US Dominates TnT And Holds On For Win

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: February 11, 2005

MIAMI FLA—If the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and Tobago were going to break their 11 year winless streak against the United States, surely the opening match of the final round of qualifying at Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain Wednesday would be it, right?

The US was coming off a protracted labor agreement that kept the players off the practice field until just a few weeks ago. The game would be played at 2:30pm in the hot Caribbean sun. The Soca Warriors were faster, taller and stronger and had played a series of international matches to prepare for the match while the US’ preparation consisted of scrimmages against UCLA and a Swedish club team. Plus, the Trinis would be looking to slay the ghost of Paul Caligiuri’s goal from a little over 15 years earlier.
Yeah, whatever kid.

Using goals from a couple of Eddies (Johnson and Lewis), composed midfield and a stifling defensive effort, the United States dominated the Soca Warriors for about 70 minutes and held off a late rally to open the Hex with a 2-1 in Port of Spain, giving them the 3 points they needed before their daunting trip to Mexico City next month.

The US sent a very experienced side out to battle TnT with players such as Goal Keeper Kasey Keller and stand in captain Landon Donovan as well as Black players such as DaMarcus (Run DMB) Beasley, Cory Gibbs (both currently playing in Europe) long time defender Eddie Pope. The least experienced member of the US starting 11 was Eddie Johnson but as hot as he’s been in front of goal he HAD to start.

For the Soca Warriors, it was an experienced side as well with Shaka Hislop in goal, Stern John as a starting forward and the return of the most famous Caribbean footballer, Dwight Yorke, to the national side.

In fact Yorke almost had an immediate impact on his return as two minutes into the match he rose for a header that forced a good save out of Keller.

He was never heard from again in this match, though, as both Pope and Gibbs began marking him and Stern John out of existence.

The US then set up shop, content to spread the field and let the ball do the running for them, a sound strategy considering that game time temperatures were well into the 90s and the limited practice time the squad had leading up to the game. The few times Trinidad and Tobago saw the ball, they weren’t able to get enough people forward to support John and Yorke who were constantly caught offsides. The US’ midfield domination would last through most of the match.

The US started breaking down TnT defense, constantly earning corner kicks and pressuring the Caribbean side’s rear guard. At the 24 minute mark, Eddie Johnson received a pass on the right side and as he dribbled towards the end line backheeled a pass to DMB whose first time shot off his right foot was blocked in front of the goal.

However the US would get on the board soon thereafter and once again it was Eddie Johnson, the self-proclaimed Grown-Ass Man representing FC Dallas who got it done. German-based defender Steve Cherundolo lofted a perfect cross from the right side that Johnson rose majestically to meet and head past Shaka Hislop for his 6th goal in 4 international appearances. Can anyone stop this kid?

EJ: Won’t stop, can’t stop

Stern John was finally heard from in the 34th minute as he finally got away from Eddie Pope but his headed effort landed safely in the hands of Kasey Keller.

The 2nd half saw more of the same. The Americans spread out and confidently knocked the ball around while the Soca Warriors chased and chased. It was a composed performance by the US who looked as if THEY were the ones who had been preparing for the past month.
Donovan almost doubled the lead in the 52nd minute when Johnson pulled a pass back on the right side. DaMarcus Beasley pretended to go after the pass (called a dummy) and left it for Donovan who cracked a shot that was well saved by a sliding Hislop.
TnT threatened to get on the score sheet in the 53rd minute when Leslie Fitzpatrick, the Soca Warriors’ best player operating on the left flank, broke through the defense and bore down on goal only to be stoned by Keller who came out of the goal with a sliding save.
TnT would rue that miss because the US broke up field and as Johnson raced up the right side he pulled another pass back to Landon Donovan at the top of the box. Donovan laid it off to Eddie Lewis who rifled a left footed shot past Hislop for a 2-0 lead.
The US continued its midfield domination but began to tire in the hot sun. TnT coach Bertille St. Clair sent on FC Dallas’ Cornell Glen as a replacement in the 71st minute and the TnT attack suddenly livened up. Glen forced a great save from Keller two minutes later and the home side began to step it up.
After Yorke looped a header into Keller’s hands at the 88 minute mark, 2nd half sub Angus Eve took a brilliant through ball on the right side and drilled a cross that a diving Keller couldn’t handle. The ball rolled into the net and the Trinis finally were on the board.
However it was too little too late as the final whistle sounded after 3 minutes of stoppage time and the US grabbed a vital 3 points on the road with an assured, composed display.

The battle at Estadio Azteca next month will feature a showdown between the only two teams to grab wins on the opening match day. Mexico scored twice in the first 15 minutes and hung on to beat Costa Rica in San Jose 2-1, while Panama and Guatemala drew 0-0.
Buffalo Soldier Report:
Great job by both Eddie Pope and Cory Gibbs at the center of the defense. They contained TnT’s lethal strike force for most of the afternoon. Beasley was contained pretty well it seemed by Fitzpatrick but was able to wriggle free with the ball and maintain possession for the US. What can you say about Eddie Johnson? This kid is absolutely on fire for the US. He played within himself all game long and his headed goal was a thing of beauty.