Words return to haunt U.S. team Yanks appear off base after Jamaica effort

Notebook

October 10, 1997|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

With this World Cup qualifying stuff getting dicey, here are some tasty words that make last Friday's Jamaica-U.S. tie at RFK Stadium look even more frustrating:

First, U.S. veteran Mike Sorber of Major League Soccer's ninth-best team, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, who told a pre-game news conference: "The small countries typically lack discipline, mental toughness and tactical awareness."

Conventional thought, maybe, but Sorber should know better from playing against El Salvador's Mauricio Cienfuegos, Ronald Cerritos and Raul Diaz Arce, among others from small countries who are doing quite well in MLS.

In fact, historically lax Jamaican discipline was exemplary, but U.S. players often struggled to find teammates, especially on offense. And the Jamaicans' mental toughness gave them exactly what they wanted: one point on the road against a team they feared.

And, as to tactical awareness, a couple of points:

Except for the location of a dubious hand-ball call that gave the U.S. team its penalty-kick goal, the truth is, Jamaica won.

Sorber was pulled in the 37th minute, because, U.S. coach Steve Sampson explained, the defensive midfielder wasn't doing enough to offset Jamaica's unexpectedly aggressive attack. Sorber's international experience pre-dates the 1994 World Cup.

Then there was team captain John Harkes, who said at the same pre-game news conference: "There is a great feeling throughout the team and coaching staff to go out and play well. We need to put a stamp on the game and not only go out and get three points, but also to do it with style."

Asked to compare this team to the 1990 World Cup team he first played on, Harkes said: "Back then we were young and inexperienced. We were in awe. But we have gained experience and confidence over the years. We go onto the field and don't fear anyone. We enjoy the game more now."

And then Sampson, same news conference: "I really believe this team has the right frame of mind to win. They understand this is crunch time."

After the game, Jamaica's coach, Rene Simoes, was enchanting in telling how improved diet, Brazilian football tenets, a motivational book by NBA coach Pat Riley, and God's intentions (not to mention four English pro players) have helped mold his team into an eye-opener.

About the Americans' lack of scoring punch, though, Simoes was succinct: "They didn't attack because they couldn't," he said. "We made a great deal of passes to avoid their pressure."

Odds and ends

Salesmanship: It says something about local soccer interest that the state youth soccer association sold about 3,500 tickets to the Jamaica-U.S. game, thanks in large part to Laurel's Rick Crow. The Virginia youth group sold about 2,000.

Home, sweet New England: The U.S. national team's home schedule in World Cup 1998 qualifying will end at the same place it began in April, at Foxboro (Mass.) Stadium against El Salvador on Nov. 16.

More than 28,000 tickets have been sold for what could be the decisive game for an American trip to France.

The game will be the U.S. team's third on three consecutive Sundays. The first two: Nov. 2, Mexico again in Mexico City; Nov. 9, Canada in Vancouver, B.C.

Viewing pleasure

ESPN2 is on an unprecedented binge of top-flight soccer this month, including MLS playoffs, European Champions League competition, English Premier League games of the week, and World Cup qualifiers.

Monday will be a particularly good day to crank up the VCR. ESPN2 has two World Cup qualifiers scheduled that day. At 3 p.m., it's entertaining Holland vs. Turkey. But the big one is at 8 p.m. (two days after it was played, but who cares?), England vs. Italy in Rome.

If England wins or draws, it makes its first World Cup finals since 1990.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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