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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 5, 2004

Ching, Donovan score in U.S. win

By Ronald Blum
Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — Brian Ching got another big goal, and the United States received the gift of jewelry.

El Salvador's Diego Mejia, front, and America's Carlos Bocanegra go up together for the ball during their qualifying match.

Associated Press

Ching scored just five minutes in on the Americans' first shot, and El Salvador was forced to play a man short after a defender was ejected midway through the first half for wearing a gold chain. Landon Donovan went on to score a second-half goal, and the United States won 2-0 yesterday to move into good position to advance to the regional finals of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.

"I think it's terrible," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said of the ejection. "It's a bad call. It's a shame. They should have given him a warning."

Denis Alas, a 19-year-old El Salvador defender, was given a yellow card in the eighth minute for a rough tackle on Bobby Convey. U.S. players then pointed out to the officials that Alas was wearing a chain, and referee Neal Brizan of Trinidad and Tobago assessed a second yellow in the 26th minute — resulting in a red card and an automatic ejection.

"Right now, the rules say that every player has to take off all metal — rings, chains, everything," said El Salvador coach Juan Paredas, who was ejected in the ensuing argument. "Denis Ales maybe forgot. I got excited because it was very hard for me to see that."

Alas held out his arms wide, as if to say, "What did I do?"

"My suggestion is that a better way to manage the game is just tell the player to take the jewelry off," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "That's hard to do when you have a young referee. Maybe a little more experience, maybe he'll disregard what the rule book says there and use maybe a little more common sense."

Arena, the winningest coach in U.S. national team history, got his 50th victory with the national team, and the 10th-ranked Americans improved to 11-1-4 against 103rd-ranked El Salvador, which hasn't advanced to soccer's biggest event since 1982.

The crowd of 25,266 was split pretty evenly between supporters of each team, and the El Salvador fans booed the ejection. Manchester United's Tim Howard, starting his first World Cup qualifier, didn't have to make any saves. The Americans, who started nine players under age 26, outshot El Salvador 19-1.

Ching's 89th-minute goal at Jamaica on Aug. 18 gave the 10th-ranked Americans a 1-1 tie in their opener, and that earned the 26-year-old Kamehameha alum his first start with the national team. On a give-and-go with Convey, he took the ball and beat goalkeeper Santos Rivera, heading the ball in off the right post for his second goal in four international appearances.

On the same field on Aug. 16 last year, Ching ruptured his right Achilles' tendon while playing for the San Jose Earthquakes. He's rebounded to lead Major League Soccer with 11 goals this season.

"Last year, being carried off this field, I never would have thought that I'd be in this position that I am so soon," he said. "The injury, it put a lot of motivation into me."

Donovan added his 17th goal in 54 games with the national team, taking a pass from Steve Cherundolo, cutting across the field and connecting with a left-footed shot from 18 yards in the 69th minute.

The Americans (1-0-1) moved into first place in Group A of the North and Central American and Caribbean region with four points, one ahead of El Salvador (1-1) and Panama (1-1). Panama won 2-1 at Jamaica (0-1-1) yesterday.

The U.S. team can seize control of the group with a victory Wednesday at Panama. The Americans then play at El Salvador on Oct. 9 and finish with home games against Panama on Oct. 13 and Jamaica on Nov. 17. The top two teams advance to next's year's six-nation regional finals.