Facebook Twitter



A victory would be a minor miracle, a tie, a win, a defeat ho-hum for the United States.

Colombia's an entirely different story."If we get one point, it's great," said midfielder Tab Ramos of the United States, which hasn't beaten Colombia in a decade. "If we get three points, it's unbelievable. We're fine with a tie. They won't be."

The meager expectations for the United States worry Colombia, a team under immense pressure to win tonight's first-round World Cup match at the Rose Bowl.

"We stress to our players that you must respect every team," said Colombia assistant coach Hernan Gomez. "As far as the United States being considered amateurs, it makes it difficult for us.

"There is no pressure on them. They can improvise and that makes it difficult."

The United States earned one point by tying Switzerland 1-1 last Saturday. Colombia, considered South America's best team and a threat to win the World Cup, was upset 3-1 by Romania the same day and is the only team in the group without a point.

"I think they're going to have to come at us with everything they've got," U.S. defender Cle Kooiman said. "Otherwise, they're going to dig the hole even deeper."

Colombia's opening defeat was considered a calamity back home, and a loss to the lightly regarded U.S. team would be a sort of national disgrace.

"We've been under the pressure before, we understand it, and this team seems to rise to the occasion," Gomez said.

The United States again is expected to be without Claudio Reyna, a 20-year-old playmaker who was impressive in exhibition games leading up to the World Cup. He is still slowed by a hamstring pull suffered June 8.

Eric Wynalda, who has been bothered by a severe rash, is scheduled to start. Wynalda scored against Switzerland before asking to be taken out of the game early in the second half.

Colombian coach Francisco Maturana announced one change in his lineup, starting Antony De Avila at forward in place of Adolfo Valencia, who scored the only goal against Romania.

Replacing Valencia with the fleet De Avila is a tactical move by Maturana, who obviously believes De Avila will be more successful against the U.S. defense, which is more physical than fast.

Defenders Kooiman, Alexi Lalas, Marcelo Balboa and Paul Caligiuri will challenge the agile Colombian attackers, trying to keep them off-balance and out of their rhythm, much as Romania did.

"If we play defensively sound like we did the last game, it will be difficult for them to score," Caligiuri said.

Caligiuri & Co. will be facing much faster players than they did in the tie with Switzerland.

Forward Faustino Asprilla is always dangerous with the ball, and De Avila and midfielder Freddie Rincon also are goal-scorers. Colombia's attack is orchestrated by midfielder Carlos Valderrama, although Romania's defense smothered him.

"Carlos definitely was upset not only with the result, but with his personal performance," Maturana said. "This is a team that has revolved around him, and now he's ready to take on the next opponent, rally the team around him, and lead the team as he has in the past."

Colombia has won all six of its games against the United States since a 1-0 loss in 1984, although each of those wins were by one goal.

"We've had very good results against the United States, but it's always different game to game and obviously it's very different this time, because it's the World Cup," Colombian defender Wilson Perez said. "I think they have shown a tremendous will to do well and compete well."

Although the Rose Bowl is just up the freeway from their training center in Mission Viejo, the U.S. players may hear more "Ole" than "U-S-A". The Los Angeles area has a large population of native Colombians, many of whom will be sporting Valderrama look-alike blond wigs.

"I think it'll be 50-50 or 60-40," Ramos said of the capacity crowd of more than 91,000. "But I do know the Colombian fans will be more vocal."

Said Colombia's Perez, "I think the fans will show very good support. We know what we can do; hopefully we will show them."