Trinidad & Tobago Spoils El Salvador's 'Home' Game in D.C.

Friday, August 15, 2008

El Salvador's national soccer team flew 1,900 miles to play a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago last night, and when the players arrived at their destination, it was if they had never left home.

A crowd of 24,675 provided a euphoric welcome at RFK Stadium, jiggling blue-and-white flags and roaring on every possession. It was a joyous occasion for Washington's Salvadoran community, except for the outcome.

In the final tuneup for both teams before World Cup qualifying resumes next week, the Soca Warriors spoiled the party with two late goals and a 3-1 victory.

Cornell Glen, who played for four MLS teams, scored twice and reserve Anthony Wolfe had the go-ahead goal for Trinidad, which was missing its European-based players. Cristian Castillo scored for El Salvador, which was at nearly full strength but played the final 30 minutes shorthanded after two of its players and one Trinidad player were red-carded.

"We have played in difficult environments before, so we just had to keep our composure," Glen said. "It was nice to see us score some goals."

El Salvador has averaged 28,000 fans in three games at RFK this year. On this night, hundreds of red-clad Trinidad and Tobago fans occupied a corner of the lower bowl and, with many playing instruments, the rapid beat of Caribbean music provided background sound to the roar of the majority Salvadoran delegation.

The Trinidadians had more to celebrate in the early stages as the Soca Warriors threatened several times against a leaky Salvadoran defense. They went ahead in the 18th minute when, after a short corner kick, Glen headed Keon Daniel's cross into the far corner.

El Salvador drew even in the 31st on an accidental goal by Castillo. With a free kick well beyond the right edge of the penalty area, Castillo drove the ball toward teammates storming the six-yard box. Anticipating the ball to be redirected, goalkeeper Marvin Phillips held his ground and was caught flat-footed when Castillo's service slipped past him.

The match turned ugly early in the second half when a hard Trinidad tackle and an ensuing scuffle resulted in red cards to Cyd Grey and El Salvador's Luis Anaya and Alfredo Pacheco. During the eight-minute delay, guards tackled a fan who had run onto the field, triggering a barrage of water bottles and other items to be hurled at security officials and the Trinidad and Tobago bench.

After order was restored, the Soca Warriors exploited their man advantage. In the 75th minute, Wolfe headed Aklie Edwards's cross into the far corner and, in the 80th, Glen poked Clyde Leon's cross past a defender and then beat goalie Juan José Gómez.

With time running out, another Salvadoran fan ran onto the field and hugged five players before being escorted away.

"It is natural because [El Salvador's fans] have not had much to celebrate and now there is a buzz about the team," Trinidad Coach Francisco Maturana said. "It has brought out the emotions in the people."

-- Steven Goff

© 2008 The Washington Post Company