FOXBORO — United States National Team coach Bruce Arena was at Foxboro Stadium on Saturday trying to drum up support for the Americans' World Cup qualifying match here Wednesday night against Barbados.
When the World Cup qualifying schedule was first announced, the Barbados match drew little excitement. What once was an afterthought has turned into a crucial match for U.S.'s hopes of eventually reaching the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
The U.S. already has played two qualifying matches — tying Guatemala, 1-1, on July 16 in Mazatenango, Guatemala, and losing, 2-1, on a controversial last-minute penalty kick to Costa Rica July 23 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Though the U.S. currently is in last place in the four-team CONCACAF semifinal qualifying group, it is the only team to gain points on the road, and the only team that has not yet played at home.
"We need to get six points from our next two games," said Arena. "If we accomplish that, we are possibly on top of the group, or no worse than second."
The top two teams from each CONCACAF semifinal group qualify for the final round, with three berths at stake at Asia 2002.
"We really believe that (Foxboro) is one of the best, if not the best, venue for the U.S. National Team," said Arena. "It has been that way for us, historically, and it needs to be again for our match against Barbados."
Haiti upset El Salvador, 2-1, in an international exhibition in the first match of yesterday's soccer doubleheader at Foxboro Stadium. Haiti's Derek Etiene fired Roosevelt Desir's cross from the right side past El Salvador's goalkeeper, Juan Jose Gomez, in the second minute of second-half injury time to seal the victory.
Haiti tied the match, 1-1, in the 66th minute when Dieuphene Thelamour converted a penalty kick after Michel Gabriel had been hauled down inside the box by Elmer Martinez. El Salvador had opened the scoring when Martinez converted Carlos Barjo's pass in the 57th minute.
Revolution coach Fernando Clavijo shook up his lineup last night after watching a midfield that appeared old, slow and out of sync during Wednesday's 2-1 home loss to the Dallas Burn.
One change was out of necessity, with Leonel Alvarez, New England's best midfielder this season, suspended for one match due to yellow-card accumulation. Left back Joey Franchino and Carlos Parra, making only his fourth start and 11th appearance in 25 matches, played as central defensive midfielders in front of a three-man back line.
The biggest switch was striker Jamar Beasley starting in place of Maurico Ramos at left midfield. Beasley, with two goals and two assists in limited playing time, was being counted on to add speed and energy to the stagnant midfield.
Captain John Harkes and Imad Baba, who has struggled since returning from a separated shoulder, kept their positions.
Clavijo, Sunil Gulati (managing director of Kraft Soccer Properties) and Derek Aframe (Revs vice president of operations) were regular visitors to the U.S. Soccer Festival this past week at the University of Rhode Island.
"We've been very pleasantly surprised by the number of college coaches and MLS scouts that have attended the festival," said Marcin Rembisz, president of the R.I. Soccer Association. "Revolution people have been here all week, but so have representatives of the Los Angeles Galaxy."
The festival concludes with the U.S. National Amateur Team facing Canada's Under-20 National Team at 11 a.m. today. The Canadians beat the U.S. U-20 team, 2-1, Friday night. Three members of the R.I. All-Star Team were selected to play today for the U.S. — Brown goalkeeper Matt Cross and midfielder Scott Powers, from Barrington, and Yale striker Jay Alberts.
Revolution fans interested in traveling to Washington, D.C., for the Sept. 3 doubleheader — the U.S. vs. Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier, followed by New England against D.C. United — should purchase their tickets in advance. Approximately 75 percent of the lower-level seats have been sold, with the remainder being held for U.S. Soccer (U.S. Soccer Federation, U.S. Youth Soccer Association, U.S. Amateur Soccer Association). Only upper-level seats are available to the public at RFK Stadium, and those are selling rapidly. VIP-level and mezzanine-level seats are approximately 90 percent sold out.