US fate on line against T&T
COUVA, Trinidad (AP):
The final path to the World Cup involved an unexpected water crossing for the United States.
Heavy rain on this Caribbean island seven-and-half miles off the coast of Venezuela left the centre of the field soggy at the Ato Boldon Stadium, the flanks underwater and the encircling running track flooded. While the team's 10,000 pounds of equipment included 200 boots, 65 balls, 60 rain jackets and 30 cases of Powerade, a Bailey bridge was not in the inventory, so many American players were carried on to the field in an attempt to keep their feet somewhat dry for the final training session before today's match at Trinidad and Tobago.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association said in a statement that water will be pumped off the track and "all parties are confident the game will be contested". It said the decision whether to use the field is up to the match commissioner,
The US would secure their eighth straight World Cup berth with a win and almost certainly with a tie because of the Americans' superior goal difference.
A defeat would lead to elimination if Panama beat visiting Costa Rica and Honduras win at home against Mexico. If the US lose and one of those fail to win, the Americans would advance to a two-match play-off next month against Australia or Syria. If both Central American rivals fail to win, the US would qualify even with a defeat.
Losses in home qualifiers to Mexico in November and Costa Rica last month put the US in this precarious position.
The Americans had not entered their last qualifier uncertain of a berth since November 1989, when Paul Caligiuri's 30th-minute goal gave them a 1-0 win at Trinidad and put the US in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Back then, the US needed a win, and T&T would have reached their first World Cup with merely a draw. American players then felt a burden this generation does not.
"It was also what was on the line for US Soccer. We were broke," Caligiuri said last weekend. "We'd be stripped from the World Cup and not host it in 1994. The majority of us would not have jobs. We wouldn't be playing professional soccer."
That match was in Port-of-Spain's National Stadium before an overflow crowd of 35,000 that arrived hours early. This one is 24 miles south near the world's largest methanol factory, in a 16-year-old 10,000-capacity venue named after a gold medal-winning Olympic sprinter.
Trinidad have lost six straight qualifiers and have been eliminated. The Soca Warriors, using a roster entirely of players under 30, changed eight starters on Friday at Mexico. After taking a lead midway through the second half, they lost 3-1.