Irish Soccer Team Beats U.S. 2-1

Thursday, April 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ His team was uncertain on defense, unable to keep possession in midfield and frustrated when on attack.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena has given himself five days to pick the team he's taking to the World Cup. After a 2-1 loss to Ireland on Wednesday night, he faces more questions than answers.

The outcome could have been worse. Arena's top two goalies, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, shared playing time and made several impressive stops on a night when the U.S. defense came under sustained siege.

The Americans were behind almost before they knew it, courtesy of a sixth-minute goal from midfielder Mark Kinsella. He broke free of John O'Brien and surged past defender Gregg Berhalter to head home a cross in front of the U.S. goal.

Eddie Pope tied it with a 33rd-minute header of his own. But the Irish enjoyed long stretches on attack, going ahead for good with another short-range header from a free kick that appeared to catch a tiring defense off guard.

``We need to get our players into camp and clean up some of our mistakes,'' Arena said.

The Americans drew some consolation from knowing they played better than they did in a 4-2 loss against Germany on March 27. They previously lost to Italy 1-0.

``I think the difference between today and the Germany match is that we fought for each other,'' said forward Brian McBride, who plays for Columbus in Major League Soccer.

Friedel, the starting goalie for Blackburn in England, played the first half.

``We showed a lot of character by going down a goal and coming back to get even, and had some chances to even take the lead,'' he said. ``And even after we fell down 2-1 we still had a couple chances. This team is not going to give up, ever. That's one of the qualities that we've always had, and one we'll take to the grave with us.''

The United States is grouped with Poland, Portugal and South Korea in the World Cup, with play starting June 5. At the 1998 World Cup, the Americans were last among the 32 teams.

``That was humiliating,'' Friedel said. ``And that won't happen again. We're definitely much more experienced than we were in 1998, and with Bruce in as coach, we're correcting the mistakes of the past.''

Three exhibition games remain for the United States before the World Cup, against Uruguay (May 12 at Washington), Jamaica (May 16 at East Rutherford, N.J.) and the Netherlands (May 19 at Foxboro, Mass.).

Before the game, the Irish paid tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern presented a check for nearly $300,000 to New York City firefighters Jack Ginty and Kevin Gallagher. The Irish team had donated its pay from its game last month against Denmark.

``I can't put into words how thankful we are for that gesture. It was absolutely magnificent,'' Arena said. ``The game is one thing, the World Cup is another. But the real story in this world is how people get along with each other.''