Early Goal Enough For USA: USA 1, Trinidad and Tobago 0

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: August 18, 2005

Another strong game for Oguchi Onyewu in defense (US Soccer.com)

Another strong game for Oguchi Onyewu in defense (US Soccer.com)

MIAMI, FLA.—While the match may not have possessed the gripping drama equal to whether or not Terrell Owens suffered a hang nail at Eagles Training camp, the US National Team did manage score early and mostly dominated the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier played Wednesday night in E. Hartford, CT.

The final margin of 1-0 should have been much wider but a combination of poor finishing by the US and some stellar goalkeeping by TnT’s Kelvin Jack meant that the Soca Warriors had a least a fighting chance until the last whistle.

The US went into this game hampered by injuries (Cory Gibbs, Steve Cherundolo, DaMarcus Beasley, Eddie Johnson) and yellow card suspensions (Eddie Pope, Frankie Hejduk) and fielded an entirely different four man backline from the US’ 2-1 victory in Port of Spain 6 months ago . Oguchi “Gooch” Onyewu, who impressed during the Gold Cup was in the middle of the defense and had a stellar game shutting down Stern John and Kenwyne Jones.

With the Trinis coming into the match tied for 4th place in the CONCACAF final round standings, they were hungry to come out of this match with at least a point. So they were understandably stunned with the US’ incredibly bright start.

John O’Brien played a nice ball inside the defnese to a streaking Bobby Convey on the left flank. Convey centered the ball with his first touch to a sliding Brian McBride who made no mistake from right on the door step. A minute and half in and the US already claimed a 1-0 lead.

The US looked as if they were going to try and put it to bed early. Their complete domination in the midfield allowed them to continue to pressure the TnT goal. Landon Donovan chased down a loose ball on the right side and fed Onyewu. Gooch, coming left to right across the goal mouth let the ball run through his legs and tried to flick it in with his right leg trailing behind him. It produced a great save from Jack, the first of many.

Six minutes later it was Donovan’s turn to be denied by Jack after being played in by captain, Claudio Reyna. He shot low and to the right but Jack got down for the save.

Donvan again spurned a chance to put the US up 2-0 after Jack mistakenly cleared a back pass right to Donovan but came out to make the save on a shot that Donovan really should have put in the net. 31 minutes and the US still had just the one goal to show for its domination of the match.

The Soca Warriors, meanwhile, were doing next to nothing to challenge Kasey Keller’s goal. With the US maintaining most of the possession, TnT were resigned to sending long balls to starting forwards, Dwight Yorke and Stern John which were consistently dealt with by Gooch and Greg Berhalter. John finally was heard from in the 32nd minute but his goal was correctly waived off for offside.

Bobby Convey had a shot saved in the 36th minute and then two minutes later missed an opportunity by pushing his shot wide after being played in brilliantly by Donovan Was it going to be one of those nights?

Then, a potential break for the US in the 41st minute. Donovan took advantage of a give away and raced in on goal. TnT defender Dennis Lawrence bumped Donovan and lightly grabbed him causing him to fall. The rule dictates that if you are the last defender and you obstruct a clear goal scoring oppotunity with a foul, it’s an automatic red card expulsion. While the foul seemed a little soft, the Mexican official nonethless sent Lawrence off meaning TnT would play the remaining 49 minutes with just 10 men. A harsh decision and an another example of the recurring complaints of officiating in the CONCACAF region.

The US began the 2nd half right where it left off. McBride, Gooch, Convey and Donovan were all had stellar chances which were denied by Jack. By the time he raced off his line & out of his box to save a break away aginst Landon Donvon in the 81st minute, everyone in the stadium could tell he was clearly in the zone.

While the US began to run out of ideas and simply centering the ball into box, TnT started getting into the match more. Kenwyne Jones looked to break through the defense in the 67th minute only to be denied by a great tackle by Berhalter while Marvin Andrews, who was originally listed as injured, just missed tying the score after getting on the end of a free kick that was inexplicably left by McBride.

The Trinis were let off when substitute Taylor Twellman’s goal was wrongly disallowed for offside but were unable to get the equalizer they needed. The US claimed the win but impressed no one with their finishing in the box.

There can be no such let offs in the next match. The US (still 2nd in its qualifying group) gets its rematch with Mexico (2-0 winners over Costa Rica) at already sold out Columbus Crew Stadium on Labor Day weekend. A win against their bitter southern neighbors will qualify them for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.