Sunday, June 20, 2004

USA-Grenada: The Second Leg

Grenada v. USA, World Cup Qualifying Match
When: Sunday, June 20, 4:00 PM EDT
Where: St. George's, Grenada
Television: ESPN2 & Telemundo

This is the second leg of a two game, total goals series. The winner moves on to the next round of qualifying this fall. The loser goes home. The US won the first leg 3-0 last Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. As a result, the USA enters today's game with a 3-0 lead.

While the USA is clearly the superior team, Grenada should not be discounted. They are fast, strong, and athletic. Their main forward, Jason Roberts, who plays for Wigan Athletic in the English First Division, caused some problems for the US defense last week. The most important factor is the intangible one. Today's game is the biggest sporting event in Grenada's history. The island only has a population of 89,000, and you can expect about half of them to be at the match. Combine the emotional atmosphere with a field that probably rivals a cow pasture, and there is definitely some room for the unexpected to happen.

Having said that, the odds are very much in the Americans' favor, especially coming in with a three goal lead. Another factor is the away goals rule. If the aggregate scores should be tied at the end of the second leg, the first tiebreaker is away goals. Therefore, if the US can score just one goal, Grenada would have to win this match by four goals to win the series. If Grenada should manage to win this game 3-0, the teams will play 30 minutes of overtime followed, if necessary, by penalty kicks.

The three goal deficit combined with playing at home in front of a passionate crowd will compel Grenada to be more aggressive in this match. The danger is that they will expose themselves to the US counterattack and be completely blown out. Even if they do push forward aggressively, the odds of the Spice Boyz scoring three or more goals on the USA are very slim at best. The US completely dominated the first game, outshooting Grenada by an incredible 34-6 margin. Only desperate Grenadan defending and poor American finishing kept the score from being 6 or 7-0. Since Grenada can't afford to give up any more goals, I can't see them mounting an all out attack. In fact, if the teams are somehow tied or only separated by a one goal margin late, I fully expect Grenada to pull back and try to salvage a tie or close win, even though it means giving up on advancing. Winning the series was an extremely unlikely prospect, and the Grenadans might well decide that a result against the United States is a satisfactory achievement, both for themselves and their country. Barring a collapse of epic proportions, the USA should continue on the road to Germany.

For more information, see the following match previews:


ESPN Soccernet

Soccer America

Prediction: USA 3, Grenada 1


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