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CONCACAF Qualifying

United States future will be decided in Barbados after playing scoreless draw with Costa Rica.

By Robert Wagman

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Wednesday, October 11, 2000) -- Either the Unites States or Costa Rica could have clinched a berth in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying final round with a victory tonight. Instead the two nations battled to 0-0 draw before 24,430 at sold-out Columbus Crew Stadium.

World Cup Qualifying
Team W L T GF GA Pts
Costa Rica 3 1 1 8 4 10
USA 2 1 2 10 3 8
Guatemala 2 2 1 7 5 7
Barbados 1 4 0 3 16 3
Group E standings through 5 of 6 qualifying games

Other games
Guatemala 3
Barbados 1

The U.S. (2-1-2, 8 points) can still advance with a victory in its final semifinal qualifier November 15 at Barbados (1-4, 3 points). Depending on the November 15 visit of Costa Rica (3-1-1) to Guatemala (2-2-1, 7 points), the U.S. can also clinch a spot in the six-team final round with a loss should Costa Rica defeat Guatemala or if those two teams draw should that defeat not be by the unlikely deficit of five or more goals.

"We think we're in a great position, we really do," said acting U.S. head coach Dave Sarachan. "We know that we've got to go into Barbados and win the game, but we feel very good about it. Today, in our minds, is not a loss. It's a little bit of a revelation with some young players. They way we compete, we feel good about going into Barbados."

Tonight’s tie extended the United States home World Cup qualifying unbeaten streak to 16 games.

The Americans held a territorial advantage in the first half and outshot Costa Rica 5-2, but neither team could produce a dangerous shot on goal. The U.S. offense, led by the active play of Cobi Jones on the right flank and the interplay of strikers Joe-Max Moore and Ante Razov, held the ball in the Costa Rica end for much of the first half.

"We had a few decent chances, but they always had a lot of guys back in the box and they didn't give us many real chances," Razov said. "Maybe if we had been sharper in the final third maybe we could have had a few more decent chances. Now we'll have to take care of things in Barbados.

Costa Rica jumped out to a strong start in the first 10 minutes of the second half, advancing into the American end several times. The Americans stormed back after Moore's header sailed just over the crossbar in the 56th minute and regained their edge in possession for the remainder of the match.

With U.S. coach Bruce Arena, serving the first of a three-game suspension by world governing body FIFA stemming from the last meeting between the two regional rivals in San Jose, Costa Rica on July 23, the U.S. was managed in the match by assistant coach Sarachan.

Sarachan went to his subs bench in the 68th minute and inserted a pair of young players who recently returned from the American Olympic squad in Sydney, and the under-23 stars nearly made a difference in the score line. In the 77th minute, forward Josh Wolff worked down the right side and spotted Chris Albright storming through the center of the penalty area, but Costa Rican goalkeeper Alvaro Messen snared the cross. In injury time, an apparent game-winner by Wolff was ruled offside.

"We played very hard against a very good team so I have to feel good," Sarachan said. "They came in to get a point and they gave us very little offensively. I would like to have had us create a little more offensively, to make a few sharper passes. We did better in the second half and we were able to push them better after Wolff and Albright came in, but we really didn't have very many quality chances."

U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller recorded his second consecutive World Cup qualifying shutout, and the 20th of his international career. A 3-5-2 alignment, led by an exceptional marking effort by defender Carlos Llamosa on the dangerous Paulo Wanchope, limited the Ticos to only two shots on goal.

In addition to Arena, three regular starters were missing from the United States lineup because of suspension. Midfielder Claudio Reyna was handed a two-game ban by FIFA for the post-game abuse of the referee in the last Costa Rica match. Earnie Stewart served a one-game suspension after collecting two yellow cards in group play and fellow midfielder Eddie Lewis was absent after picking up a red card in the last U.S. match against Guatemala.

The U.S. was also missing forward Brian McBride, midfielder John O’Brien and reserve keeper Brad Friedel because of injury.

Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago have already advanced to the final round. A draw held in Guatemala next month will determine the seeding.

The start time for the U.S.’s final Group E qualifier against Barbados at the National Stadium in Waterford, St. Michael will coincide with the kickoff of the Costa Rica match in Guatemala.

United States 0, Costa Rica 0

Lineups: United States Kasey Keller; Jeff Agoos (captain), Gregg Berhalter, Carlos Llamosa, Chris Armas, Chad Deering, Cobi Jones (Chris Albright 68), Jovan Kirovski (Josh Wolff 69), Tony Sanneh (Ben Olsen 79), Ante Razov, Joe-Max Moore. Costa Rica - Alvaro Messen, Jervis Drummond, Austin Berry, Reynaldo Parks, Alexander Madrigal, Ronaldo Fonseca (Mauricio Solis 70), Walter Centeno, Jafet Soto (William Sunsing 81), Rodrigo Cordero, Paulo Wanchope, Hernan Medford (captain), (Steven Bryce 88).

Scoring: none.

Shots: United States 8, Costa Rica 4. Saves: United States 2, Costa Rica 3. Corner kicks: United States 5, Costa Rica 0 Fouls: United States 21, Costa Rica 14. Offside: United States 2, Costa Rica 6. Yellow card cautions: United States - Gregg Berhalter 86.

Referee: Ramesh Ramdham (Trinidad & Tobago). Assistant referees: Merere Louis Gonzalez (Trinidad & Tobago), Hasseeb Mohammed (Trinidad & Tobago). Attendance: 24,430 at Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium. Weather: 60 degrees, clear, breezy.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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