PORTLAND, Ore. -- Midfielder Tab Ramos kissed away 10 months of frustration yesterday when his 22-yard scoring smash lifted the U.S. soccer team over a major hurdle in World Cup qualifying.
The goal gave the United States a 1-0 victory over closest rival Costa Rica and virtually guaranteed the Americans a third straight Cup appearance.
Ramos was playing his first game for the United States since tearing a knee ligament last November and had helped set up several failed opportunities for his clearly dominant mates.
Creative playmaker Preki, who subbed for Claudio Reyna, set up the winner. Major League Soccer's leading scorer dribbled the ball twice, faked his defender and sent a perfect pass to Marcelo Balboa in front of the net.
Balboa nudged a quick pass back to Ramos at the top of the penalty arc. Ramos took one step and drilled the ball past goalie Erick Lonnis.
"I hit it as hard as I could," Ramos said. "A lot of frustration was in that shot."
Preki's appearance made a crucial point for coach Steve Sampson. Preki had been dropped from the team last spring after grousing too much about not being a starter.
"We need him to do exactly what he did today," Sampson said. "He needs to come in with fresh legs and make things happen. Fortunately, Preki has changed his attitude about this."
The win lifted the United States (2-1-3) into second place behind Mexico with four games left in the final regional qualifying round for teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. The top three advance.
Costa Rica (2-3-2), with two losses and a tie in its last three games, is a point behind the Americans, falling into a third-place tie with Jamaica (2-2-2), which beat Canada, 1-0, yesterday.
The next U.S. game is against Jamaica on Oct. 3 at RFK Stadium in Washington.
Pub Date: 9/08/97