EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Brian McBride's goal just 91 seconds into the game moved the United States to the brink of clinching its fifth straight World Cup appearance.
The United States dominated throughout but failed to add to its early advantage, beating Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 Wednesday night in a game that all but assured the Americans of a place in the 32-nation field for next year's tournament in Germany.
With a win over rival Mexico in its next game on Sept. 3 at Columbus, Ohio, the United States (5-1) would clinch one of the three berths from soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region with three games to spare. The U.S. team also would clinch if all three games in the region that day are ties.
"I hope we can do it," American forward Landon Donovan said. "It would be the best possible ending to our qualifying."
McBride's goal was the second-fastest by an American in World Cup qualifying, trailing only Ante Razov's 74 seconds in against T&T on June 20, 2001. The Americans played with a man advantage after T&T defender Dennis Lawrence was ejected in the 41st minute until Bobby Convey was sent off in the 88th for receiving his second yellow card. Even though they outshot the visitors 18-1, they frittered away another half-dozen good scoring chances.
"We were saying in the locker room, if we got the second, it really could have been four, five," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller didn't have to make a single save and got his fourth straight shutout in qualifying, extending his qualifying shutout streak to 417 minutes.
"We played very well. I think we felt guilty of perhaps making things a little bit difficult on ourselves," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "We created a number of good goal-scoring opportunities and came up short, and that allowed Trinidad to hang around for 89 minutes or so when they could have been punished and sent home a lot earlier."
The United States is second in the final round of qualifying with 15 points, one behind Mexico (5-0-1), which won 2-0 against visiting Costa Rica (2-3-1). The Costa Ricans and Guatemala (2-3-1) each have seven points, followed Trinidad (1-4-1) with four and Panama (0-4-2) with two after its 2-1 loss at Guatemala.
The Americans ensured themselves of no worse than fourth place -- which would mean a playoff against Bahrain or Uzbekistan for a World Cup slot.
"I think just showing up in the next two games, we could mathematically go through," Arena said.
John O'Brien, the oft-injured American midfielder, made his first appearance in a qualifier since Nov. 11, 2001, at Trinidad, and started the action that led to the first goal. O'Brien took a backpass from Convey, moved upfield and played a 25-yard, left-footed pass that Convey ran onto and crossed to McBride, who knocked the ball in from about 4 yards.
"Basically it was good ball movement," McBride said. "I just had to open up my foot -- it went in."
It was McBride's 29th international goal, leaving him five shy of Eric Wynalda for the U.S. record, and his 10th in qualifying, moving him ahead of Earnie Stewart for the American career lead.
O'Brien was paired in the midfield with Reyna for the first time since the 2002 World Cup, with Reyna playing only his second game for the national team since September. O'Brien bruised his left hip and was replaced by Chris Armas at the start of the second half but is not expected to miss significant playing time.
Onyewu Oguchi in the ninth minute, Donovan in the 31st and Convey in the 38th all had good chances.
Jack made 10 saves, including diving stops on Onyewu's header in the 56th minute and Convey's hard, low drive in the 63rd. He stopped Donovan shots in the 70th and 82nd minutes and second-half sub Taylor Twellman put the ball in the net in the 86th but was called for offsides.
"I think probably we were guilty of trying to go forward too quick sometimes instead of settling it down and trying to open them up that way," McBride said. "Too many times we probably tried that penetrating pass and it didn't come off."
Convey received his first yellow card for a hard tackle in the 31st minute. He is suspended for the game against Mexico. ... Mexican captain Pavel Pardo got a yellow card in the first half against Costa Rica and also is suspended. ... Eddie Lewis, usually a midfielder, started at left back but pushed forward.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press