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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

September 8, 2009
ALMOST THERE
U.S. can clinch WC playoff berth


Goalkeeper Tim Howard on Trinidad & Tobago: I don't think anybody gives up, but obviously it's deflating for them."
Goalkeeper Tim Howard on Trinidad & Tobago: I don't think anybody gives up, but obviously it's deflating for them."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The United States can't clinch a berth in its sixth consecutive World Cup just yet. But the Americans can take a significant step toward booking a spot in South Africa 2010 on Wednesday night.

A win or a tie by the second-place U.S. (4-2-1, 13 points; plus four goal differential) over Trinidad & Tobago (ESPN Classic, 7 p.m.), combined with an El Salvador (1-4-2, five; minus three) tie or loss to No. 4 Costa Rica (4-3-0, 12; minus three) would mean at least fourth place and a spot in the playoffs for the Americans. The earliest the U.S. could clinch one of the top three automatic CONCACAF berths would be at first-place Honduras (4-2-1, 13; plus seven) Oct. 10. Mexico (4-3-0, 12; plus two) is in third place.

The fourth-place team meets the fifth-place side from South America in a home-and-home series, a scenario the U.S. and its rivals want to avoid because underachieving, but talented Argentina, under coach and former great Diego Maradona, could wind up as a foe.

We have to be trying to get as many points as we can as quickly as we can, midfielder Clint Dempsey said after the 2-1 qualifying home win over El Salvador Saturday night.

As they did Saturday, several U.S. players will try to avoid accruing their second yellow card of the final round, which would force them out of the vital Honduras encounter next month with a one-match suspension. The list includes Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber.

Last-place T&T (1-4-2, five), off a 4-1 pasting by Honduras Saturday, has been all but eliminated. So, the U.S. players aren't certain what kind of mindset the hosts will be in at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

I don't think anybody gives up, but obviously it's deflating for them," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "It's still a home game and you wonder how their crowd will react to them. Will they get on their backs or will they give them a lift? It's tough to say. I think the best thing for us is to go down there with our focus and the right mindset.

The Soca Warriors have been known to put their heads down and lose interest when things dont go their way.

"They're pretty close to [being eliminated]," Donovan said. "It's hard to know what to expect, but we can't really worry about that. We have to go and try to win the game.

   
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