DAEJEON, South Korea – The United States advanced to the second round of the World Cup not because of anything it did Friday night, but what the co-hosts did for the Americans.
Needing just a tie to advance, the United States gave up a pair of goals in the first five minutes and lost to Poland 3-1 Friday night.
But with their chances of advancement seemingly over after Poland took a three-goal lead ice 1994. The United States will play regional rival Mexico on Monday.
The crowd at Daejeon World Cup Stadium, following the other game as closely as this one, went wild when South Korea scored.
At first the American bench didn't know what to make of it. Brian McBride, who already had come out of the game, turned around with a wild-eyed look as if to say, "Could this be true?"
The South Koreans did indeed score, and they won Group D with seven points. The Americans finished second with four, one point ahead of the Portuguese.
When the South Korea game ended, 3:35 before the U.S. game concluded, the crowd roared. Some of the U.S. players held their hands to their heads, having a hard time believing it was true.
The Americans began the tournament with a stunning 3-2 upset of fifth-ranked Portugal, then wasted a late lead in a 1-1 tie with South Korea.
Poland, which already had been eliminated after losing its first two games, inserted six new starters, including five players making their World Cup debuts.
Emmanuel Olisadebe and Pawel Kryszalowicz scored in the first five minutes, and Landon Donovan had a goal disallowed in between. Marcin Zewlakow added a second-half goal in the 66th minute, just a minute after entering the game.
Brad Friedel had the most positive performance for the Americans, stopping a penalty kick for the second straight game. Friedel dived to his left to deny Maciej Zurawski in the 66th minute.
Donovan scored for the United States in the 83rd, but by then attention was focused on Incheon, where Portugal was trying to come back.
After the two quick goals, the Americans seemed shaken, getting to many balls a split-second too late. They resorted to taking long shots, almost as if they were trying for a 3-pointer that would get them back in it.
Poland's first goal, just 2 minutes, 45 seconds in, came when Olisadebe headed a corner kick, which Friedel stopped. But the Pole kicked the rebound in off the bottom of the crossbar.
The stadium, about three-quarters full, reverberated as the crowd went wild, knowing a Polish win would guarantee South Korea a second-round berth for the first time.
Less than 60 seconds later, Donovan outjumped Arkadiusz Glowacki to head the ball in, but Chinese referee Lu Jun called it back for a push on the American.
Poland then rushed upfield, and Kryszalowicz scored from inside the 6-yard box, beating defender Jeff Agoos to a pass from Jacek Krzynowek.
The Poles nearly made it 3-0 in the 30th, but Friedel made a brilliant leg stop on Krzynowek and Zurawski's rebound went off a goalpost.