Originally created 11/18/02

U.S. soccer team beats El Salvador



WASHINGTON -- The U.S. national team wrapped up its most successful year Sunday and took its first steps toward the next World Cup with a 2-0 exhibition victory over El Salvador.

Ben Olsen, returning after four operations on his right ankle, scored his first international goal in more than 2 1/2 years, and Sasha Victorine scored in just his second U.S. team appearance as coach Bruce Arena fielded mostly a young roster to get an early gauge on prospects for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The United States finished 13-6-1 in 2002, setting a national record for victories in a calendar year and advancing to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in for the first time in 72 years.

One thing hasn't changed, however: RFK Stadium retains its away-game atmosphere when a Central American nation comes to town. Local Salvadorans were the louder partisans among the 13,590 rain-soaked fans, with blue and white flags outnumbering the stars and stripes.

Olsen's goal came in the 31st minute, a strong header from 10 yards into the right side of the net on a cross from Chris Klein on the right wing. Olsen's defender slipped on the wet turf as the ball arrived, but Klein's cross was so well placed that it probably made little difference.

It was Olsen's fourth international goal, but his first since March 12, 2000. The D.C. United midfielder was essentially out of soccer for 16 months with the ankle injury before returning to MLS in late July.

Victorine scored in the 60th minute on a give-and-go with Clint Mathis, who looked slimmer than he did at the World Cup, where he was criticized for being out of shape . The Los Angeles Galaxy star slid his shot between the legs of goalkeeper Juan Gomez from 8 yards.

The entire U.S. team consisted of MLS players. Starters Wade Barrett and Taylor Twellman made their first international appearances, as did substitutes Kyle Martino and second-half goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Dan Califf, Victorine and starting goalkeeper Tim Howard were making their second appearances.

El Salvador also fielded a young team, mostly under-21 players in preparation for the Central American and Caribbean Games, which begin next weekend in San Salvador. It was El Salvador's first competitive game since the Gold Cup in January.