Northeast Ohio Native Plays Game Of His Life In U.S. Tie Against South Korea

By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer

DAEGU, South Korea (AP) - Northeast Ohio native Brad Friedel had the game of his life, his finest moment. And he didn't even win.

With the United States desperately fighting off South Korea on Monday, Friedel (pictured, right) not only made half a dozen sparkling saves, he became the first goalkeeper to save an in-game penalty kick during the World Cup since at least 1994, getting the Americans a 1-1 tie against the deflated Red Devils.

"Friedel was the man of the match," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Before the tournament, Arena said it was possible he would split the first two games between Friedel and Kasey Keller, the top U.S. goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup.

Friedel was the regular all season for Blackburn Rovers, and Keller only gained the starting job at English Premier League rival Tottenham Hotspur for the final seven games of the season.

While Friedel got the start in last Wednesday's 3-2 win over Portugal, Arena wouldn't say who would play against South Korea, a pressure-filled game with 61,000 screaming fans making it hard for a goalkeeper to communicate with his defenders.

Arena didn't rotate, instead sticking with Friedel because the coach felt it would be a day he'd need fancy footwork between the posts. Friedel is better at blocking balls with his beefy legs than the more stringy and springy Keller.

Friedel parried Kim Nam-il's 30-yard chip with his fingertips in the 10th minute, then made his coach look like an oracle with a left-footed kick save on Seol Ki-hyeon's ball from the side in the 20th minute.

In the 40th minute, he made a super stop on Seol's point-blank shot. But Agoos was called for dumping Hwang Sun-hong in the penalty area as Eddie Pope tumbled into the players.

Agoos said Hwang was the one doing the shirt-grabbing and that Swiss referee Urs Meier, who refereed the Americans' 2-1 loss to Iran at the 1998 World Cup, blew the call.

"He was dragged down," Arena said. "The penalty kick was ridiculous."

Friedel dived to his right and parried away Lee Eul-yong's penalty kick, and Kim's shot off the rebound went wide.

"They changed about three penalty shooters," Friedel said. "When a left-footer takes a penalty and he's not very confident, he'll generally push it to the easier side so he doesn't miss the net."

With most of the world's best scorers at the tournament, penalty kicks are usually sure things. Kickers had been 10-for-10 this year and in 1998 they made 17 of 18, with one shooter missing the net.

Friedel then pushed away a header by Hwang three minutes into the second half, saved Seol's shot in the 50th and denied Yong Soo-choi in the 71st, just seconds after he came on.

Ahn Jung-hwan finally broke through in 78th, outjumping Agoos for a header that redirected Lee's free kick into the net.

"We lost concentration for a split second and they put it away," Friedel said. "They put us under a lot of pressure in the second half and it's hard to withstand that pressure."

Friedel, a 31-year-old from Bay Village, Ohio, had gotten angry last summer when he was bypassed in favor of Keller for two straight World Cup qualifiers. He skipped the next one, at Mexico.

He quickly rejoined the program, and was its key member Monday, allowing the Americans to move within a tie against Poland of advancing to the second round.

But Arena still hasn't said whether Friedel will start Friday.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)