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U.S. to Shake Up Lineup After 2-0 Loss

By Ronald Blum
Associated Press
Tuesday, June 16, 1998; 3:27 p.m. EDT




PARIS — It was a day for embarrassment, finger-pointing and shakeups.

Amidst expressions of discontent from veteran players after Monday's opening 2-0 loss to Germany, the United States planned major lineup changes for Sunday's crucial, politically spiced World Cup game against Iran.

"We went out with the wrong attitude,'' forward Eric Wynalda said Tuesday. "We went out with a timid attitude, which is what's to be expected from guys who haven't been there before.''

Tab Ramos said he was told by Coach Steve Sampson he will start against Iran, adding a second playmaker next to Claudio Reyna.

Sampson, while not confirming the Ramos move, said Frankie Hejduk also would start in the game, which the Americans must at least tie to have any chance of advancing to the second round.

"I'll be honest with you,'' Ramos said. "If we don't play a lot better against Iran, we're not going to beat Iran.''

Ramos, Wynalda and Marcelo Balboa are the only three players on the U.S. roster for the tournaments in 1990, '94 and '98. Ramos and Wynalda were especially unhappy Sampson left so many veterans on the bench.

"Let's put it this way,'' Ramos said. "It's hard to believe when you look down the bench and see Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa and Jeff Agoos, who's played just about every qualifier.''

The loss, in which Germany pushed around the Americans at will, seemed to stun the players, who had been confident they could play with the three-time world champions.

"They had seven world champions on the field; we had seven guys who played in their first World Cup game.'' Reyna said, referring to players on Germany's last title winner. "Experience showed, especially in the first half.''

Ramos was the most public in his disillusionment at the defensive approach against the Germans, who scored in the ninth minute and coasted. Part of the reason for the failure, he said, was inexperience.

"When we were as timid as we were in the first half, you don't give yourself a chance to win,'' he said. "There's no way to prepare people until you get your first game. I lived through it — Czechoslovakia in 1990. It was a complete embarrassment. It was 5-1 and it could have been much worse.''

Lalas even blamed the coaching staff's decision to base the team in Beaujolais wine country for eight days before moving it to Paris two days before the opener.

"We were isolated in the middle of nowhere and suddenly plopped into it like it was a big circus,'' he said. "Nobody was ready for it.''

Players were mad at themselves for the way they performed under pressure, especially the lack of offense. Hejduk, who entered the game at halftime, had the only good scoring chance on a diving header early in the second half.

"Last night was not right,'' Wynalda said. "It's not what this team is all about. We have to get our act together.''

Many U.S. players weren't prepared for how physical World Cup play is.

"If you don't know what can go wrong in the World Cup, you don't know until it happens to you,'' said Wynalda, ejected during that Czechoslovakia opener eight years ago. "The guys who know how to react, what to do, weren't on the field last night.''

Sampson's moves are likely to result in Mike Burns and either Chad Deering or Brian Maisonneuve heading to the bench. He wants to put a more offensive-oriented lineup on the field against the Iranians, who lost to Yugoslavia 1-0 in their opener. And he wants a team with more spark.

"We need players to give 1,000 percent of themselves from the first second,'' he said.

While the Americans weren't happy, they realized the poor play was their own fault.

"Maybe the lineup wasn't correct,'' Reyna said. "but it's not for the players to blame the coach and for the coach to blame the players.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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