For a soccer team supposedly watered down from inexperience, the U.S. National Team looked pretty darned good Saturday night.
The Yanks' revamped lineup, featuring three starters playing in their first full international match, rolled up a two-goal lead in the first half and cruised to a 3-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago at High Point's A.J. Simeon Stadium.Sharing the spotlight with the U.S. Team was the crowd. Attendance was 11,316, making it the second largest audience ever to see a soccer game in North Carolina and the largest gathering ever assembled in Simeon Stadium. The state's largest crowd for soccer came in 1983 when more than 23,000 showed up in Charlotte to see the Carolina Lightning beat the New York Apollo in the American Soccer League championship.
Saturday's game was billed as a grudge match between two evenly matched teams struggling for international respectability. During last year's World Cup qualifying round, they split two games. The U.S. won the last one 1-0 in Port of Spain, sending the Yanks to their first World Cup final in 40 years.
Like the U.S., Trinidad & Tobago had several new players to work into its lineup. But unlike the hosts, they didn't blend in nearly so well.
The U.S. dominated play throughout, outshooting T&T 15-4.
Forward Peter Vermes turned a defensive mistake at the 15-minute mark into the U.S.'s first goal. The 24-year-old World Cup veteran stole the ball from Marvin Faustin, usually one of the most reliable players on the T&T defense, and scored past goalie Michael Maurice from 20 yards out. Bruce Murray, the Clemson standout who played brilliantly in Thursday's 3-0 scrimmage victory over the North Carolina Select Team, was credited with the assist.
The second goal came at 29 minutes on a 1-2-3 combination from Eric Eichmann to Steve Pittman to Murray. Eichmann dropped off a corner kick to Pittman who looped a cross into the goalie box. The 6-foot-1 Murray, renowned for his ability to win balls in the air, had no difficulty in redirecting Pittman's cross, heading it past Maurice from six yards out.
After intermission, the crowd barely had time to settle back into its seats before the U.S. scored its third goal. Eichmann rocketed an unassisted shot from 25 yards past Maurice. It was a scorching drive that appeared to catch Maurice unaware.
Trinidad & Tobago had few scoring chances. With 15 minutes left, T&T reserve Philbert Jones had a shot on an open net from a difficult angle, but it went high and effectively saved Dodd's shutout.