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Klinsmann, Moeller Lift Germany Over U.S., 2-0

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 16, 1998; Page D1

 us vs. germany
 German midfielder Joerg Heinrich (right) tackles American midfielder Cobi Jones in 2-0 loss by the United States on Monday. (AFP Photo)
PARIS, June 15 — Well after the United States' 2-0 loss to Germany tonight in the World Cup opener for both teams at Parc des Princes, U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller saw a shot he could get his hands on. Asked whether his team's loss sank the United States into a hole as it tries to advance to the second round of the biggest soccer tournament in the world, Keller chuckled.

"You think we expected to get points out of this game?" asked Keller, peering out from under his red USA baseball cap as if the answer were obvious. A victory would have meant three points and a tie one. "Any points we got out of this game would have been a tremendous bonus."

Actually, Keller's teammate, Thomas Dooley, had suggested last week that a win or tie was possible for the Americans.

Across the room stood German forward Juergen Klinsmann, who assisted on Germany's first goal by Andy Moeller and scored the second with a juke and dance around Dooley. A three-time World Cup veteran, Klinsmann, 33, was considered a declining star — before his brilliant performance tonight. Keller pointed at Klinsmann.

"You forget who we are playing against," said Keller, who played on the winless 1990 U.S. World Cup team. "Look at that man talking at the mike now. It doesn't get any bigger than that in world football. The whole team is like that. We've grown tremendously since 1990 when we were just a bunch of college kids going to the World Cup. But we were playing against one of the best teams of — forever."

Tonight, the United States played as if it knew of Germany's international conquests all too well, looking tentative at the start, spirited in spurts but never dominant. The Americans had the support of both a small pocket of U.S. fans behind one goal and most of the non-German fans in this cozy stadium on a chilly night. Yet the atmosphere lacked the electricity of earlier World Cup games, largely because the American supporters found little to cheer.

With a fully healthy team for the first time in months, the United States nevertheless seemed overmatched physically. They were beaten to numerous headers, beaten to numerous free balls — beaten in every way by the three-time World Cup champions.

"In the first half, we gave them a little too much respect," Dooley said. "You can see how simple it is for Germany to win games. They keep possession of the whole field."

Not only did the United States fail to collect a point to aid its quest for a second consecutive appearance in the second round (to move on, a team will need at least four points from its three matches), it also failed to impress on tonight's rare and opportunity-laden worldwide stage.

The match, after all, was televised live both internationally and — more remarkably — nationally, preempting ABC's afternoon soap operas in the United States.

Yet U.S. Coach Steve Sampson and his team tried to make the best of a bad thing. They seemed to take great solace in their improved second-half play, capped by Frankie Hejduk's header that almost slid past diving German goalkeeper Andreas Koepke in the 46th minute. The U.S. team got no serious chances inside the penalty box besides that one. A handful of U.S. players — Claudio Reyna, Chad Deering and Tab Ramos, who came on in the 69th minute for Deering — each missed long strikes from outside the box.

Reyna, considered the U.S. team's top attacking threat, failed to attack. He was almost completely handcuffed by Germany's Jens Jeremies, particularly in the first half.

Germany scored just eight minutes into the match on Moeller's goal off of a corner kick. Sandwiched by Ernie Stewart and David Regis, Klinsmann won the ball, heading it forward to Moeller. With Dooley and Reyna leaning futilely for the ball, Moeller headed the tip from Klinsmann just past the left post — which Mike Burns was supposed to have covered. Burns was replaced in the second half by Hejduk, a move that Sampson said was to generate more offense.

"They got a little lucky tonight," U.S. forward Eric Wynalda said. "They knew beforehand it wasn't going to be easy. I was just talking to [German Coach] Berti Vogts. I think he was happy with this result. He knew it could have been a lot worse."

Said Vogts: "I did feel there was a degree of slackness in our team, a lack of discipline in the second half. ... The Americans played well. If you look back over their matches in the recent past, it's clear that tactically they have learned a great amount. They have made great strides. They are simply not poor cousins anymore."

The United States found itself in trouble in the 64th minute, moments after Wynalda was replaced by Roy Wegerle. Defender Regis left his assigned player, Klinsmann, to challenge a ball near midfield. Regis lost the challenge, however, and forward Oliver Bierhoff wound up with the ball down the right side with a step advantage on defender Eddie Pope. Regis was completely out of the picture.

Bierhoff crossed to Klinsmann, who cradled the ball with his chest, letting it drop softly in front of him for a right-footed shot he drove into the right back of the net. Dooley, caught one-on-one with Klinsmann, decided to go for a header on the crossing pass. Dooley sailed off to Klinsmann's left, opening a wide alley.

"They're not world champions and European champions for nothing," Wynalda said about the Germans, who last won a World Cup in 1990. "You have to remember, some of these [U.S.] guys played for the first time in a World Cup match. This isn't the end of the world. There are better days ahead for sure."

The United States had best hope one of them comes Sunday in Lyon against Iran.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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