The U.S. national team advanced to the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany on Sunday after defeating Grenada 3-2 on a waterlogged field in St. George's, Grenada. The Earthquakes' Landon Donovan had a goal and an assist as the USA scored two early goals to calm their nerves, winning the home-and-home series 6-2 on aggregate.
Donovan scored the USA's first, and despite seeing Grenada level the score from the penalty spot, he set up another shortly thereafter to cement the U.S. lead. Chicago's DaMarcus Beasley scored his third goal of the series in the second half, before it was quickly answered by Grenada's Ricky Charles.
The U.S. was too tough for Grenada in the end and the tiny island nation was unable to overcome a 3-0 deficit that the USA brought to St. George's thanks to a 3-0 victory in the first leg on June 13 in Columbus. The situation was further complicated for Grenada in the second half when defender Brian Benjamin was ejected after receiving his second yellow card of the match, and the Spice Boyz were left with 10 men.
The U.S. got just the kind of start manager Bruce Arena was hoping for when they took the lead after only six minutes through Donovan. Claudio Reyna received a pass from Kansas City's Josh Wolff on the left flank which died in a puddle, and then the U.S. captain had a similar bit of good fortune when his centering pass stopped dead in the heart of the penalty area for Donovan to easily pound home.
The lead was short-lived, though, as Grenada was awarded a penalty kick in the 12th minute after Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni was called for pushing over an attacker as a cross was played into the box. England-based striker Jason Roberts easily converted, beating U.S. 'keeper Kasey Keller to his right.
Wolff put the U.S. back on top oat the 19-minute mark. A U.S. corner kick flew all the way across the face of the goal before being flicked back into the danger zone. Brian McBride attempted to re-direct the ball into the net but his header hit the crossbar and fell to Donovan wide of the left post. He knocked the ball on the ground to a waiting Wolff, who finished easily from six yards out.
In the second half the U.S. had a half-chance 10 minutes after the break to increase the cushion, but Wolff couldn't quite connect on a long cross from the left wing. Grenada came back down the field moments later and had a chance to knot the score again, but Roberts was unable to put his toe poke on frame after being put in alone against Keller.
D.C.'s Earnie Stewart earned his 100th cap for the USA when came on for Wolff in the 64th minute, and then celebrated the occasion by assisting on Beasley's goal in the 77th minute. Donovan used his head to flick a long ball on to Stewart, who in turn lifted the ball over a Grenada defender to an unmarked Beasley. who calmly placed the ball through the legs of 'keeper Kellon Baptiste.
The two-goal cushion didn't last long as Ricky Charles answered for Grenada straight off the kickoff. Charles made a strong run through the heart of the U.S. defense and cleverly back-heeled a low cross from the right past Keller to close out the scoring.
The USA will now advance to one of three four-team groups in the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, along with Jamaica, El Salvador and Panama. The opening match is set for Aug. 18, against Jamaica.
USA - Landon Donovan (Claudio Reyna) 6
GRN - Jason Roberts (penalty kick) 12.
USA - Josh Wolff (Landon Donovan) 19.
USA - DaMarcus Beasley (Earnie Stewart) 77.
GRN - Ricky Charles (Anthony Modeste) 78.
USA: Kasey Keller; Frankie Hejduk, Pablo Mastroeni, Cory Gibbs, Bobby Convey (Greg Vanney, 88); Claudio Reyna (capt.) (Kerry Zavagnin, 80), Chris Armas, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley; Brian McBride, Josh Wolff (Earnie Stewart, 63). Subs not used: Jonny Walker, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jovan Kirovski.
SHOTS: 22; SAVES 1; CORNER KICKS 10; FOULS 13; OFFSIDE 4
GRN: Kellon Baptiste; Anthony Modeste (capt.), Franklin Baptiste, Brian Benjamin, Kennedy Phillip (Kitson Bain, 59), Ricky Charles; Byron Bubb (Ricky Morris, 89), Shalrie Joseph (Arkenson Neckles, 65), Anthony Bedeau, Patrick Modeste; Jason Roberts.
Subs not used: Desmond Noel, Eric George, Nigel Bishop, Everett Watts.
SHOTS: 6; SAVES 7; CORNER KICKS 4; FOULS 18; OFFSIDE 2
USA - Claudio Reyna (caution) 11th minute.
GRN - Brian Benjamin (caution) 18.
GRN - Brian Benjamin (second caution/ejection) 55.
GRN - Byron Bubb (caution) 68.
GRN - Ricky Charles (caution) 68.
GRN - Patrick Modeste (caution) 89.
USA - Cory Gibbs (caution) 90.
Referee: Neil Brizan (TRI)
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.