An injury-plagued United States Youth Soccer team lost the final round of the World Youth Soccer qualifying tournament today, 2-0, to a pesky Mexico squad that outhustled its American opponent.

This final game of the Youth World Cup preliminary round, in Giants Stadium, was meaningless because both the U.S. and Mexico advanced to next year's Cup Games in Australia as a result of their Friday night semifinal victories in RFK Stadium.

It was a good thing the game didn't count for much other than pride for the Americans, who suffered their first defeat in six games. The Mexicans had advanced through the West zone qualifier in Los Angeles.

"We left everything in Washington,' said U.S. Coach Walt Chyzowych. "We were drained and lethargic. I don't think they wanted to perform out there on that soccer field today."

It showed.

Without midfield star John Strollmeyer of Annandale, Va., (sprained ankle) and forward Darryl Gee from Columbia, Md., (severely sprained ankle), the Americans were without their field generals and best offensive players.

As a result, the Mexicans used a good midfield counter-attacking and tight man-to-man marking to beat the U.S. at their own best game -- defense. The Americans had won all six of their previous six matches with ease except the 9-8 overtime shootput win over Honduras Friday night. But they mounted no real offensive threat against Mexico.

Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Miranda had to make only one save in the entire 80-minute affair, a preliminary to the Diplomats- Cosmos game.

Mexico took 14 shots to the Americans' 10 and forced U.S. keeper Craig Scarpelli to make four tough saves.

Scarpelli's usually impenetrable defense left him almost helpless against the shots that produced Mexico's goals.

Rogelic Patino, a quick forward with a big right-footed shot, gave Mexico a 1-0 lead at 17:48 on a 15-yardshot past an out-of-position Scarpelli.

Paul Servin and Ramon Peseda set up Patino with crisp right-to-left crossing passes, giving Patino an open shot from the left side.

The frustrated Americans never could get their attack going, losing 90 percent of the middle-of-field balls to the opposing quick Mexicans, who like to play with their backs to the opposing goal. The U.S. mounted only one attack, midway through the second half, when forward Kevin Fouser's header bounced once before landing softly into the arms of goalie Miranda.

Gee's replacement, Dave Lischner, had a wide-open path in the right corner of the net in the same sequence, but blasted the kick 10 feet over the crossbar after receiving a nifty pass from tom Kain.

Mexico sealed the victory with its second goal at 55:09 by Alphonso Rodriguez with assists from Patino and Fernando Bracamontes. Rodriguez, streaking down the left side, took Bracamontes' pass from right midfield and left-footed a rolling shot between the legs of Scarpelli, who was diving toward Rodriguez to cut down his angle of shooting.

Mexico dumped the ball into the American zone thereafter to remain undefeated and once tied in five games.

The U.S. team, which looked so energetic in victory on Tuesday and Friday nights in Washington, slumped on the Astro-Turf and allowed two goals for the first time in the tournament.

"A lot of our performance had to do with the AstroTurf," said Chyzowych "We've never played on it before. But the Mexico players have never played on it until today either."

A soccer ball on AstroTurf behaves much like a baseball on the artificial green rug. It bounces higher and skids instead of rolling. A kick off the side of the foot will cut in the carpet and spin like a tennis ball. Footing is different.

"But it wasn't all the AstroTurf," said captain and sweeperback Bill Mceon, who insisted on taking much of the blame for allowing both Mexico goals.

"The whole team just played tentative. We were sluggish," McKeown added. "Mentally we were just drained -- physically, too -- from the Hondras game (which lasted 100 minutes plus the tie breaker)."