 caps since making his debut in October 1992 against the Ivory Coast.
He has appeared in all 10 matches played this year, and leads the team in scoring with five goals and five assists.
The United States Soccer Federation, upset that Mexico did not send a complete national team to the Nike U.S. Cup, plans to withhold the country's appearance fee.
Eight months ago an agreement was reached with Mexico that called for payment of more than $150,000 for each of the three games it played.
Mexican officials said extended playoffs at home kept them from picking top players from several teams.
"They didn't put forth the right effort in terms of getting a representative team out there," USSF spokesman Jim Moorhouse said. "The reality is there's a certain expectancy level in terms of some of the marquee names."
Moorhouse said costs would be paid, but no appearance fee.
Briana Scurry, U.S. women's goalkeeper in the 1999 World Cup, has been added to the U.S. roster for the first CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup. Injuries have kept her inactive much of this year.
The Gold Cup, hosted by the U.S. from June 23 to July 3, is the championship of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region.
Coach April Heinrichs also replaced midfielder Aly Wagner with striker Susan Bush.
The American women open June 23 against Trinidad and Tobago at Hershey, Pa., and then play Costa Rica June 25 at Louisville, Ky., and Brazil June 27 at Foxboro, Mass.
The top two teams in each of the two groups advance to the semifinals at Louisville July 1 with the championship match July 3 at Foxboro.