PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- It's tough to feel a sense of urgency when you're sitting in a luxury hotel overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a glorious late-summer afternoon. But it's still possible, especially if you're
"I've said it all along, you win your home games and you hope to pick up something on the road," Howard says. "But I think now the mind set has to change a little bit. For the four teams right now who are at the top of the group, I think we all would probably say we've got to go for it."
A U.S. tie here just won't cut it. Not when Mexico's surprising 3-0 win at Costa Rica on Saturday made a close four-team race for three automatic World Cup spots even tighter. Not when this is the easiest road venue in the Hexagonal. And not when a tie or loss would be a step back for a U.S. team that won its last qualifier here that mattered in 2005.
"We need to win this game," said
The U.S. figures to make a few changes from the lineup that beat El Salvador 2-1 on Saturday. Coach
Bradley has a couple of options for the rest of the back line. He could use
That's what I suspect will happen, and we'll see (from left to right): Spector - Bocanegra - Onyewu - Cherundolo. If Spector does move to the left, it will be important for Cherundolo to show that his crosses can be just as dangerous as Spector's have been in recent months.
Otherwise, I think the only change we'll see is in the central midfield, where
Up top, I figure we'll again see
Altidore, you may recall, had a hat trick in Nashville the last time these two teams played. The rise of Davies since then has to be an encouraging development for the U.S.' attacking future. After all, how many top-15 national teams start a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old up top?
As for T&T, the cuddly upstart that made a splash at the '06 World Cup (tying Sweden and giving England all it could handle) is essentially out of contention for South Africa. But it does have one of the better front lines in CONCACAF.
"These are all guys who are pretty decorated, particularly in CONCACAF," says Howard. "They're a handful because, first off, you look at their physical stature, they're really big. But then they also possess good speed, they're good in the air. A lot of what they bring, ironically, kind of plays into our hands. Because from a defensive standpoint, we're very good at those things as well. We're good in the air, we're fast, we're strong. So oftentimes, our matchups have been pretty good against those guys for that reason."
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Saturday (other than Mexico's win at Costa Rica) was that the U.S., which had so readily picked up cards in '09, didn't receive a single yellow against El Salvador. On the one hand, that left no players suspended for tonight's game, but it also means that seven U.S. players are one yellow card away from being suspended for October's qualifier at Honduras: Altidore, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Clark, Dempsey, Donovan and Feilhaber.
"At this point we can't worry about cards," says Donovan, who was the Man of the Match against El Salvador. "The last game we were a little cautious of it and we did a good job. Right now, we need to play to win the game, and if we take a yellow and miss a game that's part of it. We've got enough guys who can fill out the team."
• If the U.S. builds a sizable lead, I wouldn't be surprised to see forward
It's amazing how often you see soccer references in non-soccer areas here. Trinidadian