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Iranian-Americans go home happy after tie

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PASADENA, Calif. -- It seemed mostly an Iranian-American festival, with a soccer match as the featured attraction.

After the United States and Iran played to a 1-1 tie Sunday before a spirited Rose Bowl crowd that heavily favored Iran, American coach Bruce Arena said he wouldn't mind doing it again."It was a great match, and we would love an opportunity to play Iran again," Arena said. "It was a well-played game, both sides showed good sportsmanship, and it was a fair result."

The game was a rematch of the 1998 World Cup game between Iran and the United States in France, when Iran took a stunning 2-1 victory. But this time, it was merely an exhibition, or "friendly," match, with nothing at stake except pride.

The U.S. team dominated the tempo, getting off 18 shots to nine by Iran. But the only scoring came on Mehdi Mahdavikia's goal in the seventh minute, and Chris Armas' tying score for the United States in the 48th.

The Iranian-American community in and around Los Angeles numbers as many 600,000 and was well-represented at the Rose Bowl, with some 90 percent of the crowd of 49,212 chanting, "IRAN! IRAN!" throughout the match.

The game was the third in the United States for the Iranian team, on a brief "soccer diplomacy" tour. The two nations do not have formal diplomatic relations.

As often is the case when the U.S. team plays another country's national team in the Los Angeles area, the Americans seemed to be the visitors, with red, white and blue flags in the minority in the stands.

This time, most of the American flags displayed were by fans with an Iranian flag in their other hand. Many in the crowd also had an Iranian flag painted on one cheek and an American flag on the other.

Arena was disappointed the crowd didn't have more fans cheering for the U.S. team.

"I think it's about time people started getting behind our national team," he said.

The U.S. team is greatly changed from the one that lost to Iran in Lyon in 1998. Arena took over as coach after Steve Sampson resigned in the wake of the Americans' failure to win a game in the World Cup.

Only four starters Sunday -- Cobi Jones, Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and Frank Hejduk -- were starters in France.

The Americans, who hadn't played for several months, looked rusty early, particularly on defense, but picked up steam as the game went on.