WILDEY, Barbados (AP) _ A bumpy field in Barbados would be the perfect setting for a big upset.
The little Caribbean nation, ranked just 99th in world soccer and with no chance to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, played the United States, in danger of elimination, under a hot tropical sun.
``It's a game we should win,'' U.S. forward Joe-Max Moore said Tuesday, a day before the crucial World Cup qualifier between the Americans and Barbados.
Each player on the U.S. team is a salaried professional, and the majority makes $100,000 a year or more from soccer. Barbados goalkeeper Horace Stoute is a barber and probably will go back to cutting hair after this week.
Players for Barbados get $300 when they make the national team for home games, $450 for road games.
``What better motivation than winning a game and knocking the United States out of the World Cup? What more motivation do you need?'' U.S. midfielder Tab Ramos said.
When the Americans got to the stadium in nearby Waterford for practice Tuesday, they were told the field was too wet for them to train. The stadium, which seats 7,000, was dedicated in 1970 by Prince Charles, but looks years older.
The surface looks more like a U.S. public park than the field of a professional stadium. Around the field is a track, refurbished recently for Olympic bronze medalist sprinter Obadele Thompson, and a cycling velodrome.
``It's as bad as it gets. The field condition will close the gap between the teams,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. ``There are going to be some ugly moments in the game.''
But Barbados does have one thing in common with the United States when it comes to soccer: Few seem to care.
Cricket is the big sport on the island, a former British colony. And because the Bajan Rockets have no chance to advance to the next round, the stadium will be half full even though the most expensive seats are $10.
Only with a victory can the United States assure itself of a berth in next year's six-nation regional finals, which will produce three qualifiers for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.
Costa Rica (3-1-1) leads Group E with 10 points, followed by the United States (2-1-2) with eight points, and Guatemala (2-2-1) with seven. Barbados (1-4), already eliminated, has three points.
If the Americans fail to win, they would be eliminated if Guatemala beats visiting Costa Rica in a game kicking off at the same time.
``I think its important to know what's going on there,'' Arena said. ``If Costa Rica is ahead 3-0 at halftime, it makes it a little easier on us.''
The biggest worry for the U.S. team is playing a tie while Guatemala wins. That's what the Guatemalans are hoping for.
``We have an entire country ready to see us play in another round, and in our home country that is an important advantage,'' Guatemala coach Julio Cesar Cortes said. ``It could make a big difference.''
The starting U.S. lineup includes Tony Meola at goalkeeper; Jeff Agoos, Gregg Berhalter and Carlos Llamosa at defender; Chris Armas, Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis, Ramos and Earnie Stewart at midfield; and Clint Mathis and Moore at forward.
Meola will be playing his first qualifier since 1989, when the United States won at Trinidad and Tobago to advance to its first World Cup since 1950. Klein will be playing only his second international game.
``We've got to have guys who are ready to roll up their sleeves and fight,'' Arena said.
Barbados, a largely amateur team, never expected to get this far in qualifying, but advanced in the North and Central American and Caribbean region by defeating Grenada, Aruba and Cuba. The campaign has cost the country's soccer federation about $450,000, causing a scramble for funding.
And many in the nation of 296,000 lost hope when the U.S. team beat the Bajan Rockets 7-0 in August at Foxboro, Mass.
Still, they have the chance Wednesday to help eliminate the United States. Several U.S. player blamed themselves for letting their qualifying chances come down to this.
``Whether it takes four games, five games, six games, is not an issue,'' Arena said, ``as long as you get through.''