MARSHALL SCORES GAME-WINNER FOR JAMAICA IN WORLD CUP QUALIFIER vs. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: Miami Fusion defender Tyrone Marshall scored the game-winning goal for the Jamaica National Team in its 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifying match today in Kingston, Jamaica. Marshall found the back of the net for the "Reggae Boyz" in the 15th minute of the match.
UNBEATEN HOME QUALIFYING STREAK ON THE LINE AS USA FACES MEXICO IN HEX OPENER: In addition to seeking an important three points in the first of ten games in the final qualifying round, the United States will put its home World Cup qualifying unbeaten streak on the line when the team faces Mexico at Crew Stadium tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, Telemundo, and Futbol de Primera radio). Since dropping a 1-0 decision to Costa Rica on May 31, 1985, the United States has gone 16 consecutive games without a defeat at home in World Cup qualifying. In fact, since qualifying for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina began in 1976, that loss to Costa Rica is the only blemish on the USA?s home qualifying record. The United States has lost only five qualifying matches since the 1982 World Cup, with all five defeats coming at the hands of the Ticos from Costa Rica.
McBRIDE MAKES COLUMBUS RETURN WITH NATIONAL TEAM: February 28 should signal the triumphant return of Brian McBride to Columbus Crew Stadium for the first time since joining English First Division club Preston North End following the conclusion of the 2000 MLS season. McBride, who stars with the hometown Crew, battled a series of injuries in 2000 but still managed to score four goals for the United States, second best on the team. In his qualifying career, the 28-year-old McBride has averaged better than a goal a game, scoring six goals in six starts (533 minutes). The Arlington Heights, Illinois, native recently scored his first goal in England, converting David Healy's cross with a trademark header to help his team to a 5-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
McBRIDE LOOKS TO KEEP GOAL SCORING STREAK ALIVE: Brian McBride finished off a beautiful passing sequence in the 27th minute to open the scoring for the United States in the USA?s 2-1 victory over the People's Republic of China on January 27 at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., converting a nifty chip pass from Landon Donovan. For McBride, the goal was his fourth in his last four games, equaling William Looby's 46-year-old U.S. record for goals by a player in consecutive games. The goal was especially sweet for the 28-year-old, who has battled back from a variety of injuries suffered in 2000 and last played for the U.S. on Sept. 3, when his lunging strike was the lone goal in an important 1-0 win over Guatemala at RFK Stadium in the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
MEXICO LIMPS INTO FINAL ROUND SEEKING KOREA/JAPAN SPOT, REVENGE OVER USA FOR TWO 2000 DEFEATS: Enrique Meza?s Mexico squad travels to Columbus, Ohio, looking to improve on the form they showed in the early part of 2001 when they squandered a late lead and fell to Colombia at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Entering the all-important World Cup Qualifier at Crew Stadium, El Tri have not secured a victory in the last five games, having dropped contests to the United States, Argentina, Bulgaria, and Colombia. Mexico?s only point from the last five matches came from a 0-0 draw with Canada in the November cold. Mexico, hindered by the absence of injured stars Cuauhtemoc Blanco (torn knee ligament) and Ramon Ramirez (car accident), are led by colorful goalkeeper Jorge Campos (Atlante), midfielders Alberto Coyote (Chivas) and Pavel Pardo (America), and high-powered forwards Luis Hernandez (L.A. Galaxy and America) and Jared Borgetti (Santos). The balanced Mexican attack, which pounded Group C opponents for 17 goals in the semifinal qualifying round, found scoring punch from several different players in the last round, when no player scored more than three goals. The United States won both meetings between the archrivals in 2000, blanking Mexico 3-0 in the final game of the Nike U.S. Cup at Giants Stadium, and taking a 2-0 decision at the Los Angeles Coliseum in October.
LOOKING FOR THREE STRAIGHT AGAINST EL TRI: The United States enters Wednesday?s game riding a two-game winning streak over Mexico, a streak that equals the team?s best-ever success against its archrival. After defeating Mexico, 4-2, in the first meeting between the two in 1934, the United States went winless in the next 24 games played over a period of more than 46 years. The only other time the U.S. posted back-to-back victories against El Tri was in 1994-95, when the team won 1-0 in Pasadena, California (6/4/94) and 4-0 in Washington, D.C. (6/18/95).
BACK-TO-BACK IN COLUMBUS: The United States will be making its second consecutive home World Cup qualifying appearance in Columbus at Crew Stadium on February 28. The USA closed out the home portion of the semifinal round of qualifying with a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica on October 11, 2000, earning an important point before the final qualifying match of the year in Barbados. Wednesday's match against Mexico will mark only the second time the United States Men's Team has played a full international in Ohio.
HOMECOMING FOR FRIEDEL: Bay Village, Ohio, native Brad Friedel was one of three goalkeepers selected by head coach Bruce Arena for the Mexico match, joining Tony Meola and Zach Thornton in a three-way battle for the starting job. One advantage Friedel might enjoy over his two teammates is that of familirity with both the surroundings and the weather. Fridel enjoyed a stellar career playing for Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew before moving to England to star with Liverpool and then Blackburn Rovers, and perhaps more importantly knows what the weather in Central Ohio can be like in February. On top of all that, Friedel has been setting the English First Division on fire, helping Blackburn reach the late rounds of the prestigious FA Cup by posting shutouts in more than half the games he's played since signing with the Lancashire club in November.
CONVEY REPLACES BEASLEY ON ROSTER FOR MEXICO MATCH: D.C. United forward Bobby Convey was a late addition to the USA roster for the Mexico match, replacing Chicago Fire midfielder DaMarcus Beasley. Beasley, who made his international debut earlier this year with an impressive performance in the China match, suffered a right quadriceps strain, forcing the switch.
ARENA SUSPENSION LIFTED: U.S. Soccer received notice from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee on January 10 that the previously announced three-game suspension for U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena has been reduced to two games. The announcement clears the way for Arena to coach the U.S. in their final round World Cup qualifying opener against Mexico on Feb. 28 in Columbus, Ohio. "Our match against Mexico is obviously an important one, and it is our hope that we can kick off our World Cup qualifying campaign with a strong performance and three points," said Arena. "From this point on, every day of preparation is important." Following their qualifying opener in Columbus, the U.S. will travel to Honduras for the team's first road qualifier on March 28 (live on PPV at 8:30 p.m. ET), before returning to the U.S. to host Costa Rica at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on April 25 (live on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. CT).
U.S. UNDER-20?S SWEEP TWO GAME SET OVER MEXICO: The United States Under-20 Men's National Team used a 92nd-minute goal from Seth Trembly to top Mexico 2-1 in Guadalajara on Feb.1, the second time in three days the USA has topped their southern border rivals. On Jan. 30, the U.S. topped Mexico 1-0 on a Kyle Martino goal. The win marked the end of a three-game Mexican tour that also saw the USA draw with Mexican club Chivas 0-0 on Jan. 28. The players in this age group (players born in 1981 and 1982) have now beaten Mexico in four straight matches. Prior to the two-game set in Mexico, the Under-18s (1981) topped Mexico 3-2 in an April 1999 international tournament in Birmingham, Ala., and the Under-17s (1982) defeated Mexico 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championships. The U.S. will hold another training camp in March in the U.S. immediately before heading to Trinidad & Tobago and the CONCACAF Under-20 Final Qualifying Tournament March 18-22. The U.S. will play Guatemala on March 18, Costa Rica on March 20 and the hosts on March 22. The top two teams in the group advance to the World Youth Championship in Argentina June 17-July 8.
CONGRATS JOE-MAX AND MARTHA: Joe-Max Moore and his wife Martha are the proud parents of a brand new baby boy, Thomas Michael Moore, born Friday, February 16. Tommy, as the youngster is known to his friends, and Martha are both healthy after the eight pound lad made his debut in a hospital in England before Joe-Max joined the National Team in Florida for training last Wednesday.
GETTING OLDER: Late February and early March is birthday season for the Men's National Team, as no fewer than five players on the roster for the Mexico game will blow out the birthday candles before the trip is over. Tony Meola turned 32 on Feb. 21, Joe-Max Moore celebrated number 30 on Feb. 23, Josh Wolff marked his 24th birthday on Sunday, Ante Razov hits the 27-year-old mark on March 2, and Landon Donovan begins the last of his teenage years, turning 19 on March 4.
TONIGHT?S REFEREE: Rodolfo Sibrian of El Salvador has been selected to referee the United States' opener in the final round of World Cup qualifying, against Mexico on Feb. 28 at Columbus, Ohio. Sibrian and his crew, assistants Vladimir Fernandez and Raul Cardona of El Salvador, should look familiar to the USA team, as he also worked the recent match against Colombia at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Sibrian was the referee for January?s semifinal playoff, where Costa Rica beat Guatemala 5-2, and also ran the middle for Trinidad and Tobago's 2-0 win at Canada in the semifinals last June 16 and for Panama's 4-0 win over Nicaragua in Central America's first round.
SHUTOUT STREAK AT FOUR GAMES AND COUNTING: In addition to the 16 game home qualifying unbeaten streak, the United States will look to extend another streak when it takes the field on Wednesday: a four-game qualifying shutout streak. The United States goalkeeping tandem of Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tony Meola has recorded four consecutive clean sheets, last allowing a qualifying goal on the controversial penalty kick in Costa Rica on July 23, 2000. In total, the U.S. keepers surrendered only two goals from the run of play in the semifinal qualifying round (six games).
FA CUP SHOWDOWN FOR USA GOALKEEPERS: U.S. goalkeepers Brad Friedel and Juergen Sommer, both veterans of the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, met on on February 17 in the fifth round of the prestigious F.A. Cup, battling to a 1-1 draw and forcing a replay on March 7. Sommer made his first appearance for the Bolton Wanderers, after signing with the team in early February, while Friedel had yet another strong performance in goal for the Blackburn Rovers, who played most of the match with 10 men. Friedel, who was the last player to join the U.S. squad in preparations for the Mexico match, is 9-2-5 (with nine shutouts) in 16 appearances for third-place Blackburn in 2000-01.
EUROPEAN-BASED PLAYER UPDATE:
Crystal Palace (England, First Division)
Season to Date: Berhalter has recently signed a short-term deal with the London club, with an eye towards a permanent move. After making his living in the top divisions in Holland for the last six years, the University of North Carolina product auditioned with a number of European clubs before the making his Palace debut against Barnsley on February 20.
Hannover 96 (Germany, Bundesliga 2)
Season to Date: Cherundolo continues his comeback from major knee surgery having recently regained his full-time starting spot. The versatile 22-year-old defender has played in 8 of 10 games since his return (with three consecutive 90 appearances in the last three games) for Hannover, who sit eighth in the 18-team Second Division.
Bayer Leverkusen (Germany, Bundesliga)
Season to Date: Donovan continues to train regularly with the first team, but has yet to see any Bundesliga action this year. His weekly routine includes six days of training with the senior squad, followed by matches with the reserve squad.
Blackburn Rovers (England, First Division)
Season to Date: Friedel has found new life with the Lancashire side, having helped propel Blackburn into contention for a promotion playoff spot. The Ohio native has registered nine shutouts in 16 appearances since signing in November, and has been on the losing end of the scoresheet only twice in that time. Blackburn sit third in the table, and are still alive in the FA Cup, where they are in line to face Arsenal.
Bayer Leverkusen (Germany, Bundesliga)
Season to Date: Hejduk has seen only spot duty since returning from the Sydney Olympic Games, appearing in only three games. One of his three starts for fourth place Leverkusen came in Champions League play against Sporting Lisbon.
Rayo Vallecano (Spain, Primera Liga)
Season to Date: Keller has found himself in a rotation with former Spain goalkeeper Julen Lopetegui for playing time. The veteran U.S. goalkeeper began the year as Rayo?s man in the nets for UEFA Cup matches, posting shutouts over FC Molde (Norway), Viborg (Denmark), and Lokomotive Moscow (Rusia) twice. Then, after Christmas, he returned to league action, where he has played eight of the last nine games.
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal, I Divisão)
Season to Date: After an impressive pre-season with the Portuguese League champs, Kirovski has struggled to make the first team. Kirovski has played only four league matches, all as a substitute for Sporting who are four points behind first-place Boavista.
Fulham FC (England, First Division)
Season to Date: Lewis has made only four league appearances for Fulham and their French manager Jean Tigana, who does not employ flank midfielders in his system of play. Lewis scored his first English goal in his last appearance for the first-place club against Premier League Derby County in the Worthington Cup Fourth Round in November.
Preston North End (England, First Division)
Season to Date: McBride quickly established himself as a fan favorite at Preston with three impressive performances in his first three appearances before missing 16 games with a blood clot in his arm. Upon his return he formed the centerpiece of a three-man forward line in eight straight games, and scored his first goal for the storied English club in a 5-0 romp over Queens Park Rangers on February 10.
Everton (England, Premier League)
Season to Date: Moore has been one of the most active Americans playing abroad, appearing in 21 league and cup matches for Everton this season. Though the striker has not found the back of the net to date, he remains one of manager Walter Smith?s top forwards as the team fights to improve its position in the table and escape the relegation zone. Everton currently sit 15th in the 20-team Premier League.
Ajax Amsterdam (Holland, Honor Division)
Season to Date: After helping the United States to a remarkable fourth place finish in the Sydney Olympic Games, the 23-year-old O?Brien has yet to see the playing field for Ajax in a league match this year. Following a calf and achilles injury, the midfielder appears on the brink of regaining his starting spot for third-place Ajax, who trail both PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord in the standings.
Nottingham Forest (England, First Division)
Season to Date: With a possible permanent move on the horizon, on-loan midfielder Olsen continues to be a regular starter for David Platt?s Forest side. The U.S. Olympian has made 17 appearances since joining the club in October. Olsen scored his first and only goal to date on November 29 against Sheffield United.
Racing de Ferrol (Spain, La Segunda Division)
Season to Date: Razov made an immediate impact with the Spanish Second Division club, scoring a goal 18 minutes into his first game and helping the team escape the cellar of the table. Razov has gone on to record five goals in just eight games, and notched a hat trick against Compostela on February 4. Racing still need help to avoid the drop and currently sit 18th in the 20-team league.
FC Metz (France, Le Championnat)
Season to Date: After seemingly taking on the role of forgotten man at Metz, Regis enjoyed a rebirth of sorts following the appointment of a new manager shortly after the Christmas break and has started six of the last eight matches. In total, the defender has made 12 appearances for the club, who must still fight to better their 16th position in the league and avoid the relegation zone.
Glasgow Rangers (Scotland, Premier League)
Season to Date: The 27-year-old Reyna continues to be one of manager Dick Advocaat?s most important players, seeing time at both defender and midfield. Dubbed "Captain America" by the Scottish press, Reyna has already made 26 league and cup appearances for Rangers, and has registered goals against Celtic and Dundee United.
Hertha BSC (Germany, Bundesliga)
Season to Date: Although Sanneh made five consecutive starts for Hertha in October and November, he has not earned a regular spot in the first XI. His 14 total appearances have come against some of the best teams in the Bundesliga, including Bayern Munich and FC Schalke 04.
NAC Breda (Holland, Honor Division)
Season to Date: Stewart has once again provided Breda with a reliable offensive threat as the club enjoys a return to the top flight this year. Stewart has recorded goals against Vitesse, Groningen and NEC, and has started 15 of the 16 games he has appeared in.