The United States got off to a good start in the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, beating New Zealand, 2-1, today at Jalisco Stadium.
The victory put the Americans into second place in their four-team, round-robin group behind Brazil, which opened with a win. The United States' next first-round game is against Brazil here Wednesday night, and a win would virtually assure it of a spot in the semifinals.
The U.S. won today behind a goal from Brian McBride in the 26th minute and another in the 57th by Jovan Kirovski. New Zealand averted a shutout in the game's final minute.
Both teams clearly were influenced by the heat and the altitude.
"No matter how acclimated you are, you forget what it's like until it hits you," U.S. defender Robin Fraser said.
New Zealand struggled to string passes together, and the Americans seemed dazed by the space afforded them by New Zealand.
The Americans seemed content to knock the ball about in midfield, never really taking control. An early burst of activity in front of New Zealand's goal went for naught when goalkeeper Michael Utting made key stops on attempts by McBride and Kirovski. And, as the U.S. team's frustration mounted, New Zealand narrowly missed taking the lead when Kris Bouckenooghe put a shot toward the lower corner that goalkeeper Kasey Keller was forced to stretch for.
But the Americans finally were rewarded in the 26th minute, when McBride scored on a nice header into the corner of the goal off a pass from Kirovski.
In the second half, the pace slowed even further, with the All-Whites looking paralyzed by the heat and smog. In the 57th minute, Eddie Lewis took a back-heel pass from McBride and got in alone on Utting, who deflected the ball over the end line. But Lewis took the ensuing corner kick, and Kirovski placed a beautiful header over Utting into the top of the net for a 2-0 lead.
"We're happy with the result," U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said, "but we can certainly be accused of wasting some chances. I'm very disappointed in the final score because I felt we really had a chance to put them away."
Although they outplayed the All-Whites, the Americans made several defensive mistakes that forced Keller to come up with big saves.
Keller finally gave way on Chris Zoricich's 35-yard free kick -- a goal that could prove costly if goal difference decides whether the Americans advance.
"Kasey came up big on our miscues," Arena said. "That said, I'm unhappy we gave up that late goal."
Still, there were bright moments. Former United midfielder John Harkes, making his first national team appearance in nearly a year and a half, started and was intimately involved in the game. Directing traffic and setting up crosses, he played like a man determined to impress.
Said Harkes: "It felt great to be out there. The guys have been really good to me, and they gave me a lot of compliments about my performance today, which was very nice. It felt like I was 16 again out there."
BRAZIL 4, GERMANY 0: Both sides started out lazily, with the fitter Brazilians making little attempt to move the Germans around. In the second half, the Brazilians picked up speed.
The floodgates opened in the 63rd minute when Ze Roberto scored from the top of the penalty area. Seven minutes later, Ronaldinho collected his own rebound and put it past the goalkeeper. Alex added the last two goals as the Brazilians romped.
The defeat was the worst suffered by a German side in 45 years. Hungary's Magic Magyars beat them, 8-3, in a 1954 World Cup game, only to lose the final to the same West German side in one of the great upsets in soccer history.