U.S. Is Lethargic During 0-0 Tie
The United States soccer team closed out its two-year, 16-game World Cup qualifying campaign on a timid note Sunday, doing little more than going through the motions as it played to a 0-0 tie against Trinidad and Tobago.
The game at sparsely occupied Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad, was widely viewed as meaningless, because the U.S. has already qualified for Korea/Japan 2002 while Trinidad and Tobago had long been out of contention for a place in the quadrennial world championship.
But there was something at stake. To begin with, a U.S. victory would have left it in second place behind Costa Rica in the final North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) standings. Instead, Mexico finished second after its 3-0 demolition of Honduras.
The final standings will not mean anything when the draw is held in South Korea on Dec. 1 to divide the 32 World Cup participants into eight groups of four for first-round play, but finishing third does mean that the U.S. will be viewed as no better than the third-best team in its own region in the eyes of the rest of the soccer world.
Also, this was a game in which the American players were supposed to have begun seriously battling for a place on the 23-man roster that Coach Bruce Arena will take to the May 31-June 30 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Judging by Sunday’s performance, only goalkeeper Zach Thornton enhanced his chances, while forward/midfielder Jovan Kirovski did considerable damage to his.
Thornton, who will probably be trying to claim the No. 3 goalkeeping position behind Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, made at least two excellent saves in the second half as Trinidad and Tobago sought only its second victory of the final qualifying round.
First, the Chicago Fire keeper, who had the lowest goals-against average in Major League Soccer in the recently concluded season, dived to his right to snare a curving shot from Stern John.
Later, he rushed alertly out of his net to make a sliding block on Nigel Pierre’s shot.
Kirovski, meanwhile, squandered the best U.S. scoring opportunity by heading a Greg Vanney cross wide left in the first half. He also missed badly on other shots--a mirror of U.S. efforts all day--was ineffective on defense and twice was caught offside.
Arena said the 90-degree temperature made conditions difficult and that he considered the result a fair one, but his frustration at poor U.S. finishing and inconsistent defending was evident on the sideline while the tedious affair was in progress.
In its 16 qualifying games (six were played in the first round) the U.S. finished with an 8-4-4 record.