SAN JOSE The Earthquakes are aware that Saturday evenings trip north to face SeattleSounders FC will be a special occasion though the Bay Area team wont be thecenter of attention. Sounders FC has billed the match its final regular seasonhome game of the season as a send-off for its 41-year-old goalkeeper KaseyKeller, who is retiring at the end of 2011 after 22 years in professionalsoccer. Keller was one of the first American players to find success overseas,playing for nearly 20 years in England,Spain and Germany, while amassing 102 caps in a 17-yearcareer with the U.S.national team. The significance of his career was not lost on the Earthquakes. I think the two guys that really made it overseas earlywere Kasey and John Harkes, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop said,referring also to the U.S. national team midfielder who made his name withEnglands Sheffield Wednesday. A terrific career, great goalkeeper for the U.S., but agreat club goalkeeper as well, Yallop continued. He deserves all theaccolades hes going to get. What can you say about him, really? I think hes oneof the greatest thats played in goal. Jon Busch, the Earthquakes current starter in goal andKellers occasional teammate on the U.S. national team, also had plentyto say about Keller, whom he referred to not only as a colleague, but a mentoras well. Hes an absolute legend both on and off the field, alwayshad time to talk, Busch said, going on to share an anecdote about one of hisinteractions with Keller while on the national team. I remember one specific trip coming back from Mexico City with him, onthe plane, and asking him a few questions from the game we had just played,that he had just played, and he took all the time in the world with mejust talking about stuff and goalkeeping and things like that, Buschrecalled. For me, it just sums it up, how many people respect him for hiscareer and hes had an unbelievable career. In spite of all the plaudits Keller has drawn and willcontinue to draw as his retirement approaches, the Earthquakes are still keenlyaware of the daunting task ahead of them. According to the Sounders FC Twitteraccount, over 61,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday evenings match atCenturyLink Field, which any MLS or NFL (the venue is shared with the SeattleSeahawks) fan will tell you is one of the loudest and most difficult venues fora visiting team to play in. The 61,000 number already puts the match in the top five forsingle match attendance for an MLS game (that is, not part of a doubleheaderinvolving an international team). With Century Link Field boasting a capacityof 67,000, it could become the most attended single MLS match since the verybeginning of the league, when a game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and theNYNJ MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) drew 69,255 to the Rose Bowl inPasadena, Calif on April 13, 1996 in the Galaxys first-ever MLS game. Instead of looking at the huge crowd in Seattle as an obstacle for his team, though,Yallop who played in the leagues initial season with the Tampa Bay Mutiny praised the projected attendance as a sign of just how far soccer has come inthe 15 years since MLS started. From where I started off in the league and now, Ivecoached in the league a long time for us to have 60,000 people in theirseats, paying to watch soccer in this country is fantastic, he said. For me,thats how for the leagues come and its absolutely wonderful to see. The Earthquakes insisted the potentially intimidatingatmosphere would be a boost, rather than a burden. I think it lifts our players, Yallop said. We want to winand obviously playing in an intimidating situation makes you stronger, I think.Weve actually done well in tough-type scenarios. I think weve rose to theoccasion, which is good. Busch agreed, adding, I think its the environment whereplayers want to play You want to play in front of big crowds and show what youcan do, both as an individual and a team, and I think everybodys excited forit.NotesThe Earthquakes will now have participated in twoof the three MLS matches in 2011 that broke the 40,000-person barrier forattendance. In addition to Saturdays upcoming game, the Earthquakes hosted theNew York Red Bulls at Stanford Stadium on July 2 to a crowd of 41,028. SoundersFC was involved in the other, again hosting the Red Bulls in front of 46,065fans.Defender Ike Opara and forward Alan Gordon bothparticipated in training this week, but are not match fit and unlikely toparticipate in the final two games of the season. Yallop confirmed Oparas footinjury seems to have healed. In addition to Opara and Gordon, the Earthquakeswill be without the services of Bobby Convey (knee injury), Ramiro Corrales(ankle sprain), as well as long term absentees Andre Luiz (knee injury) andSteven Lenhart (family leave). In the race for the Golden Boot, the leaguesscoring title, D.C. United forward Dwayne De Rosario did not play in D.C.s 2-1loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night. De Rosario, the Earthquakes ChrisWondolowski and New YorksThierry Henry are all tied on 14 goals, with former Earthquake De Rosarioholding the tiebreaker with more assists than Wondolowski or Henry. San Jose and New York have two games left, while D.C. has three. After handing an MLS debut to rookie goalkeeperDavid Bingham, Yallop confirmed that Jon Busch would start again in goalagainst Seattle.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano
COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.
The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.
The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.
Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.
"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."
The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.
The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.
Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.
After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.
The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.
Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.
Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.
One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.
The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.
Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.
All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.
"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."
Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.
Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Teenage star Christian Pulisic scored with a brilliant touch to complete a field-length attack just eight minutes in, then split the defense with a pass that set up Jozy Altidore for the first of the forward's two goals and put the United States back on track for next year's World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Panama on Friday night.
Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th. Altidore converted a penalty kick with a chip in the 43rd after Bobby Wood was fouled, and Wood added a goal in the 63rd.
The U.S. ended a three-match winless streak in qualifying and with 12 points and moved two points ahead of Panama into third place — the last automatic berth — in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Honduras has nine points going into its match Saturday at Costa Rica, which is second with 15.
Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, almost certainly with a win Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw if Honduras fails to win Saturday. The U.S. is plus-five to minus-two for Panama and minus-seven for Honduras.
The region's fourth-place team advances to a playoff next month against Australia or Syria.
"We could have finished better on the day and scored more goals," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.
Playing his first international match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks by coach Bruce Arena and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from Americans.
After Gabriel Gomez broke free from Omar Gonzalez and shot over the crossbar, Tim Howard's goal kick was headed forward by Bobby Wood about 10 yards past midfield.
Altidore one-timed the ball ahead to on a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead. Pulisic jumped to avoid Roman Torres' challenge and used the outside of his right foot to play the ball forward. As goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came off his line, Pulisic used the outside of his right foot again to play the ball wide and jumped over Pinedo's outstretched arm. At the edge of the 6-yard box and just 2 yards from the endline, Pulisic reached with his right foot to slot the ball in, completing a 112-yard U.S. move. Pulisic tumbled over as the ball rolled in for his eighth goal in 19 international appearances, his fourth in the hex.
Pulisic created the second goal when he played the ball between his feet and faked Michael Murillo on the left flank Pulisic broke ahead and fed Altidore, who split the center backs and redirected the ball in from 5 yards for his first goal of the hexagonal. At that point, Pulisic had played a part in 11 of the Americans' 14 goals in the hex.
After Wood and Altidore failed to convert good chances, Wood drew the penalty kick when he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper. As Pinedo dived to his left, Altidore chipped the ball down the center for his 41st international game.
Hacked down several times by Panamanians, Pulisic was removed in the 57th minute and walked out to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 25,303 at Orlando City Stadium, which opened in February,
Wood added his 10th international goal off a pass from Arriola.
Panama was trying to move into position to qualify for its first World Cup. The Panamanians were 90 seconds from advancing to a playoff against New Zealand four years ago, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored late goals at Honduras, which dropped Panama behind Mexico and into fifth place.