E. HARTFORD, Conn. - It took the United States 91 seconds to inch that much closer to a berth in Germany 2006 as Brian McBride scored the lone goal for the U.S. in a 1-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago in front of 25,488 at Rentschler Field on Wednesday night.
The win guaranteed the USA can finish no lower than fourth in the CONCACAF final hexagonal, which at least guarantees a playoff spot against the fourth-place team from Asian qualifying. The USA can secure one of the three World Cup spots from the region when they play host to Mexico on Sept. 3 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
But the United States will need to be sharper against Mexico than it was against Trinidad, which put the U.S. on its heels in the final quarter hour.
McBride's 29th career international goal started with a great ball by John O'Brien to play Bobby Convey down the left. The former D.C. United midfielder, who was one of the most dangerous U.S. players in the opening 45 minutes, slid the ball in front where McBride knocked it in from eight yards out.
It was the second fastest goal scored in U.S. World Cup qualifying history, behind Ante Razov's goal after 74 seconds on June 20, 2001 against T&T.
Los Angeles Galaxy striker Landon Donovan had two tremendous chances shortly thereafter to double the U.S. lead. First he was played in towards goal by Claudio Reyna in the 15th minute but his effort was denied by T&T 'keeper Kelvin Jack, who had a rather eventful first half.
In the 26th minute Jack shanked a clearing attempt that landed right on Donovan's feet. But Donovan was equally sloppy, rolling the ball to Jack's right from just inside the 18-yard box, the big shot-stopper easily kicking it away.
After picking up a rather dubious yellow card, which will keep him out of the Mexico match, Convey had a pair of chances two minutes apart. But his low shot from 18 yards out was saved by Jack in the 36th minute and he rolled the ball just wide of the far post after racing in on goal courtesy of a sublime Donovan touch.
Four minutes from the break T&T's sloppy defending cost it a man. Donovan intercepted a poor back pass by Marvin Andrews and had a breakaway before last defender Dennis Lawrence grabbed him from behind. Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez called the foul just outside of the box and sent Lawrence off.
Just before the break, Trinidad manager Leo Beenhakker made a pair of changes, bringing on Kansas City Wizards forward Scott Sealy and Brent Sancho for Atiba Charles and Colin Samuel.
The U.S. made one change at the half, as Chicago Fire midfielder Chris Armas replaced John O'Brien, who left the game with a left hip contusion.
Less than five minutes after entering the game, Armas went down after a nasty head-to-head collision with Oguchi Onyewu. But both players remained in the game and Onyewu nearly scored, but his flick header on the hour mark was touched aside by Jack for a corner kick.
Three minutes later Jack was again forced into action, again having to dive to his left to make a save. But this time it was Convey's low, hard shot from 25 yards out. The rebound squirted loose and Claudio Reyna just missed putting it home as it looked as if Avery John just got a boot in first.
Trinidad & Tobago's best chance came in the 66th minute when Kenwyne Jones made a run down the left into the box, but Gregg Berhalter tackled the ball away. Then in the 77th minute Andrews pushed Christopher Birchall's free kick just wide of the net.
The U.S. was reduced to 10 men two minutes from full time when Convey was sent off for his second yellow card for a tackle on Jones. But T&T wasn't able to capitalize.
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.