Thu, Dec


 At Aston Villa of the English Premier League, fans belt out the Sinatra standard ''New York, New York'' and tailor the lyrics to their star forward, singing, ''It's up to you, Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke.''


Here in his native Caribbean, the words carry a more plaintive appeal. If Yorke and his teammates cannot defeat the United States on Sunday in a regional qualifying match, Trinidad and Tobago has absolutely no chance of qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France.
The Americans can advance to next year's final qualifying round with a victory Sunday, coupled with a Costa Rica victory over Guatemala. Six teams will advance to the finals of the North America, Central America and Caribbean region, with three teams from that group eventually qualifying for the World Cup. Two weeks ago in Richmond, the United States (2-0) defeated Trinidad and Tobago (0-1-2) by 2-0.
Still lingering is the stinging disappointment from seven years ago when Trinidad and Tobago, needing only a draw to advance to the 1990 World Cup, lost by 1-0 at home to the Americans. Paul Caligiuri's looping shot apparently got lost in the sun, and while the United States had established its legitimacy as a soccer team after a 40-year absence from the World Cup, Trinidad and Tobago was left stunningly uninvited.
A national holiday had been declared for the day after the game. Trinidad and Tobago was poised to become the smallest nation, 1.26 million people, to qualify for the World Cup. Players were treated beforehand as conquering heroes. But it was a premature celebration. Perhaps there was too much pressure, and the players fell as much to expectation as to the Americans.
''It was so intense, people couldn't relax,'' said Yorke, who played in that game as a 18-year-old. ''It was a big blow. This is a small country; there are not a lot of opportunities. This was one of the few. It is something that will be in my mind as long as I live. That's why Sunday's game is the biggest one in our history. If we look on one thing as revenge, it is to try to beat the Americans when we come up against them.''
A rueful anniversary passed on Nov. 19, the seventh anniversary of that wrenching 1989 loss. While the United States has since played in two World Cups, been host to one and begun a professional league, Trinidad and Tobago is trying to validate itself in soccer 34 years after gaining independence from Britain.
''When the date comes, people remember,'' said Ray Davis, a soccer correspondent with The Trinidad Guardian. ''Just like the coup attempt against the Government on July 27, 1990. People remember Nov. 19 and July 27, one more than the other.''
Trinidad and Tobago has not been without its sporting successes. Ato Boldon, who attended U.C.L.A., won bronze medals at 100 and 200 meters at the Atlanta Olympics. The cricket star Brian Lara has a boulevard named in his honor. The national stadium has just been renamed for Hasely Crawford, the 1976 Olympic champion at 100 meters. About soccer, though, there appears to be an air of resignation.
At the 1989 match with the Americans, National Stadium was awash in a sea of red as 30,000 fans sported the team colors. Sunday, soccer officials said, the stadium may be half-empty.
''The majority of the country has already signed off,'' said Dwight Day, general secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago soccer federation.
Yorke, now 25, has appealed for throbbing support. He is the first player from Trinidad and Tobago to play in the English Premier League, where he scored 24 goals last season and has scored 7 in the past seven games this season.
He has dreamed of the World Cup since he was a boy in the village of Canaan on the small island of Tobago. In the mornings, he would perfect his balance by standing in a small trash can and bouncing a soccer ball off his head hundreds of times. He learned his ball-handling skills in a game called ''dog,'' where one player would dribble while 20 others attempted to take the ball away.
''He doesn't look imposing, but he has tremendous physical strength,'' said Alexi Lalas, the American defenseman who marked Yorke two weeks ago. ''A lot of people have respect for a player that can come out of a place like Trinidad and make it overseas.''
On Tobago, Yorke was one of nine children living in a two-room bungalow. His father was a trash collector, and his mother cleaned hotel rooms. When there was not enough food for everyone, Yorke relied on neighbors. At night, he would hunt for crabs, which he sold to restaurants to pay for soccer boots and for flights to junior matches in Trinidad.
''If it wasn't for soccer, I'd probably be one of the guys hanging out in the streets,'' Yorke said. ''I'd tell my mother I wanted to be a professional footballer, and she'd say, 'All right, in dreams.' I always wanted to be somebody.''
At 18, before that 1989 qualifying match against the United States, Yorke went to Aston Villa on a five-week tryout. He has since become a star overseas, but his Trinidad and Tobago team is still looking for the same international respect.
''People will be satisfied if we beat the Americans,'' Yorke said. ''They'll see it as revenge from 1989. If we lose, it will be, 'The Americans get the best of us, no matter what we do.' ''