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THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 5 : Soccer : Goalkeeper Vanole Stars as U.S. Earns 0-0 Tie

Times Staff Writer

After 6 members of the U.S. soccer team, including 3 starters, were stricken with food poisoning Sunday night, U.S. Soccer Federation officials blamed pizza the players had eaten at a restaurant outside their hotel.

But David Vanole, the former UCLA goalkeeper from Manhattan Beach, said that he believed it was unfair to pan the pizza. After all, he said, he ate it, too, and didn’t get sick.

Or could it be that Vanole is invincible these days?

We will know more about that Thursday night, when the United States plays the heavily favored Soviet Union in Taegu. A victory, maybe even a tie, will send the United States into the Olympic tournament’s quarterfinals, an accomplishment no one would have thought possible when the team arrived in South Korea.

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But in the first 2 matches, the United States couldn’t have asked for a better last line of defense than Vanole has provided.

In the 1-1 tie against Argentina Sunday night in Taegu, the only goal he allowed was on a penalty kick that dribbled just out of his reach with 6 minutes remaining. Then he shut out South Korea Tuesday night in a scoreless match at Kudok Stadium here.

Forget the scores. Those were victories for the United States, which was expected to lose both games. The U.S. failure to lose Tuesday night greatly disappointed the South Korean players, all of whom will receive cars as bonuses if they reach the quarterfinals, and the crowd of 22,000 that collectively inhaled and exhaled with every lost scoring opportunity.

Since there were so many of those, particularly in the final frantic minutes of the second half, U.S. Coach Lothar Osiander, a waiter at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco when he isn’t otherwise involved with the national team, made excuses for the South Koreans, as perhaps he would for a diner who has just spilled his minestrone in his lap.

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“Lady Luck was on our side today, and I thank her very much,” he said. “We easily could have lost this game by 2 or 3 goals. But, in soccer, it’s not always the best team that wins, and that makes the game very exciting.”

In this case, however, luck really was the residue of design, Osiander’s design.

He didn’t have much choice except to play for a scoreless tie after leaving a pair of scoring threats, Mike Windischmann and Peter Vermes, at the team’s headquarters in Taegu with stomach troubles while the other players made the 2-hour bus trip to the port city of Pusan. Another offensive player, Bruce Murray, was with the team but was too weak to play.

In the tie with Argentina, Windischmann, who plays for the L.A. Lazers in the Major Indoor Soccer League, scored the only U.S. goal, and Murray twice hit the post with shots.

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Even before arriving in South Korea, the United States lost its best playmaking midfielder when Hugo Perez, the El Salvador native who became a U.S. citizen after moving to San Diego, left the team to play for a high salary in Switzerland.

So the United States went on the defense.

The South Koreans outshot the United States, 14-4, including a 9-1 advantage in the second half. The only U.S. threat in the final 45 minutes was a shot by forward Frank Klopas that sailed over the goal with 35 seconds remaining.

Until then, the second half consisted of Vanole appearing as the guest of honor for a firing squad. He should have asked for a blindfold and a cigarette.

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He survived with his athletic ability, his cunning and no shortage of good fortune.

Fourteen minutes into the second half, South Korea’s Lee Tae Ho had an open shot from just outside the goal mouth that Vanole somehow managed to deflect with his left leg.

Asked whether it was an accident, Vanole laughed and said: “A goalkeeper is never supposed to say he made a play accidentally, so I’ll answer no to that question.”

It definitely had not been an accident 3 minutes earlier, when he made a sprawling save off another shot by Lee from inside the penalty area.

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Lee couldn’t believe he missed the shot, collapsing to the ground and beating his fists against the turf. Vanole leaped into the air, his fist pumping.

“I was screaming, just going crazy, screaming like an idiot,” said Vanole, who was hoarse after the match. “If there had been anything to bang my head against, I would have. But I decided to keep a little bit of composure.

“After I made that play, I told myself that they were going to have to do something spectacular to beat me.”

The South Koreans couldn’t get a shot past Vanole, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunities. They had at least 4 other shots from close range, 1 that hit the crossbar. It was as thrilling as a scoreless tie can be.

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“They were coming at us 100 m.p.h.,” he said. “We didn’t expect them to come at us with 9 or 10 guys. But that’s what you play the game for, when it’s like that was for the last 15 minutes.”

Vanole, 25, was the goalkeeper when UCLA won the national championship in 1985. Later that year, he played for Osiander’s West team that won the Olympic Festival tournament in Baton Rouge, La. He has been Osiander’s goalkeeper ever since, although he also plays for the Wichita Wings of the MISL when not with the national team.

Osiander often says that the second-team goalkeeper, Jeff Duback of La Jolla, might be better technically, but the coach prefers the more exuberant Vanole. “I thrive on the pressure,” Vanole said.

He is best known internationally for placing a small U.S. flag in the net when he plays, although he didn’t do that during an Olympic qualifying match last year in El Salvador out of fear for his life. He said the fans there threw enough fruit at him to open his own stand.

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The South Korean fans were considerably more polite. And quiet. The few hundred U.S. fans, mostly friends and relatives of the players, drowned out the South Koreans until the final minutes, when the home team and its fans became desperate.

After a scoreless tie against the Soviets Sunday night had turned the South Korean players into national heroes, and moved them a step closer to the cars, the same result against the United States 2 nights later will not go down so well.

Despite Osiander’s comments, the fans here know that it wasn’t bad luck that beat their team but a tenacious defense with a spirited goalkeeper.

In another Group C match Tuesday night, the Soviet Union moved to the top of the group standings with a 2-1 victory over Argentina.

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In Group D, Australia, a surprising winner over Yugoslavia on Sunday, lost, 3-0, to Brazil in Seoul, and Nigeria was beaten, 3-1, by Yugoslavia in Taejon.


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