U.S. Wins on the Road at Coliseum
Steve Sampson wanted to give the U.S. national team a refresher course on playing in front of a hostile, foreign crowd, so he brought his players to Los Angeles to face El Salvador at the Coliseum on Friday night.
The local fans obliged.
A crowd of 18,661 yelling, foot-stamping, firework-exploding, flag-waving mostly blue-and-white-clad El Salvador supporters did their best to unsettle the U.S. team.
It didn’t work.
Two goals by Joe-Max Moore in the third and 88th minutes and another by Eric Wynalda in the 61st earned the Americans a 3-1 victory in the first of their preparatory games for World Cup ’98 qualifying play that begins Nov. 3 for the U.S. team.
“There are a couple of things going on in my mind,” Sampson said earlier this week. “First of all, we have to put the team in an environment that we’re going to see in Costa Rica and Guatemala and Trinidad. I want to simulate that.
“At the same time, I want to try to win over the Hispanic community. This is their national team too. I don’t expect Salvadorans to root for the national team against El Salvador, but I do expect Mexican-Americans and Honduran-Americans and Costa Rican-Americans to support the U.S. team because we are their national team.”
And, on the slender evidence available Friday night, it’s a team that is a good bet to qualify for France ’98, but not with ease.
Ignoring the booing, the catcalls and the whistles coming from the stands, the U.S. players carried the game to the Central Americans, for whom only Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos stood out.
Sampson started two of the newcomers he has drafted onto the national team, David Wagner and Jason Kreis, and Wagner had an immediate impact, helping create the first goal.
It came in the third minute when a pass from John Harkes found Moore breaking toward the net. Wagner, who only arrived in California from Germany on Wednesday night, screened out defender Leonel Batres and Moore fired the ball inside the left post, beyond the lunging leg of goalkeeper Alvaro Sanchez.
It was Moore’s 14th goal for the United States, moving the former UCLA Bruin into a tie for fourth place on the all-time scoring list.
El Salvador tied the game in the 59th minute when Batres and Ronald Cerritos exchanged passes. Cerritos’ shot was blocked by Jeff Agoos, but Luis Oscar Lazo blasted the rebound into the upper-right corner of the net. Brad Friedel, the U.S. keeper, had no chance.
The Coliseum erupted in noise, but the U.S. team silenced the cheers almost immediately.
Harkes sent a pass to Cobi Jones on the right wing, Jones crossed from the end line and saw the ball headed by Brian McBride at the near post to an unmarked Wynalda at the far post. For Wynalda, it was simply a matter of tapping the ball into the empty net.
But then, after scoring his record 25th goal for the United States, Wynalda ran over to the sideline and cupped his ear to the fans, waiting for their cheers. Instead, he was pelted with debris.
The same happened after Moore slotted home a penalty kick in the dying moments. Nelson Quintanilla fouled Frankie Hejduk and Moore again placed his shot just inside the left post.
Unlike Wynalda, Moore cupped both ears, not only one, and again the debris rained down.
In Los Angeles, you don’t score goals against the visitors. It’s a foreign kind of place.