April 1, 2009
A CHANCE TO BOUNCE BACK
U.S. can take three vs. T&T
Nashville, Tenn. -- On one hand, the U.S.'s 2-2 draw in El Salvador on Saturday night turned out to be one of the great comebacks in National Team history in a World Cup qualifier.
|Michael Bradley: "I can promise that when we step onto the field on Wednesday, its time to get down to business."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
On the other, it was also a wake-up call for a team that did not play up to its potential and found itself with a two-goal deficit, which does not happen too often against CONCACAF teams, especially in the final round of qualifying.
"On the one hand, we were pleased to get a point and being able to come back, but obviously we weren't satisfied with the overall way we played," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. "We're all kind of chomping at the bit a little bit to get back on the field and play in a big game in front of our home fans.
"There's a bitter taste in your mouth after a game like that."
So, there is no way the U.S. will be overconfident against Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday night, despite owning a huge advantage against the Caribbean side.
"Complacency? No," Bradley said with a bit of a laugh. "After the game on Saturday night, there is no chance we're stepping onto the field being anything close to complacent or thinking that its a game we can take short cuts and come off the field with a win. These are World Cup qualifiers. There's no easy games."
Wednesday's game at LP Field matches teams that rallied to earn 11th-hour ties. The Soca Warriors (0-0-2, two points) scored in the 88th minute on 19-year-old Khaleem Hyland's equalizer.
"Trinidad will be riding a little bit of a high after coming from behind," said Bradley, who noted that T&T defeated U.S. last October in Trinidad, 2-1. It was a game that did not matter to the Americans because they already had qualified for the final round.
"We saw a little bit what Trinidad can be all about when they sort of get themselves going and start to have some confidence. At that end, there's no feeling in feeling in our group that (laughs) that this is an easier game or anything like that. I can promise that when we step onto the field on Wednesday, its time to get down to business."
Of course, it's difficult to avoid looking at the U.S.'s dominance in this series. The Americans are 14-2-3 overall. They're 10-0-1 at home vs. T&T and 6-0-1 on U.S. soil in qualifiers. For the record, Trinidad's lone point came in a 1-1 WC qualifying tie in Torrance, Calif. on May 13, 1989. The U.S. also has registered six consecutive home clean sheets, last allowing a goal to the Caribbean side in a 3-2 victory in Anaheim, Calif. on Jan. 13, 1996.
But coach Bob Bradley said to throw all that out.
"We remind the team -- World Cup qualifiers, history doesn't matter," he said. "Every night you have to step onto the field. You have to establish your team, the way you're going to play. Certainly, when you come off with a game like El Salvador that is still fresh in your mind. That's the reminder."
To goalkeeper Tim Howard, the more important game is at home. The U.S. brings in a 15-game home qualifying unbeaten streak, last losing in qualifying to Honduras, 3-2, in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 1, 2001. The last home defeat prior to that was to Costa Rica, 1-0, on May 31, 1985.
"If you know World Cup qualifying, you realize there are going to be bumps in the road," he said. "To go away from home to get a point, theoretically is pretty good." Howard said. "We didn't play as best and as well as we could. We want to put that right on Wednesday. It's important to take three points at home."
On Saturday right fullback Frankie Hejduk set up second-half sub and forward Jozy Altidore on the first score in the 77th minute and tallied the equalizer himself in the 88th minute.
Michael Bradley felt it was a wake-up call to the team.
"It's a chance . . . to really have a closer good look at the things that we need to bring to the table and the way we need to play every time we step onto the field," he said. "So I think over the past two years our consistency in doing that has been quite good. On Saturday night in El Salvador we got away from that a little bit. We realize the commitment and effort needs to be better all around the board."
Added Altidore: "We're all a little disappointed in ourselves. Going to El Salvador, we expected to play a little bit better. Now we have a chance to rebound."
A win would keep the U.S. in first place, regardless of the other results.
The U.S. should be more fortified for this encounter. Howard, who missed the El Salvador match due to two yellow cards, is expected to start, pushing Brad Guzan to the bench. Marcus Hahnemann was sent back to his English club Reading and Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein was brought into camp. Central defender Oguchi Onyewu, who had a right knee sprain, trained with the team on Monday.
Trinidad will be without veteran striker Dwight Yorke, serving a two-game suspension, although he trained with the team.
The Soca Warriors bring in several familiar names to MLS fans, including former Columbus Crew star striker Stern John and one-time New England Revolution defender Avery John.
"Trinidad is typically a tough team. very athletic, a lot of players who have good speed, good strength," Altidore said. "So you have to break them down in other ways. You have to be patient. You have to try to expose them in places where we feel they're vulnerable."