Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Why the pressure's on USA in Trinidad
by Ridge Mahoney, September 9th, 2009 6:45AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] In past Hexagonals, the USA has qualified for the World Cup as early as the seventh game in the 10-match campaign, or by the eighth game on other occasions. No such guarantee is available this time around. Even a victory against Trinidad & Tobago Wednesday in Port of Spain (kickoff at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic, Telefutura) in Game 8 will assure only fourth place, and the fourth-place finisher must play a treacherous two-game playoff against the fifth-place finisher in South America for a spot in South Africa.

The Americans are tucked into a first-place tie with Honduras in the six-team group. Both nations are 4-1-2 (wins-ties-losses) and have 13 points. Mexico and Costa Rica are right behind at 4-0-3 (12 points), well ahead of El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago, mired at the bottom with 1-2-4 records and just five points.

Since the USA smacked T&T, 3-0, with a Jozy Altidore hat trick in Nashville April 1, former captain Russell Latapy has taken over as head coach and Dwight Yorke has officially retired. Honduras hammered T&T, 4-1, in San Pedro Sula on Saturday, as Bolton defender Jlloyd Samuel made his T&T debut. If healthy, Fulham striker Bobby Zamora - another recent call-up -- could make his first appearance Wednesday after sitting out the Honduras game with an injury.

San Jose striker Cornell Glen and Sunderland forward Kenwyne Jones endow T&T with enough firepower to keep the U.S. defense busy, in particular since defender Jay DeMerit hasn't recovered from his groin strain sufficiently to travel with the team to Port of Spain. Oguchi Onyewu served a one-game suspension Saturday in the 2-1 victory against El Salvador, and DeMerit's spot could be filled by either Carlos Bocanegra or Chad Marshall, who manned the middle Saturday, or Jonathan Spector, who played right back Saturday yet is capable of filling any of the back-four slots.

Midfielder Ricardo Clark, who was one of nine players carrying cautions into the El Salvador game, wasn't named to the game-day roster of 18. His range and quickness and fresh legs are likely to be utilized against T&T, and so too could the touch and poise of Jose Francisco Torres, who in five minutes as a sub nailed a fierce header on goal that was saved and won a ball in the middle third to thwart an opposing attack.

Giveaways in midfield plagued the Americans on several occasions and Coach Bob Bradley will want cleaner and crisper play in a turnaround game where fatigue could be a major factor.

"The double-fixture games are always hard, physically and mentally," said Landon Donovan, who assisted on both goals - by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore - as the USA rallied from a 1-0 deficit. "We come from a game where we were down a goal, and down on ourselves, to going up a goal and winning the game. So we're on an emotional high but we need to get going again pretty quickly."

Unlike the tie-infested Hexagonal of 1997, during which nearly half (13/30) of the matches ended in ties, the trend in recent competitions has skewed the other way. Four years ago, when the USA and Mexico finished tied atop the six-team group with 7-1-2 (wins-ties-losses) and 22 points, there were only four ties. In 2001, Costa Rica finished on top at 7-1-2 (23 points) with the USA and Mexico tied for second (5-2-3, 17 points) as just six matches ended even.

Only three ties (of 21 games) have been played in this Hexagonal, including the point secured by the Americans via a 2-2 deadlock March 28 in San Salvador. That point looked pretty good when Mexico lost in San Salvador, 2-1, June 6, but by winning, 3-0, in Costa Rica Saturday the Mexicans have ratcheted up the importance of doing more than tying on the road.

While the USA needs to win in Port of Spain, ties in the other games can greatly aid its cause, especially if El Salvador can come up with a strong game at home against Costa Rica and keep the Ticos at least three points behind the USA. In the other game, Mexico hosts Honduras, and is eager to atone for the 3-1 thrashing it suffered in San Pedro Sula five months ago.

With no control of what happens in the other games, all the Americans can do is concentrate on its only remaining contest against the bottom feeders, from which it has extracted seven points in three matches.

"We know it's going to be a battle down there in Trinidad," says U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra. "And it'll be hot."

Those conditions and the quick turnaround increase the importance of not giving up the first goal, which the Americans have done four times in their seven Hexagonal games.

In February of 2005, the Americans kicked off that edition of the Hexagonal by winning, 2-1, in Port of Spain. Twenty years ago, a 1-0 victory on Paul Caligiuri's goal against the same opponent in the same city clinched qualification for the 1990 World Cup.

A win Wednesday can only move the Americans closer to qualification for 2010. Anything less, and just getting to South Africa looks shaky with no more than 14 points in the bag, and two difficult games remaining: at Honduras Oct. 10, and at home four days later against Costa Rica.


No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
What They're Saying: OKC Energy FC    
"We are stunned by the news today of murder charges being filed against OKC Energy FC ...
Video Pick: Neymar delights in charity game     
Neymar started his holiday break by playing in a Sao Paulo "Ball Hunger Only" charity game ...
Clyde Simms needs second kidney transplant    
Just days after receiving a kidney transplant, former U.S. international Clyde Simms, who was forced to ...
What They're Saying: Thierry Henry    
"Now teams have their own stadiums. You see the fans wearing the jerseys of their teams. ...
Youth Report: U.S. U-20s sweep, U-18s split    
The U.S. under-20 national team wrapped up its trip to San Pedro Sula with a second ...
ODP Boys Winter Interregional all-stars named    
All-Star teams were named for the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Boys Winter Interregional that wrapped ...
Tottenham edges New England prep stars for IMG Cup title    
Tottenham's U-18s won the Super Group in the fifth annual IMG Cup with a 1-0 win ...
Houston switches USL PRO partners for 2015 season    
The Houston Dynamo will team up with the Charleston Battery as its USL PRO affiliate in ...
Bradenton and Austin to host MLS preseason events    
Eight clubs will take part in the inaugural IMG Suncoast Pro Classic Feb. 16-28 at IMG ...
TV Report: EPL Breakaway set for New Year's Day    
NBCSN will present its first-ever Premier League Breakaway --  a special two-hour show featuring RedZone-like live ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives