United States 0, Costa Rica 0, Tie

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The U.S. soccer team could miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986 if it doesn't win its final game of semifinal qualifying next month.

The U.S. team would have clinched a spot in the next round by beating Costa Rica on Wednesday night, but played a scoreless tie. Now, the Americans need to win at Barbados to be certain of advancing to the final round of qualifying.

``We think we're in great position, we really do,'' said Dave Sarachan, the acting coach as Bruce Arena started serving a three-game suspension. ``We know that we've got to go into Barbados and win the game, but the way we compete we feel very good about it.''

With one game left in the semifinal round of qualifying in soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region, Costa Rica (3-1-1) leads Group E with 10 points, two ahead of the United States (2-1-2) and three ahead of Guatemala (2-2-1).

``In the first half, our passing and service could have been better,'' Sarachan said. ``I was disappointed we didn't get a goal and come away with a win, but there were a lot of positives.''

Only the top two nations qualify for next year's six-nation regional finals, meaning the United States might need a win at Barbados on Nov. 15.

Guatemala plays at home against Costa Rica on the same day, and both games will kick off at the same time. Here are the scenarios:

— If the Americans win, they advance.

— If the Americans tie or lose, they would advance only if Costa Rica wins at Guatemala.

``I was a little disappointed to get a tie,'' said Josh Wolff, who joined the national team fresh off an impressive performance at the Sydney Olympics. ``Then again, we didn't give up any points and we got a point.''

The Costa Ricans played conservatively for most of the game, content to play long balls from the back to try to beat the American's offside trap. In the second half, they packed defenders around their goal to preserve the tie.

``They clearly came in trying to get a point and not really win the game,'' Sarachan said. ``If you look at the numbers they put behind the ball, it was difficult to get a lot of clean chances.''

The United States was missing suspended midfielders Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart and Eddie Lewis, injured midfielder Tab Ramos and injured forward Brian McBride.

The mostly pro-American crowd of 24,430 at Crew Stadium got loud in the closing minutes of the game when it looked as if forward Ante Razov slipped a pass from Wolff past goalkeeper Alvaro Messen. Fans threw plastic beer bottles and trash on the field after Razov was called offside.

Chris Armas, back from a sprained knee ligament, had a shot late in the second half that Messen was able to deflect. Three U.S. players converged on the rebound, but were called offside.

Armas said the team showed it can compete with a very good Costa Rican team, even without three starters, but it obviously missed Reyna in the midfield.

``Claudio is our Playmaker,'' he said. ``He is the guy that holds the ball. He is the guy everything goes through.''

Reyna and Arena will also miss the final game for arguing following the Americans' 2-1 loss at Costa Rica on July 23. McBride, who had a blood clot removed from under an armpit, might miss that one, too.

``We thought we dominated the game,'' Razov said. ``It was a hard match, every tackle was life and death. Now we have to go to Barbados and get three points.''