U.S., Costa Rica in Gold Cup showdown

Feb. 1, 2002 at 3:31 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The United States takes on Costa Rica at the Rose Bowl on Saturday in an attempt to take home its first major trophy in 11 years.

The last time the U.S. men's team won an important piece of hardware was in 1991, when it claimed the same CONCACAF Gold Cup.

It is a somewhat surprising place to find the Americans. As Coach Bruce Arena said all along, this tournament was not about winning trophies, it was about player evaluation.

But with an impressive win over El Salvador and a penalty-kick victory over Canada, the U.S. is in position to make its mark. And it will have done it with its "B" team, no less.

Arena brought only three players from Europe to the tournament -- Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk and Kasey Keller -- and only because they were not getting significant playing time with their clubs.

Instead, the U.S has relied on MLS-based talent, and for the first two matches, its lack of experience showed. However, Arena has molded these players into something resembling a real soccer team. They are playing with poise and shape and have demonstrated a willingness to go toward the goal.

Costa Rica represents an excellent test for Arena and his team. Missing only forward Rolando Fonseca, the Ticos brought most of their World Cup side to this event and were impressive in a 3-1

semifinal win over the Republic of Korea.

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