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Americans take victory, and respect, at U.S. Cup

One year later, the drama was gone, but the success remained.

The United States played a boring scoreless tie against Colombia Sunday, but it was enough to win the U.S. Cup '95 tournament after victories over Nigeria and Mexico.

On June 22, 1994, the Americans beat the Colombians 2-1 before 93,194 screaming fans in the Rose Bowl to virtually clinch a second-round spot in the World Cup.

"A lot of people thought last year's game was a fluke," U.S. interim coach Steve Sampson said. "We wanted to show it wasn't."

Colombia began the game with only three of its World Cup starters and was missing its two best players, forwards Faustino Asprilla and Adolfo Valencia. The 36,126 fans at Rutgers Stadium were mostly behind the Colombians, who had the better of the play and finished the tournament 1-0-2.

"Finally, we're starting to arrive and get the respect of the other national teams," U.S. midfielder John Harkes said. "It's been a long time coming. It's been a lot of hard work."

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel made several good saves for the Americans, and defender Mike Burns headed away Jorge Bermudez's shot that was headed toward the net in the final minute. The Americans kept most of their players back during the second half.

"I consider this a win today," Friedel said.

Rene Higuita, playing just his second game in goal for Colombia since a jail stay in early 1994, had only one tough test, stopping a shot by Claudio Reyna in the final minute of the first half.

This tournament was the major soccer event of the year in the United States and averaged 26,689 fans per game. That was nearly half the 47,794 average for the U.S. Cup '93 tournament, but that field included traditional soccer powers Brazil, England and Germany.

With the U.S. team not due to start World Cup qualifying until September 1996, the Americans are relaxed, playing with an attacking style. Their next test is next month in Uruguay, when they play in the America Cup, South America's championship.


Lalas signs: U.S. defender Alexi Lalas agreed to a multiyear contract with Major League Soccer for the 1996 season. Lalas, the first American-born player to appear in the Italian League, will remain with Padova for the 1995-96 season, which starts Aug. 27 and ends May 12. He then will join an MLS team to be determined.

Cyclones: Tampa Bay (9-3) had won eight games in a row, but considered Sunday's game against 1993 and 1994 USISL champion Greensboro (8-4) a litmus test for how far it has come as a first-year team in the league. However, the Cyclones will have to wait for the results.

Referee Tim Groth called off the match due to unsafe playing conditions from earlier heavy rain with the score tied 2-2 in the second half. The USISL has no provisions for games that end in a tie, so Cyclones president Luis Posso said he would try to reschedule the match.

Dynamo defender Michael Gosselin lay on the field with a serious head injury in a heavy downpour for half an hour until an ambulance arrived. Gosselin was listed in stable condition at University Community Hospital, a hospital supervisor said last night.

_ Correspondent David Brackman contributed to this report.