2-1 win, other help qualify U.S. for Cup

Americans beat Jamaica, secure 4th straight berth when leaders get upset


October 08, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

FOXBORO, Mass. - In a dramatic turn for the positive, the U.S. national soccer team was able to restore order with a dominating second half that earned a 2-1 win over Jamaica yesterday afternoon in the friendly confines of Foxboro Stadium.

The biggest news was yet to come: The U.S. team qualified for its fourth straight World Cup appearance next year in Japan and South Korea with some unexpected help from abroad.

Shortly after forward Joe-Max Moore's second goal of the game, on a penalty kick, broke a 1-1 tie in the 81st minute, word spread of developments in two other qualifying games. Trinidad and Tobago, winless in the six-team qualifying region from North and Central America and the Carribean, was pulling off an upset at second-place Honduras, and third-place Mexico was in a scoreless tie with first-place Costa Rica.

When both of those scores stood up, the Americans (5-3-1) were assured one of the three World Cup berths from the region, and a lively crowd of 40,483 had something more to cheer about as it was departing. After three straight losses, the United States presumably needed wins yesterday and at Trinidad in its final qualifier on Nov. 11 in order to make the Cup field.

"Obviously, it's a funny game," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena. "The series of events today, no one would have predicted that we'd be qualified after Game 9. I know it's been an unusual run on our behalf, but we felt as we entered this game we were exactly where we thought we'd be in this competition. I'm proud of how we played and very pleased."

The game was supposed to be aired live on ABC, but was pre-empted by network coverage of U.S. missile strikes in Afghanistan. (The game was instead shown on ESPN on tape delay later last night.) Arena told his players shortly before the game about the military action.

"I think it was fair to tell them," Arena said. "Our thing was making a commitment this week to being a better team, and we felt that if our country could make that kind of commitment, the game is easy. This is nothing we had to deal with today. This is just a game, and if you can't make a commitment to play for 90 minutes ... then you don't belong on the field."

The return of midfielders Claudio Reyna and John O'Brien to go with a new front-line mix of Moore, who played with a hamstring injury, and 19-year-old Landon Donovan was just the spark the Americans needed after three sluggish losses after their 4-0-1 start in the 10-game final qualifying round.

Tied at 1 going into the second half, they persistently attacked. Moore's bid in the opening minutes, a point-blank header from six yards out, was turned aside by the left shoulder of Jamaican goalkeeper Aaron Lawrence.

After continued pressure from then on, the United States got a break in the 81st minute. Donovan was cut down by Jamaican defender Tyron Marshall in the right corner after a quick give-and-go from Reyna in tight quarters. The penalty kick was called, and Moore was sure on his finish in the lower right corner.

"There was a few guys in line to take the penalty," said Moore. "Earnie [Stewart] came to me and said, `Do you feel good?' And I said, `Yeah.' When I grabbed the ball ... I picked my corner at that point."

Jamaica had one final chance in the second minute of injury time, when Paul Hall's shot from eight yards on the right was cleared off the line by U.S. defender Jeff Agoos. In the final international game played at Foxboro Stadium, which will be replaced next year, the United States improved to 7-0-3 here and to 6-0-5 against Jamaica.

"Qualifying is so important," said Moore. "We've got so many young kids playing the game now, and for them to not to have their team in the World Cup would have been devastating. It's important for the progression of the sport in our country."

The United States got the fast start it was looking for on Moore's first goal, in the fourth minute.

After midfielder Chris Armas was fouled on a run down the left side, Reyna served the free kick to the near post for Moore, who headed it past drawn-out goalkeeper Lawrence.

"Claudio played a great ball to the near post and I was just able to beat my man to the spot, and I just tried to redirect it to the far post and that's what happened," said Moore. "I knew it had a chance. You can kind of tell when it deflects off your head. I knew it was headed for the far post."

The lead lasted only 10 minutes. Jamaica midfielder James Lawrence chested a ball at the top of the penalty area, found time and space to turn, and finished to the lower right corner in the 14th minute.

"All week, we just prepared for playing against Jamaica and that was it," said Reyna. "But in the back of our minds, we really felt it would take two wins. It just shows that it's a funny game. Over the nine games, I feel we definitely deserve to get to the World Cup, and we're happy that things finally maybe evened themselves out a bit and we got the berth that we've been trying to get."

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