WASHINGTON -- The further internationalization of the U.S. national soccer team began to pay dividends last night.
Thomas Dooley, born in Germany but the son of an American, contributed to two goals as the United States took a 3-1 victory over Ireland in the opening game of U.S. Cup '92 before 35,696 at RFK Stadium.
U.S. Cup '92 is a six-game, four-team tournament that includes Portugal and Italy. The U.S. team will play its next two games in Chicago, against Portugal on Wednesday and Italy on Saturday. Italy and Portugal are scheduled to play today in New Haven, Conn.
The U.S. team used six European-based players, and with Ireland drawing the bulk of its roster from England's First Division, all were right at home on a field soaked by daylong rains that let up only briefly in the second half. The sloppy conditions made for a lackluster start, but the U.S. performance improved drastically after the break, and that trend figures to continue during the week, as all the players at least will get on a first-name basis.
"Not many guys come in and are as good as advertised, but we received some welcome additions tonight," said U.S. goalie Tony Meola, who was peppered in a 4-1 loss at Ireland last month. "Dooley gives us that extra element. He goes forward at the right time, and he's a great defender."
Dooley and Roy Wegerle, a native of South Africa who became an American citizen last year, were making their American debuts. Dooley, a standout defender for German Bundesliga champion FC Kaiserslautern, had two weeks of practice with his new teammates, but Wegerle spent the week celebrating the Blackburn Rovers' elevation to England's First Division, and didn't arrive in Washington until Friday.
Seven minutes into the second half, Ireland took a 1-0 lead on a relatively uncontested header by Mick McCarthy.
Less than two minutes later, Dooley, who was a tentative participant for much of the first half, was at the center of the equalizing goal that reversed the game's tenor.
After Irish defender Terry Phelan committed a foul that warranted a caution, Hugo Perez was given the restart far out on the left side. His free kick to just inside the top of the penalty area was won by the 6-foot-1 Dooley, whose header only slightly redirected the ball on to the end line right of the goal.
John Doyle collected it there, and with the Irish fleeing back to the goal mouth, he sent it back to Marcelo Balboa, who placed a 10-yard shot.
With star goalie Pat Bonner resting an injury and coach Jack Charlton testing several new backs, the inexperienced Irish defense was again caught napping in the 70th minute. Fernando Clavijo's cross from the left side was converted from 25 yards out by an equally open Tab Ramos. Ramos, a former N.C. State star, was making his first appearance on U.S. soil since 1989, took a shot that deflected off the right post just minutes earlier.
In the 87th minute, Dooley again pushed up and outwitted two defenders and Irish goalkeeper Gerry Peyton. Taking a ball from Wegerle, Dooley saw John Harkes five yards to the right, and when Harkes found an open net, coach Bora Milutinovic could begin counting the two points earned by the solid second half.
Ireland's goal came off a corner kick from Stephen Staunton, as McCarthy went up in between two defenders and beat Meola.