In some Aug. 18 editions, a Sports article reported Uzbekistan's soccer team finished fifth in Asia's World Cup qualifying tournament. Uzbekistan must play Bahrain next month in a two-game playoff for fifth place. (Published 8/19/2005)
United States 1,
Trinidad and Tobago 0
Expectations around the U.S. national soccer team have soared since the last World Cup. So when the Americans took the lead after 91 seconds, then gained a man advantage before halftime Wednesday night, there was every reason to believe that this 2006 qualifier against overmatched Trinidad and Tobago would quickly turn into a laugher.
The crowd of 25,488 at Rentschler Field sensed it. The U.S. team, which had buried its two previous opponents in the qualifying stage, saw an opponent on the verge of crumbling.
But the additional goals never arrived, and after a anxiety-filled second half, the Americans settled for a 1-0 victory that moved them to the brink of a World Cup berth in Germany next summer.
"I think we felt guilty of perhaps making things a little bit difficult on ourselves," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We created a number of good goal-scoring opportunities and came up short, and that allowed Trinidad to hang around for 89 minutes or so. They could've been punished and sent home a lot earlier."
Brian McBride's goal off Bobby Convey's cross in the second minute was all the Americans could muster -- despite Trinidad and Tobago defender Dennis Lawrence's ejection in the 41st minute and an 18-1 advantage in shots. But it was enough to improve to 5-1-0 on their 10-game schedule and put themselves into position where they might be able to clinch a berth Sept. 3 with a victory over Mexico (5-0-1) in Columbus, Ohio.
The top three teams in the six-nation final-round group will qualify, and the fourth-place finisher will advance to a two-game playoff against Uzbekistan, Asia's fifth-place team.
"It was frustrating, because we kept them in the game," defender Gregg Berhalter said. "We had enough chances that we could've scored the second goal. But the important thing was we kept our concentration and didn't give much up. From that standpoint, I'm happy, but the play was a bit sloppy."
The U.S. team did it with a makeshift lineup. Among the missing, because of injury, suspension and fitness issues, were defenders Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, Frankie Hejduk and Steve Cherundolo; midfielders Pablo Mastroeni and DaMarcus Beasley; and forwards Eddie Johnson, Conor Casey and Brian Ching.
In years past, the loss of a half-dozen World Cup veterans would have been devastating, but with more Americans playing in Europe and others making their mark in MLS, Arena can simply dive into his deep pool of talent and field an internationally competent squad. Perhaps if the opponent were Mexico, the anxiety level would have been higher, but against a struggling opponent (now 1-4-1) with limited resources, the U.S. staff wasn't worried about a big drop-off.
It didn't take long for the Americans to take charge. Convey played the ball back to John O'Brien, who slotted it through the Trinidad defense back to Convey for a clear run on the left. Convey delivered an awkward cross into the six-yard box where the charging McBride cleverly skipped a shot past goalkeeper Kelvin Jack. It was his 29th international goal, moving him within five of U.S. career leader Eric Wynalda, and a U.S.-best 10th in qualifying play.
"I knew I just had to beat the guy to the spot," said McBride, a veteran of the 1998 and 2002 World Cup squads. Convey "put a nice ball in and I just had to open up my foot."
The Americans had ample opportunity to put the match of the reach before the break, but Oguchi Onyewu's attempt off Landon Donovan's cross was cleared away in front of the net, Donovan was stopped by Jack after collecting a poor clearing ball and Convey missed fractionally wide after being sent in alone by the omnipresent Donovan.
Lawrence was ejected for pulling down Donovan from behind at the top of the box after yet another errant ball in the back.
Despite all of the U.S. team's first-half fortune, it was still only a one-goal lead. Onyewu tested Jack in the 56th minute, driving a header that the diving goalie saved at the right post. Seven minutes passed before Jack produced another gem, diving to his left to slap aside Convey's 22-yard bid, and then broke up Donovan's run into the box.
Reserve Taylor Twellman thought he had stretched the lead in the 86th minute, but was ruled offside. The Soca Warriors didn't seriously test goalkeeper Kasey Keller, but served enough dangerous balls into the box to cause concern.
"We felt at halftime that if we were smart, we would open them up a little bit and create some more chances, and we did," Arena said. "This is one of those days where the ball didn't go into the back of the net. However, when you walk away with three points in qualifying, it's big."
U.S. Notes: Convey, already suspended for the Mexico match after receiving his second yellow card of the round in the first half, was ejected in the 88th minute for a harsh tackle. . . . O'Brien was replaced at halftime by Chris Armas after suffering a left hip contusion. . . . D.C. United's Santino Quaranta entered in the 72nd minute for Steve Ralston and set up Twellman's disallowed goal.