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U.S. push for spot in World Cup cranks up
By GREG AUMAN, Times wires
Published February 9, 2005
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad - The United States, trying to advance to its fifth consecutive World Cup, returns today to where the streak started. Trinidad and Tobago is still trying to get to the World Cup once.
The island nation needed just a tie at home to qualify in 1990 but Paul Caligiuri's goal gave the Americans a 1-0 win, clinching their first World Cup appearance since 1950.
The U.S. team has made every World Cup since and today's game (2:30 p.m., ESPN2) marks the beginning of the six-team, 10-game final round in the CONFACAF region. The top three qualify for next year's tournament in Germany; the fourth-place team will have a two-game playoff against Asia's third-place team for a spot.
Today's game is at a 25,000-seat cricket ground.
"It's different," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "Big field. It's about 80 yards wide, 120 yards long. I don't think it favors (Trinidad and Tobago) any. It's hard. It's like playing in a parking lot."
TENNIS: USTA panel cites Gibson
Althea Gibson's barrier-breaking 1950 appearance at the U.S. championships was voted the most influential moment in black tennis history by a panel organized by the U.S. Tennis Association. Gibson was the first African-American allowed to play in the tournament that became the U.S. Open. She won it in 1957 and '58. Gibson died in 2003 at 76.
TOURNAMENTS: Tampa's James Blake defeated Wesley Moodie 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif. ... Former major champions Juan Carlos Ferrero and Thomas Johansson lost in the first round of the Open 13 in Marseille, France. ... No. 8 seed Magdalena Maleeva outlasted qualifier Claudine Schaul 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7) in the first round of the Open Gaz de France in Paris. Today, in her first match since winning the Australian Open, top seed Serena Williams faces wild card Stephanie Cohen-Aloro.
COLLEGES: Trio picks USF for soccer
Three Tampa high school soccer standouts signed with the USF men: Bloomingdale forward Alex Muniz, Alonso defender Bobby Durham and Tampa's Blake Wagner, who plays for the U.S. under-17 national team.
"It was close to home, and they're a great team," said Muniz, an honorable mention all-state selection last season also recruited by Wake Forest, North Carolina, Columbia and Brown. "I took an official visit there and found the team to be a great bunch of guys."
The biggest names might be Wagner, who attended Wharton before joining the national team, and, according to the Indianapolis Star, forward Jordan Seabrook, a two-time NSCAA All-American from Indianapolis. Wagner's older brother, Brett, a 2003 Jesuit graduate, transferred to USF in January after a year at Jacksonville.
ELSEWHERE: In women's golf, Florida was fourth at 599, seven strokes behind Pepperdine, after two rounds of the Northrop Grumman Regional in Palos Verdes, Calif. ... Rollins defeated visiting Tampa 3-1 in baseball. Roberto Valiente went 2-for-4 for the Spartans.
CYCLING: Six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who competed in the Tour de Georgia last year, will skip the April event to compete in one-day races in Europe.
HORSES: Declan's Moon, last year's 2-year-old champion, is a 6-1 favorite among individual horses in the opening round of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. The mutuel field is 3-1, showing that no horse has captured the attention of bettors for the May 7 race.
BOXING: WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster's title defense in Chicago against Andrew Golota, scheduled for April 16, was moved to May 21.
SKIING: At the World Championships in Bormio, Italy, Anja Paerson won the women's downhill and American Julia Mancuso was third.
OLYMPICS: The Italian government promised to fill the $196-million budget shortfall of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.