U.S. Team Wins, 1-0, in Soccer : Trinidad & Tobago Falls, but Americans Are Not Impressive

Times Staff Writer

Ted Mack couldn't have done any better.

What it was supposed to be was the United States versus Trinidad & Tobago in a World Cup qualifying soccer match.

What it turned out to be was the Original Amateur Hour-and-a-Half.

For 90 minutes Sunday afternoon, in front of only 6,511 fans, a dozen or so American youngsters showed they could play the game marginally better than a dozen or so youngsters from the Caribbean.

The United States won, 1-0, but not in a manner worth boasting about.

Roderick Warner, the Trinidad & Tobago coach, said as much: "I was not particularly impressed by the USA. Please respect my frankness, but they (the Americans) are not World Cup material."

That might be a little harsh on the U.S. players, who have made significant strides over the past few years.

The criticism instead should have been aimed at the United States Soccer Federation.

In light of the dismal history of soccer in Los Angeles, the USSF's effort was definitely not of World Cup caliber.

Instead of promoting the game itself and capitalizing on the six-figure crowds that the Olympic soccer tournament drew at the Rose Bowl just 10 months ago, the USSF farmed the game out to a private promoter, Michael Hogue.

Hogue chose to stage the game at tiny El Camino College in Torrance, in a 12,500-seat stadium that even the defunct Aztecs of the defunct North American Soccer League abandoned years ago.

Obviously it was the word Olympic and not the word soccer that drew the fans to the Rose Bowl. El Camino's stadium was half empty.

Hogue blamed the fact that the USSF had violated his contract by allowing ESPN to televise the game live without a 75-mile blackout. The USSF denied that there had been any violation. Whatever, it couldn't have made much difference; Los Angeles has never been a soccer town.

Those fans who showed up did get a few laughs, the first coming when the wrong number was played instead of the U.S. national anthem. Somehow, tapes got fouled up.

On the field, it wasn't much better. The United States had half a dozen clear scoring chances, yet managed only the one goal, that on a header by UCLA's Paul Caligiuri in the 15th minute.

The goal was the highlight of an otherwise indifferent game. After a period of early pressure from the U.S. team, Gregg Thompson knocked a short corner to Perry Van Der Beck, who floated a crossing pass into the goalmouth. Caligiuri escaped his defender and rose to head the ball sharply past Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Michael Maurice.

Apart from that lapse, Maurice played an excellent game, frequently foiling the U.S. forwards in the second half with some superb saves.

His counterpart in the U.S. nets, Arnie Mausser, was kept less busy but did manage one excellent save when he flung himself to his right to grab a wicked header from Trinidad & Tobago's Garnet Craig.

"I had it all the way," Mausser said. "I was very comfortable with it. I got two hands on it, so I knew I was in good shape."

Aside from Craig's second-half effort, Trinidad & Tobago, which had lost, 2-1, to the United States in the first game of the series Wednesday in St. Louis, developed few other scoring opportunities and squandered each of them.

The win moves the United States to the top of its qualifying group, with a home-and home series coming up May 26 and 31 against Costa Rica. A victory in either of those games will put the United States into the final qualifying round against Canada and Honduras in September.

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