U.S. jumps on Trinidad early, cruises to 2-0 win
Updated: Thursday June 28, 2001 5:10 PM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Even the U.S. soccer team seems stunned: At the midpoint of the World Cup qualifying finals, the Americans nearly have a berth clinched.
"We're pretty close to being at the big dance next year," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said following Wednesday night's 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
The Americans, looking like the region's dominant team, went ahead just 74 seconds in on a goal by Ante Razov -- the fastest U.S. goal in qualifying in at least 12 years -- and Earnie Stewart added a goal on a breakaway in the 20th minute.
"Now we can really say one more win will get us in," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said. "To be at this position at this stage is incredible."
The United States (4-0-1) leads the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 13 points, probably one or two short of the amount needed to qualify for next year's tournament in Japan and South Korea.
Costa Rica (3-1-1) is second with 10 points, followed by Honduras (2-1-2) with eight, Jamaica (1-2-2) with five and Mexico (1-3-1) with four and Trinidad (0-4-1) with one. The top three nations advance to the 32-nation field.
"We're real close, but we have to push forward until we're mathematically there," Arena said. "Who knows how many points are needed to qualify?"
At this pace, the United States is likely to clinch either on Sept. 1 at Washington against Honduras or on Sept. 5 at Costa Rica.
"You want to qualify as fast as possible. That's the most important thing," said Stewart, who became the American career scoring leader in World Cup qualifying with his seventh goal, one more than Willy Roy scored from 1966-74.
The Americans are unbeaten in nine straight qualifiers since a last-minute loss at Costa Rica last July 23, allowing only one goal over that stretch. They are 14-0-5 in home qualifiers since the Costa Ricans beat them on May 31, 1985, at Torrance, Calif.
On a night with lightning but no rain, Jeff Agoos created the opening goal with a long, looping pass behind the defense in the second minute. Razov, a former Major League Soccer player who spent last season with a small team in Spain's second division, was one-on-one with goalkeeper Clayton Ince and easily beat him with a left-footed shot from 10 yards out.
"Early in the game, they weren't ready for balls over the top, and we surprised them," Agoos said.
It was the fastest U.S. goal in a qualifier since Bruce Murray connected in the third minute against Guatemala at New Britain, Conn., on June 17, 1989.
Stewart scored when he stripped the ball from Marcin Andrews and came in alone on Ince and easily beat the beleaguered keeper. The Americans dominated, except for the final 10 minutes of the first half and the first few minutes of the second, outshooting Trinidad 15-8.
Trinidad, which has never advanced to the World Cup, probably must win its five remaining games to qualify.
"The hopes are very slim now," coach Ian Porterfield said. "It's a long shot."
Notes: Reyna received a yellow card for the second straight game and will be suspended for the Americans' next qualifier, July 1 at Mexico. ... Kasey Keller started in goal for the second straight qualifier -- it had been thought Brad Friedel would start in a rotation -- and turned in his fifth straight shutout. ... The U.S. team is 6-0-3 at Foxboro, including 3-0-1 in qualifying. ... Moore came in as a sub, then left with swollen right ankle. ... Mexico coach Enrique Meza quit immediately after a 3-1 loss at Honduras, which got three goals from Carlos Pavon. Costa Rica beat visiting Jamaica 2-1.
Foxboro, Mass. Trinidad 0 0-0 United States 2 0-2
First half -- 1, United States, Ante Razov (Jeff Agoos), 2nd minute. 2, United States, Earnie Stewart, 20th minute.
Second half -- None.
Yellow Cards -- Rahim, Tri, 43rd; Reyna, US, 52nd; John, Tri, 66th. Red Cards-None.
Referee -- Ali Bujsaum, United Arab Emirates. Linesmen-Nasser Abdulla Al Hammadi, United Arab Emirates; Hussain Abddul Hassan, United Arab Emirates.
Attendance -- 31,211.
Trinidad and Tobago -- Clayton Ince; Ancil Elcock, Marvin Andrews, Dennis Lawrence; Dale Saunders, Reynold Carrington (Avery John, 46th), Angus Eve, Russell Latapy, Brent Rahim (Arnold Dwarika, 55th; Stern John (Mickey Trotman, 74th), Dwight Yorke.
United States -- Kasey Keller; Steve Cherundolo, David Regis, Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope; Chris Armas, Tony Sanneh, Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart; Ante Razov (Joe-Max Moore, 71st, John O'Brien, 88th), Jovan Kirovski.