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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Agoos finally makes his mark
Jeff Agoos and John O'Brien listen to coach Bruce Arena
Agoos (left) is a key player in Bruce Arena's squad
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It took 14 years and 131 international appearances, but for Jeff Agoos the quest to appear in the World Cup was finally realised in America's historic 3-2 victory over Portugal.

Despite being credited with an own goal, it was otherwise a perfect day for the defender on his World Cup debut.

At the age of 34 Agoos is the elder statesman of the US squad.

He won his first cap in January 1988, when present team-mates DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan were five years-old.

However, over the intervening years, Agoos has missed out at three World Cups.

Jeff Agoos scores the own goal against Portugal
Agoos turns the ball into his own net against Portugal
And for a time it seemed that Agoos was never going to play on the greatest stage despite his standing in the American game.

As a 22-year-old Agoos was never seriously considered for a place in Bob Gansler's Italia 90 squad, despite his potential and obvious skill.

Gansler did assemble America's youngest World Cup squad, but opted for experience in defence.

Thus, despite being in the pool of candidates and a legitimate international player, Agoos was left at home.

Four years later Agoos seemed certain to figure in Bora Milutinovic's squad and maybe the team on home soil.

But as the World Cup drew closer, Agoos began to fall out of favour.

Despite earning 33 caps in the two years prior to USA 94, Agoos was among the final group of players released from the preliminary squad.

However, following Milutinovic's departure, Agoos earned a reprieve under Steve Sampson.

Having been a fixture throughout qualification, it seemed only injury could keep him from playing in France.

Open Quote
I don't really hang on to the negatives of the past
Close Quote
Jeff Agoos
Instead, it was the arrival of David Regis, a Martinique-born, French-raised defender with an American wife.

Put on the fast track to American citizenship, Regis made his US debut at left-back one month before the World Cup began, and then held it for all three matches at France 98.

Agoos spent the entire tournament on the sidelines.

However, a change in manager saw yet another change in fortune.

Bruce Arena switched Agoos to central defence where he has been a virtual ever-present ever since.

A fixture throughout qualification as well as at this year's Concacaf Gold Cup, Agoos had finally won his chance to appear in the finals.

Yet speaking exclusively to BBC Sport Online prior to leaving for South Korea, Agoos remained understandably cautious.

Jeff Agoos stretches in training
Agoos is an authoritative figure
"I think every position is still up for grabs at this point," Agoos said.

"Bruce [Arena] has got to choose players based on form."

This time though it was perfectly clear that excluding injury, nothing was going to keep Agoos out.

He had become too valuable and too much of a leader on the pitch for Arena to even consider otherwise.

"That's sport, and those type of selections come down to opinion," Agoos said, reflecting on his previous World Cup travails.

"I certainly learned from 94 and 98 and I don't think I'd be in the position I am now if I hadn't had that.

"You have to live in the present and look to the future. I don't really hang on to the negatives of the past," he added.

Cap 131 and World Cup appearance one came for Agoos in what is the biggest victory for the US since they defeated England in 1950.

Maybe it was worth the wait after all.


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GROUP D
  P GD PTS
SOUTH KOREA 3 +3 7
USA 3 -1 4
PORTUGAL 3 +2 3
POLAND 3 -4 3

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