Houston Community News >> U.S. Loses World Cup Opener

6/12/2006 GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) -- Four years ago, the U.S. team woke up Americans to soccer with its surprise success in the World Cup. This time, it opened with a thud. Routed 3-0 by the Czech Republic on Monday night, the United States might have a very short World Cup stay this year.

Czech giant Jan Koller scored just five minutes in, Tomas Rosicky added two goals and the Czechs coasted to an easy win. Eager to prove they are among soccer's elite after their surprising quarterfinal finish in South Korea four years ago, the Americans brought their most-talented team ever to this year's tournament. They even got a pre-game pep talk from President Bush, who called from Camp David before the game and wished them well.

But they disappointed millions of fans back home and about 5,000 who made the trek to Germany, falling to 0-8 in Europe in World Cup play. With the loss, the Americans put themselves in an extremely difficult hole -- in the last two World Cups, the only team to advance from the first round after losing its opener was Turkey in 2002. Next up for the United States is traditional power Italy on Saturday, followed by rising Ghana on June 22.

U.S. captain Claudio Reyna came closest to scoring, hitting a post midway through the first half. But Rosicky scored on a soaring 25-yard shot in the 36th minute, and the Americans never got back into the game against the Czechs, semifinalists in the European Championship two years ago. Rosicky hit the crossbar in the 68th and added a goal in the 76th minute, getting past the U.S. defense off a through pass from Pavel Nedved, Europe's 2003 player of the year, and beating Kasey Keller on a breakaway.

Eddie Johnson, who entered at halftime, provided some energy, missing just wide in the 70th minute and high in the 76th. When the Americans returned to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year absence, they were embarrassed 5-1 by Czechoslovakia in their opener. Ever since December's draw, they said this game was an opportunity to show how much they've improved.

They're ranked fifth in the world by FIFA's much-criticized computer formula -- the Czechs are second behind only Brazil -- but the Americans created few dangerous scoring chances. Four years ago, the United States broke on top in its opener against Portugal in the fourth minute. This time, it was the Americans who fell behind quickly. David Rozehnal played the ball to the right flank for Zdenek Grygera, who had plenty of space and time, and crossed the ball before an onrushing Pablo Mastroeni could get there.

(Contributed by AP)