The United States' midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, right, heads the ball above Trinidad & Tobago's striker Dwight Yorke, who plays for the Birmingham City in England, during their final round of CONCACAF qualifying match at the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2005. The U.S. beat Trinidad 2-1.
AP Photo/Andres Leighton
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad Fifteen years later, the United States still knows how to spoil Trinidad's party.
Eddie Johnson kept up his incredible run of goals when he scored in the 30th minute, Eddie Lewis boosted the lead early in the second half and the United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 Wednesday in the opener of the final round of World Cup qualifying.
Kasey Keller, who made a 23-hour trip from Germany on Monday to get to the game, made a sliding save on Leslie Fitzpatrick on a breakaway eight minutes into the second half that denied a tying goal. Keller also made several fine stops in the first half on Stern John and Dwight Yorke, playing his first official game for T&T since June 2001.
Less than three weeks ago, the Americans didn't even know if they would have their top players or would send a team of minor leaguers because of a labor dispute. But an interim settlement ensured the regulars would be on the field through 2005, and the 11th-ranked U.S. team imposed its will on Trinidad and Tobago, ranked 61st, until tiring in the final minutes.
''It's massive,'' Keller said, ''especially with all the drama that's gone on around the team. The guys came together and got a great victory.''
Until Angus Eve scored in the 89th minute on a cross that went in off Keller's hand, the home team didn't have much to cheer for. The United States, which plays its next qualifier at Mexico on March 27, is 23-0-7 against North and Central American and Caribbean rivals since a September 2001 loss at Costa Rica. The Americans haven't lost to a Caribbean opponent since a 1994 defeat in Trinidad.
''When you write the story of this game, there were a bunch of reasons why we couldn't be successful today,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. ''We never agreed with that. I think the way our team pulled together over the last couple of weeks to be ready to play this game under difficult conditions travel, field conditions, the heat, everything else it turns out to be a fantastic result.''
In other World Cup qualifiers in the region, Guatemala and Panama played to a scoreless tie in Panama City, while Mexico won 2-1 at Costa Rica.
Ash Wednesday usually is a beach day in this Caribbean nation, where the Carnival celebration that ends the previous night is huge. But the steel and samba drums were sounding for the Soca Warriors in the searing 90-degree heat at the Queen's Park Oval, with T&T hoping to continue the celebration and exact revenge for the November 1989 loss to the Americans that denied it a berth at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Johnson struck in the 30th minute, just as Paul Caligiuri did 15 years ago in the famous qualifier at nearby Hasley Crawford Stadium, a game that put the United States in soccer's top event for the first time since 1950.
Coming down the right flank of the 80-yard-wide field, Steve Cherunoldo crossed the ball into the penalty area and the 20-year-old Johnson, with no defenders near him on the near post, headed the ball into the net from 12 yards out. Goalkeeper Neil Shaka Hislop had no chance.
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