Goalie David Vanole of the U.S. national soccer team fell to his knees and pounded his head against the ground after giving up the tying goal in a World Cup qualifying match against Trinidad and Tobago Saturday.
Vanole had good reason to feel frustrated.
Only two minutes away from defeating Trinidad and Tobago, the United States allowed a goal that not only tied the game but jeopardized its chances of advancing to the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Midfielder Hutson Charles scored in the 88th minute as Trinidad and Tobago tied the United States, 1-1, before an estimated 10,000 fans at El Camino College.
Charles’ goal was the result of a cleaver play by teammates Marlon Morris and Brian Williams.
Williams headed the ball to Morris, who drew two U.S. defenders to him with a fake that left Charles to face Vanole alone.
Charles slid a left-footed kick past Vanole’s outstretched arms to touch off a wild celebration among Trinidad and Tobago’s fans.
“I just blew it,” Vanole said. “It happened so fast. I don’t know how they got the ball to him so fast.”
Vanole, who preserved a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica when he blocked a penalty kick in a World Cup qualifying match last month at St. Louis, thinks he could have stopped Charles’ shot.
“It was savable,” Vanole said. “It should have been saved. I didn’t think it was an extraordinary shot.”
Defender Steve Trittschuh, who was out of position on the play, said the goal was the result of a defensive lapse.
“We had a letdown,” Trittschuh said. “We weren’t tired but I could feel us letting down. I don’t know why.”
After the United States was unable to score in the final two minutes, Trinidad and Tobago, which had not beaten the United States in five previous matches, celebrated as if it had won. The tie hurts the United States’ chances of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.
The United States, which has three points in three World Cup qualifying games, has the difficult task of making up points on the road in its remaining matches. A victory is worth two points and a tie is worth one point.
“It’s almost like a loss,” said midfielder Tab Ramos, who retired with 30 minutes left because of a sore knee. “We got one point but we should have gotten two. Now we have to go out on the road and get points.”
Trittschuh gave the United States a 1-0 lead only three minutes into the second half when he scored on a brilliant effort.
Trittschuh controlled a crossing pass from Ramos with his chest, then turned and beat goalie Earl Carter with a 12-yard volley into the roof of the net.
But the United States seemed to go into a shell after the goal.
The U.S. attack seemed to falter after Jim Gabarra replaced Ramos.
“Tab is a key for us,” U.S. Coach Bob Gansler said.
The United States, which outshot Trinidad and Tobago, 16-13, failed to capitalize on several scoring chances.
Midfielder Bruce Murray had the best chance. He missed a 1 1/2-foot shot in the 31st minute, kicking it wide of the net.