Work in Sports
Agoos corner sends U.S. on its way to quarters
By Michael Lewis, CNNSI.com
Melbourne, Australia -- After taking but three corner kicks for D.C. United this past MLS season, left fullback Jeff Agoos might have been an unlikely candidate to take corner kicks for the U.S. Olympic team.
But there he was, swinging the ball in from the left corner to teammates in the 3-1 historic victory over Kuwait on Tuesday night.
"Marco [Etcheverry] is the league's leading corner kick taker, whatever stat that is," he said.
Agoos' reaction to his new role?
"Just put the ball into a dangerous position," he said. "That's my job."
After U.S. midfielder John O'Brien had sent his left-footed corner kick directly out of bounds early in the match, Agoos' first two attempts hardly could have been called dangerous as they fell short.
"I had a couple of corners before and they barely did get it over the first man," Agoos said. "Danny [Califf] said, 'Look, I'm going to run to the near post. I'm going to be there.'"
Califf was there, heading home an emphatic shot past goalkeeper Shebab Kankone for a 1-0 lead in the 40th minute.
"A couple of corners before that, they left the near post wide open," Califf said. "It was like a hole. He hit a couple there [that] the first guy cut out. But the whole space was open. So I told him if he could make it over the first defender, I'll get there.
"The very next ball was a great ball and over the defender and I got there. They didn't even correct it afterwards. The defender was marking me on the wrong side. I had plenty of opportunity. All I needed was a great ball, and I got a great ball."
The U.S. never looked back.
"We wanted to get the goal early to make things easier and to open things up a bit," said Agoos, whose throw-in started the Americans' second goal sequence in the 63rd minute. "When we get around to the knockout phase, those are the chances we have to put away, or we go home. There is no tomorrow."
Of course, if the U.S. hadn't beaten the Kuwaitis, there was no tomorrow.
If it wasn't for the Olympics, there would be no today for Agoos, because three-time MLS champion United wound up out of the playoffs for the first time in its five-year history. So the victory was gratifying in more ways than one.
"It's something very special to me personally, but for the team as well," said Agoos, who was the last player cut from the 1994 World Cup team and who saw no action at World Cup '98. "This team has been working together for three years. I'm proud to be a part of that.
"Ten, 15 or 20 minutes after the game, I don't think I can appreciate it so much. I'm sure in the coming days, weeks and years, this will be looked at as hopefully a starting point for U.S. Soccer."
Agoos, one of three over-age players on the team, felt the Americans took a giant step against Kuwait, but were far from finished.
"I don't think we'll be satisfied just getting out of our group," he said. "I know it's a major accomplishment for this team and this sport. But we're not through yet. We came here to win a medal."
Michael Lewis covers soccer for the New York Daily News. His third book,
Soccer For Dummies, was published this spring.