United States 2, Uruguay 1

Monday, May 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Starting its final run of World Cup warmups, the United States finds itself in an unusual position: The offense looks good and the defense is shaky.

Tony Sanneh and DaMarcus Beasley scored first-half goals Sunday in a 2-1 exhibition victory over Uruguay, whose speed exposed the Americans' problems with their outside backs.

Making matters worse, top defensive midfielder Chris Armas tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will miss the World Cup. No immediate replacement was picked for Armas, who played in 14 of 16 qualifiers for the tournament.

``It was a very odd play; a movement that I have made a thousand times,'' Armas said. ``I had just planted on my right foot and I felt the knee go. In life these things happen. Right now I don't think it's fully sunk in.''

On the plus side, Brad Friedel was a standout in goal, making 13 saves, including several outstanding stops. Friedel couldn't be faulted on Sebastian Abreu's goal in the 60th minute, which came off a bad pass by Landon Donovan.

Beasley, just 19, played well, as did forward Clint Mathis, who also has never been to a World Cup.

``The situation is this _ can we rely on our young kids in the World Cup?'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said, adding a few moments later: ``I guess we can because that's why they're on the roster.''

As for the goalkeepers, Friedel is competing against Kasey Keller, the starter in 1998. Keller traveled back to the United States on Sunday following the end of the English Premier League season and is likely to play Thursday against Jamaica at East Rutherford, N.J.

``Yes, I want to start in the World Cup,'' Friedel said. ``There's no question about that, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to get there. Does that enter my mind when I step on the field in a game like today? No.''

Friedel jumped high to make a right-handed punch save on Fabian O'Neill in the 10th, then dived to his right in the 31st to save a 30-yard free kick by Alvaro Recoba. Two minutes later, after Gustavo Mendez went around David Regis, Friedel parried his hard shot over the crossbar.

When Uruguay scored, it was only after Friedel kicked away Abreu's tough shot from about 8 yards, then punched away Abreu's attempt off the rebound. The ball went to Abreu, who put it into the unguarded half of the net.

Abreu then had a breakaway in the 66th and Friedel stood his ground, blocking the shot with a shoulder.

``He looked pretty good to me,'' Arena said. ``The problem is that Keller is going to have a good game on Thursday. Those guys rarely have bad games. They are never disappointing.''

Arena, while concerned about the defense of Regis and Sanneh at the outside of his backline, was positive about the team's performance. After the game against Jamaica, the Americans finish their pre-World Cup schedule May 19 against the Netherlands in Foxboro, Mass. At the tournament, they have first-round games against Portugal on June 5, co-host South Korea on June 10 and Poland on June 14.

``Overall, a good start to these three games,'' Arena said. ``We'll be looking at some new lineups for every game here on in.''

Uruguay, the final team to qualify for the World Cup's 32-nation field, gave the United States plenty of room to work with, and the Americans took advantage before a mostly pro-Uruguay crowd 30,413 at RFK Stadium.

Sanneh's goal in the sixth minute came on glancing header off a corner kick by Jeff Agoos.

``What's good for us is that we started on a positive note, and whether we would have won or lost, we started to develop a little bit of structure,'' Sanneh said. ``We didn't let their pressure affect us.''

Beasley scored in the 40th when he sped past defender Gonzalo Sorondo and cut toward goalkeeper Gustavo Munua, who saved his initial shot. Beasley kept running across and tucked the rebound into the net from a sharp angle.

``DaMarcus is still 19 years old,'' Arena said, ``but he played like a man today.''