The third round of CONCACAF qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup launched yesterday, and the U.S. men’s national soccer team got off to a running start with a 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda last night in Tampa.
That start came despite rain almost completely throughout, and a lightning delay right before prematch practice. The delay was not compounded, and the match wasn’t even delayed 10 minutes. ESPN also took special note that 17 of the 22 roster spots in the Antigua and Barbuda team are taken up by players for USL Pro’s Antigua Barracuda FC.
The first goal came early again, as Carlos Bocanegra was able to head in a goalie deflection from another header by Herculez Gomez at 8′ to open the scoring. The U.S. added insurance toward the end of the first half when Landon Donovan was taken down in the box for a penalty. Clint Dempsey took a textbook PK at 44′.
The Yanks ran into some difficulty early in the second half. Antigua’s Peter Byers, who had just been subbed on, struck like the Spanish Inquisition at 65′ to finally pull one back. The U.S. would answer quickly, however, with Herculez Gomez using relentless effort, taking TWO deflections off the Antigua keeper before finally nailing a goal at 72′.
Despite the rain, 23,971 showed up at Raymond James Stadium, and generally stayed to the end. There were concerns about slow sales initially, but sales accelerated after the Scotland match in Jacksonville. The attendance is the highest for the U.S. for the third round since 2006.
For my part, I was toward the front of The American Outlaws supporters’ section, which is an exercise in orderly chaos. I was seen several times in ESPN’s coverage, which is still available on replay on ESPN3. Those who know me, will find me.
As for other CONCACAF action, Jamaica claimed an early 2nd place in Group A (with the U.S. first) after a 2-1 win over Guatemala. The U.S. will travel to Guatemala on Tuesday, June 12. In Group B, Mexico beat Guyana 3-1, while El Salvador and Costa Rica drew 2-2. In Group C, Canada beat Cuba 1-0, while Panama beat Honduras 2-0.
And for those wondering, most of those Antigua players will be in Orlando on Sunday, June 17, for Barracuda’s return match against Orlando City.
Today, Orlando City hopes to get back on track with a match against Charleston Battery. Kickoff is at 7:30pm at the Citrus Bowl. Adam Soucie has the match preview for the official website.
The game will go, rain or shine. I was out in the rain for the WCQ in Tampa last night. You can be out in the Citrus Bowl for Orlando City. Currently the Weather Channel has a 30% chance of rain at gametime, while AccuWeather has it simply cloudy with a possible storm in the 9pm hour.
The team is holding a charity 50-50 raffle during tonight’s game. Tickets are one for $5, three for $10, and eight for $20. Half the proceeds go to the Orlando City Soccer Foundation, while the other half goes to the winner.
In addition, the Children’s Miracle Network will be taking donations in the south concourse, and holding a raffle of their own. The winner of that raffle will get a signed 2011 Dennis Chin jersey.
As one last bit, Orlando City U-23 stole a 1-1 draw against FC Jax Destroyers last night. David Graydon hit a PK at the 77th minute to earn the draw.