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T&T gets the points it needed
by Ridge Mahoney, October 16th, 2008 7AM



The U.S. took the field Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago with its future in mind, but couldn't match the intensity and experience of an opponent committed to the here and now.

Second-half goals by veterans Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke (combined age, 76) brought T&T a vital 2-1 win, its first-ever victory over the U.S. in a qualifier, that edged it to within a point of reaching the Hexagonal. Coupled with Cuba's 2-1 upset of Guatemala, the second-place Soca Warriors hold a three-point lead over the Guatemalans with just one match to play.

Charlie Davies (age: 22) put away a cross from Jozy Altidore (19) to briefly tie the match in the 75th minute, but four minutes later, Altidore dragged down Makan Hislop by his jersey to provide T&T with a penalty kick that Yorke drove past keeper Brad Guzan, one of seven members of the 2008 Olympic team to play in this match.

Latapy had scored in the 61st minute on a fortunate bounce of his low volley that evaded Guzan's dive and then rebounded off the goalkeeper's back into the net. The passing of Mark Birchall and Carlos Edwards set up the chance in the manner of their touches and movement that unhinged the U.S. several times and prevented the Americans from establishing any attacking rhythm.

Having clinched a Hexagonal spot Saturday by crushing Cuba, 6-1, at RFK Stadium, the U.S. took the field with few holdovers from that match. Altidore started as the lone forward in a 4-5-1 and Jose Torres got his first start for the U.S. in a midfield led by Freddy Adu and Sacha Kljestan. Olympian Michael Orozco gained his first national team cap partnered with Danny Califf in central defense.

Jarred off stride by T&T's robust play, the Americans seldom connected more than a few passes and needed several desperation clearances to get the ball out of trouble. They were often a step slow in their challenges, but blunted numerous attacks by intelligent team defense.

Often they were undone by one player ball-watching or reacting a half-second too late. They managed just three shots and only Davies put one on goal. The crispness and sharpness needed to beat a spirited, athletic foe just wasn't there.

The passing and first touches of Maurice Edu and Kljestan were inconsistent, Adu did some nice work on the ball but had too few outlets when put under pressure, and Altidore set up Davies with a sweet pass yet flubbed a header that could have re-tied the match in stoppage time.

Two erroneous offside decisions deprived the U.S. of prime scoring chances. Altidore played a through ball to DaMarcus Beasley that an offside flag negated in the first half; Altidore, supplied by Torres, knocked a ball home in the second half only for it to be called back.

Guzan showed the rust of riding the bench at Aston Villa since his arrival in England though on neither goal was he culpable. In the first half a poor punch triggered a furious goalmouth scramble that his teammates defused and he also let a long, bouncing shot carom off his chest but was able to smother the loose ball.

Davies scored a few minutes after replacing Adu. The U.S. got its own lucky bounce when Edu drove the ball into a tackle; Altidore pounced on the ball and got to the end line before centering a ball Davies tapped home.

Against Cuba, Kljestan had set up a Brian Ching goal by leaping to head a free kick into his path, and he nearly duplicated the feat by getting up for a ball and nodding it square. Davies helped it along to the far post but Altidore, just yards from the goal, glanced it wide of the post.

The semifinal qualifying round concludes Nov. 19 against Guatemala in Commerce City, Colo.

Oct. 15 in Port of Spain

Trinidad & Tobago 2 USA 1. Goals: Latapy 61, Yorke 79; Davies 75.
USA -- Guzan, Pearce (Rolfe, 88), Califf, Orozco, Hejduk, Beasley, Torres (Szetela, 84), Adu (Davies, 69), Edu, Kljestan, Altidore.
Trinidad & Tobago -- Ince, A.Edwards, Thomas (Hislop, 35), Lawrence, Brichill, Daniel, Latapy (Hyland, 76), C.Edwards, Spann, Scotland (John, 67), Yorke.
Yellow Card: USA -- Altidore 78.
Referee: Walter Quesada (Costa Rica).
Att.: 18,000.

Shots: 3/8
Shots on Goal: 1/4
Saves: 2/0
Corner Kicks: 4/4
Fouls: 14/11
Offside: 3/2


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