No need to panic. The United States remained on track to qualify for its third straight World Cup.
“I think you’ll see a more cohesive unit next week because we have five more days to play together,” U.S. coach Steve Sampson said after the Americans beat Canada 3-0 Sunday in the home opener of the final round of qualifying, ending a seven-game winless streak.
“We played some brilliant soccer early on,” Sampson said. “Then, we let them into their game.”
Eric Wynalda scored on a penalty kick in the eighth minute, his record 29th goal for the U.S., and Eddie Pope headed in the second goal in the 14th, when David Wagner flicked Jeff Agoos’ corner kick to him. Ernie Stewart got the final goal in the 89th, taking a pass from Michael Mason and finishing a 2-on-1.
“We didn’t have what I’d call an impressive game against Jamaica,” Agoos said. “It was more important to show the rest of the group what we could really do. It’s good to get three goals. It’s important to win with a big goal differential the way they have the bracket set up.”
The United States (1-0-1) had opened the final round of qualifying from the North and Central America and Caribbean region with a scoreless tie two weeks ago at Jamaica, and plays next Sunday at Costa Rica, where several U.S. players were hit with thrown objects during a semifinal-round game on Dec. 1.
Stewart will miss that game. He was given his second yellow card during the second half and must serve a one-game suspension.
Mexico (1-0-1), which beat Canada 4-0 two weeks ago, leads the six-nation group on goal difference following a scoreless tie Sunday at Costa Rica. The U.S. is second, followed by Costa Rica and Jamaica (both 0-0-1). El Salvador has not played, and Canada (0-2) is last.
The top three advance to the 1998 tournament in France.
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