For U.S., It Again Comes Down to T&T

891119 MNT v TRI WCQ Celebration2

US logoFor the United States men’s national team it’s dèjá vu — and Trinidad and Tobago — all over again.

On Nov. 19, 1989 at Hasely Crawford Stadium the soccer version of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” came off the foot of Paul Caliguiri for a goal that sent the U.S. to its first World Cup — 1990 in Italy — since 1950 in Brazil.

In that game, the Soca Warriors needed a draw to qualify for that two-island nation’s first trip to the World Cup. But Caliguiri ended that dream and, in some views, ignited the long-dormant soccer dreams of Americans when he scored in the game’s 30th minute. The U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994, Major League Soccer began play in 1996 and — as the cliché goes — the rest is history.

And so, here we are again as the U.S. finds itself back in the Caribbean on the final match day of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, but this time the American team is the one that needs only a draw, probably, to pocket one of the region’s three automatic berths in Russia 2018 (Mexico and Costa Rica already have qualified).

By virtue of its gaudy advantage (+5) in goal differential over Panama (-2) and Honduras (-5), the U.S. is nearly in spitting distance of Russia and can certainly see it from its backyard. Goal differential is the first tie-breaker. The stress-relieving 4-0 victory against Panama in Orlando, Fla., last Friday put the U.S. back in control of third-place in the Hex and shelved all the predictions of World Cup doom … at least for now.

It comes down to this: If the U.S. wins, it’s in; the U.S. is in with a draw and if Honduras and Panama do not make up goal difference in wins vs. Mexico and Costa Rica; the U.S. is in with a loss to Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras and Panama both draw/lose vs. Mexico and Costa Rica.

The match at 10,000 seat Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern — beIN Sports and Universo; and can also be followed live Facebook and Twitter at @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp

The U.S. has an 18-2-4 record against the Soca Warriors, including a 13-1-3 mark in World Cup qualifiers, which includes 12 shutouts. The U.S. is 4-1-2 in seven visits to the nation that is off the coast of South America. The only defeat in Trinidad was in the semifinal round in 2008, after the American team had already qualified for the Hex. Dating to qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, the teams have met in every cycle except for for Brazil 2014.

This time around, T&T has little to play for — it is in last place in the Hex with only one victory in nine matches and a -13 goal differential.