U.S. Set To Boot T&T

Filip Bondy
Date Published: 
New York Daily News

USA vs. Trinidad & TobagoOfficial Match Program

RICHMOND, Va. Steve Sampson was scouting in Trinidad two months ago, when he noticed that a local newspaper was still seething about his U.S. national socc er team.

"The headline read, 'Nov. 19, 1989, Can Never Happen Again,' " said Sampson, the U.S. head coach. "They were crushed emotionally by that game."

That game was a 1-0 victory by the U.S. in Port of Spain, which gave the Americans an 11th-hour berth in the 1990 World Cup. Today, the U.S. has the chance to virtually eliminate Trinidad and Tobago again from the next World Cup, France '98.

With a victory before an expected crowd of 18,000 at the University of Richmond Stadium, the Americans would put themselves in excellent position to advance to the second and last round of World Cup qualifying.

The U.S. needs only to beat out two of the three other teams in its round-robin division. Trinidad and Tobago already has frittered away five points, losing and tying at home. Guatemala has only one point in two away games, and this week learned that it must play its home matches at neutral sites due to the tragedy at its stadium in Guatemala City.

"Trinidad and Tobago is more concerned now with getting in the groove, with picking up three points, than they are with redemption over '89," Sampson said.

T&T provides an entirely different challenge than last week's opponent, Guatemala, which played an extremely physical, nasty match while losing to the Americans, 2-0.

T&T relies on speed, and change of pace. There should be less play acting, fewer yellow cards, and more flights down the wing.

"Trinidad is not so mean as Guatemala," said Tom Dooley, the sweeper.

In order to mark Dwight Yorke, one of T&T's fastest attackers, Sampson said he probably would start Eddie Pope, a fleet young defender.

"Eddie doesn't have much experience, but I might be forced to put him in right away," Sampson said. "Dwight Yorke brings a lot of speed."

Sampson can afford to experiment, even to make a mistake or two. Unlike beleaguered coaches such as Bora Milutinovic in Mexico or Arrigo Sacchi in Italy, Sampson is not under the microscope at home. He lives in relative anonymity.

"Pressure is self-imposed," Sampson insisted. "My preparation is as good or better than anybody else's.

"It doesn't take the press or a soccer federation to impose pressure," Sampson said. "But our situation does make for a more comfortable environment for the players. We're a country of many sports."

Kasey Keller will start again in goal, ahead of the impatient Brad Friedel. Preki Radosavljevic, the Yugoslav midfielder who became a U.S. citizen on Oct. 25, is likely to see even more time than his 50 minutes against Guatemala.