Team turmoil, with the worst performance at the World Cup, quickly fled the site of its debacle Friday, with more shots at coach Steve Sampson and promises of fines for the most outspoken players.
Alexi Lalas and Jeff Agoos joined Tab Ramos in saying they wouldn't play for the national team again as long as Sampson remains as coach. Sampson, in turn, said he deserved to stay on and launched into an attack on Ramos."Here is an individual I essentially held a spot open for for eight,nine months. I didn't have to do that," Sampson said as waves crashed into the beach behind him at the team's hotel in Brittany. "I played Tab in the most critical match, against Iran. Tab was responsible for the first goal against us.
"It's unfair he feels free to voice his opinion about me when I gave him so much respect. I don't understand where athletes get this freedom to express themselves."
Players began heading out early Friday, just hours after the United States completed an 0-3 performance with a 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia. The Americans wound up at the bottom of the 32-team tournament when Jamaica won, Tunisia tied and Japan finished with a better goal differential.
Lalas, looking worn, was among those who left shortly after dawn.
"The pain is definitely still there," he said at Nantes-Atlantique Airport. "For me, the disappointment didn't hit until after yesterday's game, 'til it was over. It was over too soon."
Lalas, a star for the team during the 1994 World Cup, was one of three players on the 22-man roster who didn't see a minute this time. Agoos was another.
"I'm definitely not coming back," Lalas said. "The only thing I've ever wanted is for the team to do well - whether I'm on the field, whether I'm off the field or home watching on TV."
Following the opening 2-0 loss to Germany, veterans on the team com-plained Sampson used too many World Cup rookies. The dissension grew after Iran eliminated the Americans with a 2-1 victory.
"The basic corps of players did a tremendous amount of work on and off the field for many, many years," Lalas said. "The payoff was the World Cup. So I think there's definitely a sense that some off us were let down."
Agoos, who saw the most action among U.S. players in World Cup qualifying, also went on the attack against Sampson.
"My viewpoints and his viewpoints are at polar opposites on how a player should be treated," he said. "He has to respect my opinion as well as his."
Lalas said he had no regrets about his actions, even though U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg cautioned players to think twice about their remarks.
Rothenberg said after Thursday's game he will decide Sampson's fate by mid-August. The coach said he's comfortable with the job he's done, but also said the USSF's new job as director of its 2010 project - to win the World Cup by then - was intriguing.