It was all talk, little action.
For weeks, U.S. players said they were out to earn the respect of the European soccer world. When it came time to produce against Germany in their World Cup opener Monday night, the Americans fell flat, generating almost no offense and showing they have a long way to go.
Germany, a three-time world champion that has dominated European soccer for a quarter century, came away with a 2-0 victory, going ahead when Andreas
Moeller scored off a corner kick in the ninth minute and dominating for the entire first half.
"We're going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight if we expect to win," U.S. forward Eric Wynalda said.
The United States failed on its one good chance to tie early in the second half, gave up a goal to Juergen Klinsmann and now must get at least a win and a tie against Iran and Yugoslavia to advance past the first round.
"The early goal hurt us quite a bit, put us on our heels a little bit," U.S. coach Steve Sampson said. "In the first half we played conservatively. We talked things over in the locker room and came out aggressively in the second half."
Frankie Hejduk, a self-proclaimed "surfer dude" from Cardiff, Calif., produced the only electric moment for the Americans, nearly tying the score
seven minutes into the second half.
David Regis, a former Frenchman who became a U.S. citizen last month, sent a cross to Hejduk, whose shot was headed for just inside the right post. Goalkeeper Andreas Koepke dived to his right, getting his hand on it, and Claudio Reyna's shot off the rebound went off Koepke's knees.
It was eerily quiet crowd for much of the game, in sharp contrast to the boisterous crowds the Americans played before at the Silverdome, the Rose Bowl and Stanford Stadium during the '94 tournament.
Sam's Army, a group of several hundred American fans that follows the team, chanted "U-S-A" from the upper deck of Parc Des Princes' north end, but that group was far outnumbered by several thousand German supporters chanting "Deutsch-Land!" at the South end. The French were mostly silent.
U.S. players were as flat as the crowd in the first half, looking nervous and losing most headers nd 50-50 balls. Forward Eric Wynalda, who had predicted a big game for himself, didn't have one good chance and Germany largely shut down Reyna, the top U.S. playmaker.
Hejduk and Tab Ramos, who entered in the 70th minute, sparked the offense in the second half, but the chances weren't finished and the United States was blanked for the third straight time in the World Cup since upsetting Colombia 2-1 in the first round four years ago.
The Americans didn't get their first hard shot until the 30th minute, when Chad Deering's curving shot was easily grabbed by Koepke.
Germany's early goal came after Olaf Thon sent a long corner to the far side of the penalty area and Klinsmann, standing between David Regis and Ernie Stewart, outclawed both, sending the ball in front of the net. Moeller then went past Thomas Dooley and beat Kasey Keller to the near side.
Sampson described Klinsmann's goal as "unfortunate."
Dooley was in the center of the second goal, too. Regis' clearing pass was blocked by Jens Jeremies, and Dooley was turned around, leaving Klinsmann wide open with nearly the entire net to shoot at.
"In the second half, we came out ready to be more aggressive," Reyna said. "We were and we almost tied it. But after they scored the second goal, it became more difficult."
The U.S. team would be ready for Iran, in Lyon on Saturday, Sampson said.
"Rest assured, we have to put some people on the field that can get behind their defense," the Sampson said.
on Dec. 18, 1993, Moeller scored the first goal on a header in Germany's 3-0 win.
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