U.S. soccer success at Stanford
Publication Date: Wednesday Dec 18, 1996

U.S. soccer success at Stanford

Appreciative crowd spurs USA to World Cup qualifying victory

by Rick Eymer

With Eric Wynalda turned cheerleader, and Joe-Max Moore getting a rest, USA soccer coach Steve Sampson turned to a pair of relatively new forwards to lead the Americans into battle in an important match against Costa Rica on Saturday in a World Cup '98 qualifying match at Stanford University. ``How do you spell relief? McBride and Lassiter," Sampson said.

That's Brian McBride and Roy Lassiter, each starting for the first time in international play, and each scoring a goal to lead USA to a 2-1 victory. That clinched a berth in the final round of World Cup qualifying for the Americans. Wynalda, USA's all-time leading goal scorer, had to sit out Saturday's match because he received two yellow cards during earlier World Cup qualifying. Wynalda has scored nine goals in 13 games with the USA this season. Moore was rested by Sampson to give Lassiter and McBride a chance to play. It was a bold move that turned to gold.

``Throughout the time I've been here, and it's been short, the guys have given me a lot of confidence," McBride said. ``That made it a lot easier for me. The fact the game had such great meaning to it made it all the more special."

Had the Americans lost, they would have been in a must-win (or tie) situation against Guatemala on Dec. 21 in San Salvador.

Beating Costa Rica, which handed the Americans their only loss of group competition, was sweet revenge.

``We used the fact we were treated poorly down there to our advantage," said U.S. star Alexi Lalas. ``The way we lost, we all came back and said it was a dismal performance. We knew we were a better team than that."

USA lost, 2-1, in Costa Rica and were subjected to thrown bottles and batteries.

The Americans received a much better response at Stanford Stadium.

``This is the best support we've received in any of our qualifying matches," said Sampson, a native of Los Altos. ``As far as I'm concerned, I'd bring back another game here on the next level. It was a tremendous outpouring of support. We appreciate that more than you know."

The crowd of 40,527 was the most of any qualifying match, and the most to watch a USA national game since June 16, when 92,216 fans packed the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to watch USA play Mexico to a 2-2 tie.

McBride gave the Americans a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute when he connected on a goal in front of the net. Ernie Stewart got the ball rolling, taking it down the right side, then making a centering pass that hit off two Costa Rican defenders before McBride nailed it.

Lassiter, who led Major League Soccer in scoring this season, made it 2-0 in the 60th minute. Costa Rica goalie Hermidio Barrantos, nursing a sore hamstring, came out of the net to challenge Cobi Jones. Lalas tapped the ball to a wide-open Lassiter, who bounced the ball into the net.

``I'm happy for both of them," said Lalas. ``They're our forwards and they both scored goals. That's what they're supposed to do. When a world-class player like Eric isn't here to play, we still have guys like Brian and Roy, who are world-class themselves."

Costa Rica closed to within 2-1 in the 75th minute, but a fine defensive effort--led by goalie Brad Friedel--the rest of the way rejected any further scoring opportunities. Friedel made two terrific saves.

The Americans get a chance to relax against Guatemala, though Sampson says the game is still important.

``It's a great opportunity to use younger players and players who need playing time," Sampson said. "The game has meaning for gaining valuable international experience."

Exactly what players like McBride and Lassiter need as the team prepares for the final round of qualifying, joining Canada, El Salavador, Jamaica, Mexico and either Costa Rica or Guatemala. Costa Rica needs only to beat or tie Trinidad and Tobago on Dec. 21 to advance. Guatemala needs to beat the U.S. by at least three goals, and have Costa Rica lose its game. 

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