United States. . .2
SURPRISINGLY convincing victors here yesterday, outplaying Colombia, the United States more or less secured for themselves a place in the second phase from Group A.
For Colombia, who began the tournament as a likely threat, it was a miserable experience.
With less than 10 minutes played, both defences had already come under serious threat, the States being quick to exploit space on the right side of Colombia's rearguard.
John Harkes, of Derby County, who performed disappointingly in America's opening game, became much more influential in exploiting this avenue of attack, and twice provided opportunities that first Eric Wynalda and then Ernie Stewart wasted with weak shooting.
If it was a spirited start by the hosts, who were mindful of the possibility that a victory would secure a place in the second phase, Colombia had plenty of attacking ideas of their own. They tried to establish a tempo to suit their close-quarter skills and made good use of the flanks, and were not slow to get support into threatening areas.
When an attack was carried through in force again, the US had a remarkable escape, scrambling away a shot from Hernan Gaviria that was deflected against a post by Mike Sorber, and then blocking another shot from Anthony De Avila before the ball was finally cleared from the danger area.
At that stage, it seemed as though the US had run down into second gear, especially as Colombia stepped up their own assaults, with Fredy Rincon their most threatening attacker.
Tony Meola, in the US goal, was called upon to make two saves in quick succession and was clearly grateful to see a powerful strike from Rincon fly wide. Then the US again exploited the room on Colombia's right, sending in Wynalda for a shot that ran out of play after striking the face of Cordoba's left-hand upright.
Colombia's defenders, baffled by their inability to plug the hole, were calling anxiously to each other, but they made a similar error when Harkes got forward again. This time his low centre brought Escobar anxiously across to cover, but he succeeded only in prodding the ball into his own net.
The disappointment of being denied a goal for Alexi Lalas on a marginal offside decision was soon forgotten when the US went further ahead six minutes into the second half.
Colombia seemed to lack the resources to bolster a slow defence. That slowness was to cost them dearly again when Tab Ramos played in Stewart, who slipped the ball in off the near post.
There was a strange lack of conviction about the Colombians who finally managed a goal when Adolfo Valencia took advantage of a tired defence to score in the very last minute.
UNITED STATES (5-3-2): Meola (United States Soccer Federation); Dooley (Bayer Leverkusen), Balboa (USSF), Clavijo (USSF), Lalas (USSF), Caligiuri (USSF); Harkes (Derby County), Ramos (Real Betis), Sorber (USSF); Wynalda (VfL Bochum), Stewart (Willem II Tilburg). Substitute: Wegerle (Coventry City) for Wynalda, 60; Jones (USSF) for Stewart, 65.
COLOMBIA (4-4-2): Cordoba (America Cali); Escobar (Nacional Medellin), Herrera (Nacional Medellin), Perea (Junior Barranquilla), Perez (America Cali); Gaviria (Nacional Medellin), Alvarez (America Cali), Valderrama (Junior Barranquilla), Rincon (Palmeiras); Asprilla (Parma), De Avila (America Cali). Substitute: Valenciano (Junior Barranquilla) for De Avila, h-t; Valencia (Bayern Munich) for Asprilla, h-t.
Referee: F Baldas (Italy).