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Four-goal victory hardly tells story of Americans' narrow escape in Barbados qualifying match.

CONCACAF qualifying

United States cuts it close, but advances by beating Barbados 4-0.

WATERFORD, Barbados (Wednesday, November 15, 2000) -- The United States men can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

CONCACAF Qualifying
Group E final
Team W L T Pts GF GA
USA 3 1 2 11 14 3
Costa Rica 3 2 1 10 9 6
Guatemala 3 2 1 10 9 6
Barbados 1 5 0 3 3 20
After playing miserably throughout the first half of a must-win match, the Americans woke up to find net four times in the final 27 minutes to defeat Barbados 4-0 and advance to the CONCACAF final six-nation World Cup qualifying group.

Considering Guatemala’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica, if the United States had tied or lost, the American’s hopes to compete in the 2002 World Cup would have ended before 4,000 fans at the National Stadium here.

"At the half, I thought we were going to win," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who watched from a distance while serving the second game of a three-match suspension for abusing a game official earlier in qualifying. "In the first half, we were going at the goal we knew was going to be the toughest and into the wind. We obviously did not play very well, and I knew we would play a lot better. We came out, we settled down, and I thought we'd be fine. We had our backs to the wall here today, we were the ones facing all the pressure. We played the better game and we deserved to win."

The U.S. placed first in Group E with a 3-1-2 record and 11 points. Costa Rica and Guatemala both finished 3-2-1. With the two countries tied in all tiebreakers, they will meet in a one-match playoff -- probably in January -- with the winner joining the U.S., Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago in the final qualifying round robin in 2001.

Clint Mathis, who hit a shot of the right post in the 36th minute, gave the Americans the lead for good with his first international goal in the 73rd minute, the beneficiary of a exceptional effort by fellow striker Joe-Max Moore.

Defender Carlos Llamosa started the sequence with a quick pass to midfielder Chris Klein at the far right of the center stripe. Klein quickly forwarded the ball up the flank to Moore deep in the corner. Moore took on Wayne Sober, turned the corner on the defender and carried along the end line. Just before reaching the goal post, Moore cut the ball back to Mathis, who just left of center, knocked a hard roller just inside the left post for the 1-0 advantage.

"Joe-Max was the difference. He's a great player who came through," Mathis said. "He beat the guy, I was wide open. I couldn't have missed the shot. My only worry, was the lousy field. As the ball was coming to me it could have hit a hole and bounced anywhere."

Midfielder Earnie Stewart provided the U.S. a more comfortable margin with a picture goal in the 73rd minute. He received a ball from Llamosa, took three touches forward and, just as he approached the top right of the penalty area, blistered a shot that tucked just inside the far post to make it 2-0.

Four minutes later, the U.S. broke the game open. Cobi Jones, a second-half substitute in the midfield, took a well-timed run and broke in behind a looping ball from Mathis over two Barbados defenders. Jones calmly chested the pass down and struck it past a helpless goalkeeper Horace Stoute for the 3-0 lead.

Fellow second-half sub Ante Razov put the finishing touches on the match with a left-footed strike in the third minute of extra time off a pass from Jones.

"We thought if we could get a goal early we might have a chance," said Barbados coach Horace (Tobacco) Beckles. "It came down to fitness. We just didn't have players who could play 90 minutes. Give full credit to the U.S. -- they played to win a match they had to win."

Goalkeeper Tony Meola was forced to make just one save, but it was a beauty that prevented Barbados from taking a 1-0 lead that could have proved devastating to the American hopes. In the 50th minute, Gus Hurdle fed a ball into the right side of the box to Gregory Goodrich who centered a pass to Llewellyn Riley. From 10 yards out, Riley blasted a shot for the right corner which Meola stopped with a quick dive to his left. The ball caromed off defender Carlos Llamosa’s knee off the crossbar and away.

"It was pure reaction," Meola said. "I thought I had pushed it well wide, you know when you do, but it hit Carlos (Llamosa) in the knee and bounced up onto the crossbar. I concentrated today on staying up and not committing myself first. That’s what happened on that shot."

The shutout was a record fifth straight for the U.S. With three clean sheets in 2000, Meola's increase his career record total to 32.

The first half was uneventful without any consistent rhythm and plenty of rough tackles.

In addition to hitting a post, Mathis sent of ball off the chest of Stoute in the 39th minute. Moore was there for a reaction header off the rebound, but it sailed wide left.

The three-man U.S. defensive unit of Carlos Llamosa, Gregg Berhalter and Jeff Agoos, supplemented by the return of defensive midfielder Chris Armas, held the Barbados attack in check for most of the match, allowing only the one shot on goal.

Minutes later, the U.S. thought it took a 1-0 lead when Moore took on two defenders above the box, turned and unloaded a powerful shot that Stoute parried away. Klein, making his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, quickly pounced on the rebound and cut it back away from the end line. He then cranked a left-footed shot that made it through traffic and through the legs of Stoute, but the goal was called back as Moore was standing in front of the goal in an offside position.

United States 4, Barbados 0

Lineups: Barbados - Horace Stoute, Neil Bovell (Michael Forde 46), Agustus Hurdle (Romell Burgess 75), John Parris, Matthew Joseph, Wayne Sobers, Gregory Goodridge (captain), Michael Gikes, Paul Lovell, Ryan Lucas (Kenroy Skinner 79), Llewellyn Riley. United States - Tony Meola (captain), Carlos Llamosa, Jeff Agoos, Gregg Berhalter, Chris Klein, Chris Armas, Eddie Lewis (Cobi Jones 61), Tab Ramos, Earnie Stewart, Clint Mathis (Richie Williams 78), Joe-Max Moore (Ante Razov 81).

United States - Mathis (Moore) 63.
United States - Stewart (Llamosa) 73.
United States - Jones (Mathis) 77.
United States - Razov (Jones) 93+,

Shots: Barbados 7, United States 12. Saves: Barbados 5, United States 1. Corner kicks: Barbados 3, United States 4. Fouls: Barbados 11, United States 12. Offside: Barbados 3, United States 5. Yellow card cautions: Barbados - Sobers 48; United States - Stewart 52, Llamosa 88.

Referee: Noel Bynoe (Trinidad & Tobago). Assistant referees: Michael Ragoonath (Trinidad & Tobago), Peter Kelly (Trinidad & Tobago). Attendance: 4,000 (approximate) at National Stadium in Waterford, Barbados. Weather: 82 degrees, rainy, humid.

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