US plays to scoreless draw with Trinidad and Tobago

Gyasi Zardes and Jermaine Jones were both thwarted by the crossbar and the United States played to 0-0 draw with Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifying match Tuesday in Port-of-Spain.

Zardes’ open header off of Jozy Altidore’s cross hit the crossbar just 75 seconds into the second half, as the Americans turned up the pressure after a lackluster first half. Jones’ long strike also hit crossbar in the 78th minute as T& T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams leaped to stop it.

After the first two games of semifinals in the North and Central American and Caribbean region, the United States and Trinidad both have four points, Guatemala has three and St. Vincent and the Grenadines none.

Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia breaks until late March, when the Americans play Guatemala twice in a five-day span. After the final matches next September, the top two teams advance to the six-national regional finals.

“All and all, a draw on the road is OK. It keeps us at the top of the group as we move toward Guatemala in March,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward.

The U.S. returned to the site of the win that earned the Americans’ first World Cup berth in 40 years, a warm and humid night that was two days shy of the 26th anniversary of Paul Caligiuri’s famous goal.

Tim Howard took over as goalkeeper from Brad Guzan, for the 36-year-old’s first competitive game for the U.S. since making 15 saves in the 2-1 extra time defeat to Belgium in the round of 16 at last year’s tournament in Brazil.

The only other change in the American lineup had Michael Orozco at right back, with DeAndre Yedlin pushing up to midfield and Zardes switching from midfield to forward in place of Bobby Wood.

Howard, midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore were the only holdovers from the starting lineup in the Americans’ last game against Trinidad, in 2009.

Zardes played his 19th game of 2015, matching Claudio Reyna (1994) for most appearances in a player’s debut year with the U.S. national team.

Trinidad made two changes from the starting lineup in Friday’s win at Guatemala, inserting a pair of players from Major League Soccer. Columbus midfielder Kevan George and San Jose forward Cordell Cato started in place of Lester Peltier and Keron Cummings.

Trinidad’s first shot came just 20 seconds into the match, but Joevin Jones’ effort was too high. It was one of the highlights of a dull first half with few chances. T& T’s Kenwyne Jones sent an open shot just wide in the 13th, and Zardes missed connecting on Altidore’s cross with a chance to score with an open header at the back post in the 29th.

Seeking some offensive spark, the United States subbed in national team newcomer Darlington Nagbe for Tim Ream in the 68th minute, then brought in Bobby Wood for Zardes in the 76th.

The match was considered a test for the United States, going against T& T team that got a confidence-boosting 2-1 victory in Guatemala City to open group play.

“As expected, it was a tricky game. There were chances on both sides, I think we had the better of them,” Klinsmann said. “We should have put one away.”

The United States easily defeated St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1 on Friday in St. Louis to open qualifying. Jozy Altidore scored two goals in the victory.

NOTES: In the other Group C game, Guatemala won 4-0 at St. Vincent on goals by Stefano Cincotta, Minor Lopez, Denniss Lopez and Gerson Tinoco. In Group A, visiting Mexico beat Honduras 2-0 on goals by second-half substitutes Jesus Corona in the 67th minute and Juergen Damm in the 72nd.

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