Sports

Undefeated under Bruce, U.S. preps for Copa America

MARACAIBO, Venezuela - Two days after winning its second straight Gold Cup title, the U.S. soccer team was on a field in Venezuela, practicing for Thursday night's matchup with Argentina in the Copa America.

Only it wasn't the same U.S. team. Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard were left behind. Among the American players who made the trip for South America's championship, only two started in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Mexico in Chicago. Two more were second-half subs.

"To play in two tournaments is a big challenge," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said following a light workout. "We had many discussions with our players and their clubs and we ended up with a younger team."

In 1995, the United States won 3-0 against Argentina in the Copa, but the South Americans didn't include many of their regulars in the starting lineup. Thursday's game is the first for the fifth-ranked Argentines, and the U.S. team likely will have to deal with Europe-based stars such as Hernan Crespo of Internazionale of Milan and Lionel Messi of Barcelona.

Bradley, who has led the Americans to a 10-0-1 record since replacing Bruce Arena, promised a similar approach to the offensive strategy the U.S. team used in winning the Gold Cup for the second straight time.

"Our tactics are the same," Bradley said. "We've worked to establish a strong mentality and we believe in our work."

The United States, which along with Mexico is an invited guest, is 2-5 against Argentina.

"We all have great respect for Argentina, but we're excited for the challenge," Bradley said. "A little respect for your opponent is good, but too much is bad."

The Copa America began Tuesday. The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a critic of the United States, has spent over $1 billion building two stadiums, renovating seven more and modernizing airports.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller, the only veteran of the 1995 U.S. Copa America roster, said politics shouldn't interfere with the tournament.

"We have a great respect for the people here," Keller said in Spanish. "And the people are very friendly with us."

n Peru 3, Uruguay 0: Peru won the opening match of the Copa America in Merida, upsetting 14-time champion Uruguay 3-0 Tuesday night on goals by Miguel Villalta, Juan Carlos Marino and Paolo Guerrero.

Villalta headed in the first goal off Jefferson Farfan's cross in the 27th minute following a corner kick, Carlos Marino beat goalkeeper Fabian Carini from 25 yards in the 70th and Guerrero scored off a pass from Andres Mendoza in the 89th.

n Venezuela 2, Bolivia 2: With the presidents of both nations looking on, Bolivia rallied to tie host Venezuela 2-2 in San Cristobal, on Tuesday. Juan Carlos Arce tipped in the ball in the 83rd minute to tie the game.

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