U.S. soccer squad can look ahead

Date Published: 
Indiana Gazette

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) - They scattered to various parts of the United States, basking in their success. All of a sudden, the U.S. soccer team has a future.

With Sunday's 1-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago, the United States advanced to its first World Cup finals since 1950. Now it has to plan for the next six months.

"We will have 15 to 20 games against international opponents," Sunil Gulati, the team's scheduler, said. "Then, we'll probably go over to Europe the third week of May."

The World Cup begins at Milan, Italy, on June 8. The final is July 8 at Rome. All 24 teams in the tournament play three first-round games and 16 advance to the second round. The draw that will divide the teams into six four-teams groups will be held Dec. 9 at Rome.

But that's in the future. The Americans looked relieved as they left on Monday and headed back to Miami. Trinidad was in a state of shock.

Monday was a national holiday in honor of the Trinidad and Tobago team and almost all shops and businesses in Port of Spain were closed. The headline in the Daily Express was "River of Tears." The Evening Sun's headline was "A Fever Turned to Ice."

"We have to get over the terrible shock of our defeat," Trinidad coach Everald "Gally" Cummings said.

Michael Maurice, the Trinidad goalkeeper, said he had no chance to stop Paul Caligiuri's 30th-minute goal.

"As he kicked, I found myself leaning to the side to see around the body of my own defender," Maurice said. "By the time I got sight of the ball, which also had gone into the sun, it was too late."

While Trinidad reexamined the game, the United States looked ahead. The Americans have exhibition games against two World Cup opponents — the Soviet Union on Feb. 24 at Stanford Stadium and Italy on March 28 at Palermo. The Marlboro Cups of Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago will be used as preparation. The idea is to spread the home games around the country.

"I think it is important, not for the team's sake but for soccer's sake," Werner Fricker, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said.

Fricker also has one other huge concern. "We have to put the entire package together, which is being able to promote TV coverage," he said. "Then sponsors have to be able to get their money's worth."

Sunday's game was shown by ESPN via a two-hour tape delay. But the network didn't
really produce it. It sold the air time to an Anheuser-Busch subsidiary, which picked up the Trinidad feed and overlaid the sound from two U.S. announcers.

The USSF had a deal with NBC and SportsChannel America tying coverage of the national team to the 1994 World Cup, which the United States will host. But FIFA, soccer's world governing body, rejected the contract and ordered competitive bidding. TNT has the U.S. rights to the 1990 World Cup.