[ANTIGUA & BARBUDA-USA]Friday's Antigua-Barbuda-USA game at Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds (TV: beIN SPORT, 7 pm ET) isn't the first time the USA has traveled to the Caribbean to play on a cricket field. And it isn't the first time it has traveled there for a big game without some of its biggest stars. The 2002 World Cup is remembered for the USA's run to the quarterfinals, but it almost didn't get out of the semifinal round. The USA's depth pulled it through then under Bruce Arena. We'll see just how much depthJurgen Klinsmann has now as it will be necessary to get his depleted team through the last two games.
The USA traveled to Barbados needing a win in its final game to ensure that it advanced to Concacaf's Hexagonal. Not only was U.S. captain Claudio Reyna suspended but so was U.S. coach Bruce Arena, serving two- and three-game suspensions, respectively, for their post-game tirades directed at Jamaican referee Peter Prendergast following the 2-1 loss to Costa Rica earlier in qualifying. John O'Brien, who would team with Reyna in the center of the U.S. midfield in Korea at the 2002 finals, was also absent because of an injury.
The field at National Stadium was described at the time as "part grass, part dried mud, and 100 percent dangerous," just as the cricket pitch at Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds in Antigua has been criticized.
After a scoreless first half, Clint Mathis opened the scoring in the 63rd and the USA pulled away, winning, 4-0. Mathis was playing in only his fifth game for the USA, and it was his first goal for the USA. Cletus would go on to be one of the key figures in the U.S. qualification campaign in the 2001 Hexagonal.
Underscoring one of the hallmarks of the 2002 World Cup cycle under Arena -- his willingness to go down deep in the bench -- only two of the starters against Barbados -- Gregg Berhalter and Eddie Lewis -- played in the USA-Germany quarterfinal in Ulsan in 2002.
The USA doesn't have its back to the wall against Antigua & Barbuda -- although it will probably be there on Tuesday against Guatemala if it doesn't win on Friday -- but the depth -- or lack therefore -- may decide the USA's fate.
More on Antigua & Barbuda-USA:
Thursday: 'Benna Boys are optimistic' (World Cup Watch)
Wednesday:'U.S. left back jinx hits again' (Soccer America Daily)
Wednesday: 'Intrigue could surround final U.S. qualifier' (Soccer America Daily)
Wednesday: 'Klinsmann lets world know of Altidore's flaws' (Soccer America Confidential)
Wednesday: 'Four probable starters carrying yellow cards' (Soccer America Daily)
Tuesday:'Donovan and Shea ruled out of qualifiers' (Soccer America Daily)
Monday: 'Klinsmann explains his October surprise' (Soccer America Daily)
GOALKEEPERS (3):Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (6):Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (4):Clint Dempsey (Tottenham), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders).
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA ROSTER:
GOALKEEPERS (3):Molvin James (Antigua Barracuda FC), Keita De Castro (Antigua Barracuda FC), Brent Mohammed (FIT)
DEFENDERS (6):George Dublin (Antigua Barracuda FC), Akeem Thomas (Antigua Barracuda FC), Karanja Mack (Antigua Barracuda FC), Hazel Pyle (Antigua Barracuda FC), Marc Joseph (Kendal Town/ENG), Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell/SCO)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Tomarley Thomas (Antigua Barracuda FC), Luke Blakeley (Antigua Barracuda FC), Quinton Griffith (Antigua Barracuda FC), Randolph Burton (Antigua Barracuda FC), Mikele Leigertwood (Reading/ENG), Kieran Murtagh (Macclesfield Town/ENG)
FORWARDS (4):Peter Byers (Antigua Barracuda FC), Stefan Smith (Antigua Barracuda FC), Dexter Blackstock (Nott. Forest/ENG), Moses Ashikodi (Ebbstfleet United/ENG)