USA Beats El Salvador in Gold Cup

Monday, January 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Although the United States was advancing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, the team was sputtering on offense.

It took Brian McBride only 21 minutes to cure that problem Sunday afternoon, scoring three times to start the Americans rolling to a 4-0 victory over El Salvador.

``The big thing was our pressure. We wanted to try to put the game away early,'' said McBride, who became the first U.S. national team player since 1993 to score as many as three goals in a game.

The win, coming in constant rain before a Rose Bowl crowd of 31,628, put the United States into Wednesday's semifinal against Gold Cup defending champion Canada.

McBride's performance provided a positive sign that he is well on his way back from a blood disorder that caused clots in his arm and sidelined him for five months.

``That's history,'' he said of the malady. ``That's not on my mind any more. The vein that was involved is dead, so it should be no problem. I feel good. My physical condition is good.''

McBride, who rejoined the team in December, has scored four goals in the Gold Cup, including a penalty kick for the only goal in the United States' victory over Cuba a week ago.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena is encouraged by McBride's play.

``Obviously, he finished his chances quite well; the goal with the header was quite a good shot,'' Arena said. ``The second and third were relatively easy. But he was in good position, which we obviously want.''

McBride scored his first goal on a header in the 9th minute. Two minutes later, he made it 2-0 on a wide-open shot after Cobi Jones got behind the goalkeeper with the ball and it rolled straight into McBride's path.

For his third goal, McBride finished a brilliant passing sequence by banging in a left-footer at close range for the 18th goal of his seven years on the national team.

Asked if it was his best day, McBride said, ``It was the best day for getting in spots and having my teammates find me. Ante (Razov) made some great runs off the ball and freed me up quite a bit.''

McBride, who plays for Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, could have scored more, but the United States was called for offsides three times when he put the ball in the nets.

In their first two games of the tournament, the Americans looked out of synch on offense, needing a goal from DaMarcus Beasley in injury time to take a 2-1 win over Korea, then edging Cuba 1-0 on McBride's penalty kick.

Against El Salvador, the U.S. team quickly took control by combining sharp passing with the players _ McBride especially _ getting good position.

``The guys looked sharp in the early going. We obviously started in strong fashion, getting an early goal and then adding the second within minutes,'' Arena said. ``It made our task easier.''

Chris Armas started the first two scoring sequences. On the first, he passed to Frankie Hejduk, breaking down the right wing. Hejduk dribbled down outside the box and made a centering pass that deflected off El Salvador's Guillermo Garcia and directly to McBride, who banged a header into the upper right corner of the net past goalkeeper Santo Rivera.

On the second goal, Jones chased down Armas' kick from midfield and dribbled around Rivera. Jones tripped as he went around the goalie, but the ball came to McBride on the right side and he rolled it into the net.

McBride extended the lead to 3-0 after Razov passed deep to Eddie Lewis on the left touch line. Lewis centered the ball to Landon Donovan, who whirled and tapped the ball to McBride. His third goal was a left-footer from 9 yards away in the 21st minute.

He became the first American to score as many as three goals in an international match since Joe Max-Moore had four in a 7-0 rout of El Salvador in 1993. McBride's previous multi-goal game also came against El Salvador, when he scored twice in a 4-2 win in 1997.

This time, Razov ended the scoring with his goal in the 72nd minute as the United States ran its record against El Salvador to 8-1-4. It was the first four-goal game for the Americans since a 4-0 win over Barbados on Nov. 15, 2000.

Wednesday's other semifinal at the Rose Bowl pits Costa Rica against South Korea.