U.S. Team Is Down To Its Final Chance

Alex Yannis
Date Published: 
New York Times


There is only one way left for the United States to qualify for the World Cup finals in Italy next summer and that is by winning its last qualifying game.

The need for an American victory against Trinidad and Tobago in two weeks arose after today's scoreless tie against an unprepared El Salvador at St. Louis Soccer Park.

Trinidad and Tobago and the United States each have 9 points each going into the last game, but Trinidad and Tobago has a better goal differential, the first criterion for advancement in case of a tie in points. Costa Rica has already clinched one of the two slots from the region.

Trinidad and Tobago has a goal differential of plus 3 (7-4), the Americans have a differential of plus 2 (5-3), meaning a tie in their match will eliminate the Americans, who haven't been in the World Cup finals since 1950.

The Americans created some scoring chances today, but failed to capitalize against a relatively weak El Salvador team that had already been defeated by the Americans in Honduras on Sept. 17.

The 1-0 victory in Honduras on a goal by Hugo Perez in the 62d minute was the last time the Americans have scored. After the scoreless tie against Guatemala Oct. 8, the Americans have now gone scoreless in 208 minutes of play.

Perez missed today's game - he also didn't play against Guatemala -because of a pulled groin muscle and it is not certain if he will play against Trinidad and Tobago.

There had been reports that Perez could have played in this game, but team officials wanted to save him for the game at Trinidad and Tobago.

Officials of the United States Soccer Federation would not confirm that report, but a number did say they felt the game against El Salvador would be an easy one and they wouldn't need Perez.

"This makes it real tough," Mike Windischmann, the captain of the Americans, who raised his arms in desperation along with most everyone of the 8,500 spectators when the final whistle blew, said afterward. ''We just have to win down there now," Windischmann said.

Coach Bob Gansler and his players gave the predictable answer when asked of the chances of winning against Trinidad and Tobago, but the coach and captain of El Salvador said, however, the chances of the Americans winning in Trinidad and Tobago were not good.

"It would be very difficult for the Americans to win in Trinidad and Tobago, but not impossible," said Jaime Rodriguez, the captain. "We came here expecting to lose and we didn't."

Unlike the Americans, who had two weeks of preparation here before the game and had all their comforts, the El Slvadorans arrived late Saturday night after a seven-hour layover in Houston and put four players in each room.

"We don't have the money like the Americans," said George Dojeinovski, the El Salvadoran coach, who used nine players from Firpo, the leading club team.

"I don't think the Americans were flat," he said in response to a question. "They played the way they can play and El Salvador played the right way against them."

The number of chances diminished in the second half despite some adjustments made by Gansler.

"I said from the beginning it would come down to the last game," Gansler said, "and that's where we are."