Good evening and welcome to tonight's matchup between Team America and the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and Tobago. T&T are hoping to play the spoiler in this match, while the US would love to take home three points and a bucket load of goals in order to move to the top of the CONCACAF hexagonal.
Saturday's match against El Salvador was a nervy one for the United States, as they went behind 1-0 thinks to a glaring Jonathan Bornstein error. Team America was able to snag the victory thanks to the industry of Charlie Davies, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, but it should not have been that close.
Naturally, US fans will be hoping that Bornstein will be buried on the bench tonight.
Team USA! USA! USA!
Howard, Bocanegra, Spector, Onyewu, Bornstein (grrrr...), Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Clark, Davies, Altidore
Ince, Lawrence, Samuel, Tinto, Bakr, Edwards, Spann, Noel, Leon, Jones Glen
Joel Aguilar, El Salvador. Great, I'm sure he'll be a competent, partial official...
Bornstein makes another terrible mistake, giving T&T a goal. 3-1 to the US.
I don't know what sort of music is playing as these teams walk out, but it sounds like something you'd hear in a really cheesy 1980s working out montage. It also appears to have been recorded entirely by synthesizers. I'm at a loss for words here...Alan Parsons Project meets Raffi?
US anthem is up first...and it's being played by a choir of steel drums! This is fantastic! It's a lot more uplifting and interesting than your standard instrumentation.
Trinidad's anthem is also being performed by the same steel drum ensemble. It's so refreshing to see an anthem that accurately reflects Caribbean island culture, instead of the drab, stereotypical marches that you hear everywhere else. I'm already glad that I tuned in.
1 min: Team America kicks off moving right to left in their white/blue away strip. Trinidad defending in red. Jonathan Bornstein has not screwed up yet.
2 min: And Bornstein has screwed up. A poor touch gives Trinidad a throw-in deep in US territory. It's official, he's the new Beasley.
4 min: Charlie Davies is dragged down from behind, about 40 yards from goal. Dempsey decides to take a shot, but it had no chance.
6 min: T&T is actually winning the possession battle right now. Bob Bradley started with a very defensive lineup, which is just unfortunate. The US needs three points right now, not one.
7 min: Kenwyne Jones has a good look from about 20 yards out, but puts it over Tim Howard's crossbar. Howard is already angry with his defense, not a good sign.
8 min: A combination of a poor throw by Bornstein and a poor touch by Davies gives T&T a goal kick.
10 min: Corner kick to the US as Davies tries to cut a ball back into the center. It looked like he had a decent shout for a handball and a penalty there. Donovan on the corner, but it's collected easily by Ince.
11 min: Spector waltzes forward, finding Dempsey on the wing. Dempsey's cross finds only a defender, allowing T&T to break out and counter. Luckily the US defense is up to the task and they keep Howard safe.
13 min: The action is so thrilling, John Harkes and JP Dellacamera are discussing the "triple hops" in Miller Lite. Their commentary is so thrilling that I've hit my mute button.
15 min: Davies earns another corner for the US. He looks perfectly fine after suffering a bit of a knock at the end of Saturday's match.
16 min: A second straight lackluster corner by Donovan allows T&T to break once again. They're caught offsides, and no, it wasn't really close.
17 min: Ten bucks and a hearty handshake to anybody who can tell me why Landon Donovan is back on defense. Hang on a minute, Altidore is busy muscling a defender off the ball and earning a corner for his troubles. Donovan takes it short this time, and somehow earns another corner.
18 min: Donovan's second effort is much better. Ince flaps at it awkwardly, much like a stork going through puberty. Another corner to Team America.
20 min: Davies fires a shot from long range. Not a bad shot, but he had a wide open Donovan making a run through the center. If anything, Davies is a little too selfish sometimes, especially when the US has numbers.
22 min: Edwards desperately tries to get past Spector using a combination of stepovers and headfakes. No dice, Spector isn't moving. Great defense from the West Ham player.
24 min: Jozy Altidore has big hops, but he gets undercut and draws a free kick. Let's not try another 45 yard shot here, okay? Donovan takes it quickly and finds Dempsey on the right. Dempsey immediately loses possession, but luckily Spector bails him out by drawing a yellow card.
25 min: Donovan finds Onyewu on the back post, but his cross was way too hot to handle. Onyewu can't control it, and concedes a goal kick. This is way too sloppy from the Americans.
27 min: Terrible defending by the entire US team, not just Bornstein, allows Cornell Glen to whip in a dangerous cross. Kenwyne Jones gets his head to it, but fires right at Howard. Anywhere else, and the US is probably a goal behind.
29 min: It certainly isn't helping the US defense that their midfield can't seem to hold possession or put any pressure on the Trinidad midfield. And T&T hits the crossbar! The US defense is sleepwalking through this half.
30 min: Free kick on the left wing for Donovan. It gets into traffic in front of goal, but is eventually cleared. Team America retains possession, but can't get a pass into a good area.
32 min: Dempsey appears to have taken a bit of a knock, but perhaps he's just embarrassed by the way he and his teammates have played. T&T go searching for a goal once again, and Cornell Glen nearly latches on to a low cross.
34 min: More atrocious defending by the US as Cornell Glen hits the deck in the box. The US somehow clears for a corner. They have been outplayed by a wide margin so far.
35 min: Bornstein makes another poor decision. He made a great run down the left and had an open shot 18 yards from goal. Rather than take a chance and strike toward goal, he plays a poor cross that results in a turnover. Will somebody please be aggressive?
37 min: A dangerous free kick for Trinidad about 30 yards out on the left wing. Onyewu committed the foul. Noel takes the shot, and Howard dives to the bottom corner to keep the score level. Meanwhile, Paraguay leads Argentina 1-0.
39 min: Donovan takes a shot from 30 yards out. It's wide, but looks to have taken a deflection. That was pretty clear, but the referee—who could see it clearly—denies the US a corner.
40 min: This is a little better from the US. They're attempting to be at least a little more adventurous. The passing needs to get much better in the second half though, and the defense needs to wake up.
42 min: Onyewu commits a cynical foul in a dangerous spot. T&T will have a crack at goal from 25 yards out down the left channel. Howard is shouting at his defense, and hopefully they're listening. It's Noel again, but he curls his shot wide of the post by this much.
44 min: Donovan hoofs a ball 65 yards downfield toward Altidore, but it was hit too hard. Another turnover for the US.
45 min: Noel makes the worst pass I've ever seen, just knocking the ball out for a US throw nowhere near a teammate.
45+1 min: Altidore finds Donovan streaking into the box, and it takes a miraculous save by Ince to keep the score level. Kick save and a beauty. Ince is down injured, with a possible sprained ankle. Either that, or he's faking it. That's the end of an ugly first half.
Here's what Bob Bradley is probably telling his team at the half: "Well guys, keep defending. We can be happy with one point against an inferior opponent in a match that we need to win."
Here's what Bob Bradley should be telling his team at the half: "Unless your name is Tim Howard, play better. In fact, if you don't want to be watching the World Cup at home next summer, play better. Be aggressive. We can hit this team on the counter-attack. Bornstein, hit the showers, you're cut."
I can appreciate a club playing for a draw on the road against a difficult opponent—like, Mexico for example. Against Trinidad, who is all but mathematically eliminated from qualification, Team America needs to be going for all three points, because qualification is far from guaranteed right now.
If the US is to come away with a win, they need to pass more accurately and put bodies forward. It wouldn't hurt if Bradley replaced Ricardo Clark with either Benny Feilhaber or Jose Francisco Torres.
46 min: And we're back! ESPN's cameras pan across the stadium to show a lot of empty seats. How is the US not taking advantage of an inferior opponent and sedate environment?
47 min: Another moment for the Jonathan Bornstein highlight reel. Dempsey plays Altidore through with a good cross. The ball trickles out back down the wing, and Bornstein completely misses the ball, instead getting leveled by the T&T defender. Sa-wing and a miss.
50 min: Bradley with an awful pass to Donovan. Well, "to" isn't the right word, "at" works better. Turnover US. Team America gets it back, and some fancy passing outside of the box leads to a good cross by Donovan. He finds Clark, who gets whistled for a foul. That was probably the best moment of the match for the US.
51 min: Clark gets stripped quicker than somebody who shouts "Bomb!" at an airport. Corner kick to Trinidad, and it's cleared away from the goal mouth by Bornstein.
52 min: Altidore breaks down the left wing on a counter-attack, and narrowly misses Davies with a seeing-eye cross.
54 min: Cornell Glen breaks into the US box, and tries to curl a shot into the far post. The shot doesn't curl, and ends up going laughably wide. Meanwhile, Dempsey attempts a failed nutmeg at the other end of the pitch and—surprise—turns it over.
57 min: The US continues to be dominated in midfield. They aren't creating a single meaningful opportunity, and Bradley hasn't looked like making a change, either.
58 min: Onyewu hacks down Kenwyne Jones, free kick to Trinidad 30 yards out. They should have a shot here.
59 min: Edwards takes the shot, no dice. It was well wide.
60 min: Spector finds nobody with a pass toward the middle, another turnover. Good news for the US, Feilhaber and Stu Holden are getting ready to enter the match.
62 min: GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL!!!! Dempsey lays it off to Donovan on the wing, who centers for Ricardo Clark, who takes a touch and drives it into the back of the net from 25 yards. What a beautiful shot from Clark to give the US a 1-0 lead.
63 min: US Sub: Feilhaber on, Altidore off. Holden didn't enter the match, apparently he was pulled back.
64 min: Edwards takes a shot from an identical position to Clark's effort, but Howard punches clear. There can only be one Highlander.
66 min: Trinidad sub: Daniel on, Tinto off.
67 min: Donovan has caused two Trinidad turnovers in the last 15 seconds. He's still got a great deal of energy left, and he just got over swine flu. What's your excuse, Dempsey?
69 min: Bradley puts a ball through the defense toward Davies, but he's offside by a step. Great idea, and great buildup to that point as well. Momentum has definitely shifted here.
71 min: Donovan made a great run into acres of space, but Davies was just a step too slow in getting to the ball. That should have been 2-0 right there. Still not fantastic football from the US, but it's better. Trinidad sub: Baptiste on, Spann off.
74 min: Only in Trinidad will you hear snippets of calypso music in the stands. Davies takes a very poor shot despite having four teammates running into the box. Remember what I said about him needing to be less selfish?
75 min: Corner kick to Trinidad, but it's easily dealt with. The Soca Warriors helped out by badly mishitting their shots.
77 min: US sub: Ching on, Davies off. It's like Bradley has decided to play with ten men. I'm not a Brian Ching fan.
78 min: Dempsey earns a corner with a deep shot. Ince stretches to make a fingertip save. Good stuff by Dempsey, it's his first contribution in awhile. Donovan hits the side netting with his corner.
80 min: Feilhaber is knocked to the pitch with a picture-perfect shoulder check, but not before finding Donovan running down the wing. Donovan finds Dempsey in the middle, but his header is deflected—by a Trinidad defender—for a goal kick. That's surprisingly tame for a CONCACAF official.
82 min: US sub: Stu Holden on, Dempsey off. He looks exhausted. And he needs a shave. Maybe he's going as a hobo for Halloween and just wants to practice his look.
84 min: Trinidad sub: Scotland on, Noel off.
85 min: It's official, Paraguay has beaten Argentina and booked their tickets to South Africa. The US is still doing a good job with possession. Where was this during the first hour?
87 min: Donovan finds Ching, who plays a cross well behind Holden and too far in front of Donovan. Trinidad counters and earns a corner, which Spector easily clears.
89 min: Donovan nearly makes it 2-0! Holden makes an overlapping run and gets a good ball from Ching. Holden plays the cross perfectly to Donovan's feet, but he puts it just over the crossbar. I wouldn't mind seeing a Holden/Bradley pairing in central midfield.
90 min: Ching makes two foolish plays in a matter of seconds. First, he plays a weak, unexpected backpass to Spector, who takes a heavy tackle making the clearance. Then, Ching neglects to play Landon Donovan through until well after he's gone offside, creating a turnover. Three minutes of stoppage time.
90+2 min: Bradley takes a shot from distance that gets blocked, but the US is maintaining possession deep in Trinidad territory. Another minute, and they've got the three points locked up.
90+3 min: Some fantastic work by Feilhaber/Ching/Holden nearly leads to a second goal for the US. Trinidad was out at sea there.
Full time: That's it for this one. If not for a fantastic effort from Ricardo Clark, the US would be going home with just a single point, and their qualification hopes would be in serious doubt.
Instead, fans will hope that the last two poor performances will galvanize Bradley into playing aggressively in the remaining two qualification matches.
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