Come November 19th, in just a few weeks’ time, we will mark the 28th year since the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team beat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in Port of Spain to qualify for the FIFA’s World Cup in 1990.
That is 28 years since that ballistic goal scored by the Americans a shot heard around the world in 1989 as Trinbagonians hyped-up about going to Italy was shattered by the goal from the striker Paul Caliguiri’s lone goal in the 37th minute of the game at the national Stadium in Port Spain before a maiissibe 30,000+ spectators. In fact, some four hours before that game got on the way, officials in Port of Spain had instructed the officials at the venue to stop selling tickets because the stadium was already at full capacity. The entire nation was painted red in support for their team and shots of the crowd simply featured a giant red block. Myself, together with my children and the public in general, all had their red jerseys on with the caption “We going to Italy, 1990.”
Anyone who denied we were not going to Italy were branded as unpatriotic and a traitor to the cause. The country around that time was showing signs of beginning to emerge from an economic depression and everybody had rallied around the team as a kind of a confidence in that the economic recovery was about to occur after the petroleum bubble burst. So there was emotions packed into these expectations and liquor flowed in abundance. Of course we, Trinis like a fete and we partied for so, as confidence mushroomed before and during the match so much so that the Robinson Government granted November 20th – a national holiday. As we all may remember, that game ended on a happy note for the Americans and ended the Cinderella run of the Trinbagonians. That winning took the Americans to their first World Cup in 40 years in Italy and the Trinidadians to boil down as bhaji, as they say.
Since 1989 the USA had not missed a single world cup until their demise Tuesday last and brought about sweet revenge for the Soca Warriors. The Trinis dealt the Americans the Americans a crushing 2-1 upset on a day when they needing only a draw to reach their eighth consecutive World Cup. Instead, the three results combined to drop the Americans to fifth in the six-team CONCACAF tournament, ahead of only Trinidad. The rematch didn’t have near the atmosphere, though. Trinidad’s soccer federation said electrical problems made the national stadium unusable, so they moved the game to a tiny 10,000-seat track stadium in Couva, about half an hour south of Port of Spain. And the stadium was nowhere near filled and the Trinidad authority pleced the number of spectators in the mere hundreds. Of course unlike the 1989 game hype, the Trinis were not expected to win and even if they do win they still could not qualify for the ticket to Moscow.
The 28th FIFA ranking of the Americans needed merely a tie against 83rd-ranked Trinbagonians, who, lost their fourth straight world qualifier last week. One should recall the Trinbagonians reached the first round of the World Cupp in 2006 wher they drew with Sweeden 1-1 and lost to Englend 0-1 in the 86th minute. hey reached the first round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup and held the record of being the smallest nation (both in size and population) to ever qualify for a FIFA World Cup, until the 2018 FIFA World Cup, when Iceland broke the record.
“I never thought I’d see this day,” said Omar Gonzalez, who hadn’t been born the last time the U.S. missed soccer’s biggest event.
“It’s the worst day of my career,” continued the former Galaxy defender, whose first-half own goal was the difference between the U.S. going on or going home. “I don’t even know how to put into words what I’m feeling.”
Now the U.S. expects to be there, every time.
Browsing the Internet today, you’ll see video of Caliguiris’ famous strike from distance and quotes from the men involved. But historic soccer moments often lose a little something when stripped of their context. That’s why Paste Soccer contributor Bill Reno has gone one step beyond, reinserting that context—including an interview with Trinidad and Tobago’s keeper that day, Michael Maurice— so you can relive maybe the most momentous day in the history of American soccer.
So flip your calendars all the way back to 1989, and prepare to relive Trinidad and Tobago vs. the U.S. Men’s National team, complete with pre-match notes, video of the entire game as experienced on television in 1989 (including 15 in-game) commercials, and post-match quote
This was one of the best Trinidad and Tobago teams they had ever fielded and even though America was 6-1-0 (w-t-l) against them all time,
But Caligiuri’s goal also eliminated Trinidad, which had needed only a draw to advance to the World Cup — and the Soca Warriors haven’t forgotten that.
The rematch didn’t have near the atmosphere, though. Trinidad’s soccer federation said electrical problems made the national stadium unusable, so they moved the game to a tiny 10,000-seat track stadium in Couva, about an hour south of Trinidad’s capital. And the stadium was nowhere near filled.
It didn’t take long for Trinidad to show the U.S. this wouldn’t be its day. Arena, breaking from his usual practice of rotating his lineup, started the same 11 players he used last Friday in a rout of Panama and the team came out flat. Trinidad, with nothing but revenge to play for, was flying.
Shahdon Winchester appeared to put Trinidad up in the fourth minute, easily beating U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, but the goal was waved off because Winchester was offside.
Thirteen minutes later Winchester was back — this time well onside — and when Alvin Jones targeted him with a cross, Gonzalez stepped in front and the ball struck him in the shin, bounding over Howard and into his own goal to give Trinidad a lead it never gave back. “One of the most unlucky goals ever,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one that will haunt me forever.”