Saving the day
U.S. earns draw thanks to Friedel, poor Korean finishingPosted: Monday June 10, 2002 7:04 PM
Updated: Monday June 10, 2002 7:10 PM
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
DAEGU, South Korea -- Failure to keep possession and giveaways in midfield dearly cost the United States in its 1-1 tie with South Korea, but fortunately for the Americans, their opponent's traditional malady of mis-hit shots returned Monday.
The Koreans missed the target, shot weakly or were robbed by U.S. keeper Brad Friedel's quick feet and hands.
Friedel saved close-range Seol Ki-hyeon shots with his left foot and right hand, and flew to his right to parry Lee Eul-yong's penalty kick.
The most glaring miss came in stoppage time, when Lee slipped an attempted tackle by Claudio Reyna, dribbled to the goal line and cut a ball back that Choi Yong-soo ballooned over the bar.
At times, defender Eddie Pope was left free as the Koreans concentrated their attacks on Jeff Agoos and Frankie Hejduk.
The rapid movement and switching of positions by Seol, Park Ji-sung and Hwang Sun-hong, plus Song Chong-gug's relentless running on the right, seldom gave the U.S. back line and midfield time to breathe.
Those players sought and exploited the space just behind central midfielders John O'Brien and Reyna, who both broke up countless plays with desperate tackles.
Reyna won several tough duels in the air and also showed some defensive bite by flattening Yoo Sang-chul as he broke through midfield.
Yoo's raking runs unhinged the United States as Park, Seol and Hwang ran wide or across the face of the goal, always at high speed.
Another defensive stalwart in the air was Brian McBride. Blanketed for long periods by a smothering three-man back line, he contributed at the other end by clearing numerous free kicks and several corners.
Agoos gave away a penalty kick when he was judged to have fouled Hwang in a penalty-area tangle, and it was Agoos who lost the mark on Ahn Jung-hwan when he headed in the equalizer.
Yet Agoos also won several aerial duels against the much taller Choi Yong-soo, who came on a sub late in the match, and twice bailed out the defense with saving slide tackles.
The Americans absorbed pressure for periods, but couldn't maintain enough possession to take South Korea out of its rhythm in the second half.
After scoring a superb goal against the run of play to take the lead and temporarily deflate a raucous crowd, the United States launched occasional quick strikes, but only rarely strung more than four or five passes together in the Koreans' half of the field.
Aside from a sharp finish by Clint Mathis, the U.S. shooting also left something to be desired. Landon Donovan misfired on a half-volley in the first half and completely fluffed a beautiful ball Reyna floated over the Korean back line in the second half.
The Americans sprayed a few balls to DaMarcus Beasley and Donovan, but attacks often sputtered because Mathis couldn't provide enough support to keep the flanks open.
Yet Mathis found space and O'Brien found him with a chip after darting inside on the dribble. O'Brien escaped pressure near the sideline and lofted his ball delicately over defender Hong Myung-bo.
Mathis vividly demonstrated his adeptness with either foot by trapping the chip impeccably with his right and firing home with his left.
Lee inadvertently kept the play alive by dawdling as Hong and Choi Jin-cheul pushed up to trap Mathis offside.
Mathis did little else as the quicker South Koreans pounced on his second and third touches.
Beasley, too, was guilty of taking the extra touch under pressure and several U.S. players were dispossessed from behind by the opponent they thought they'd beaten.
Since his college days at UCLA, Friedel has had a reputation for saving penalties. Uncertainty among the Korean players led to Lee taking the penalty after Lee Chun-soo appeared to claim it.
After Friedel's parry, Kim Nam-il barreled in for the rebound, but Pope slid in to knock the ball out of danger and also had his foot crunched in the process.
Pope needed several minutes of medical attention before he was able to continue and he worked valiantly until the final whistle.
Carlos Llamosa was one of the subs warming up, but coach Bruce Arena used Eddie Lewis to replace a tired Beasley, who was also carrying a yellow card from the first game, and Josh Wolff in relief of Mathis.
Beasley, Agoos and Hejduk will carry cautions into the final group game against Poland on Friday. If they are carded in that match they must sit out the round-of-16 match if the United States advances.
With four points from two matches, the U.S. will advance if it gets at least a point against Poland, regardless of other result. South Korea leads Group D with four points and a plus-two goal differential. The USA is in second with four points and a plus-one differential.
Ridge Mahoney is senior editor at Soccer America magazine.