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 Thursday, April 12, 2001 20:46 EST

June match with T & T could be key

[Associated Press]

FOXBORO, Mass – Two early wins have coach Bruce Arena thinking about clinching a World Cup berth on June 20 when the United States faces Trinidad and Tobago in Foxboro Stadium.

He's just guarding against overconfidence.

"This becomes a very, very important game," he said Thursday. "It could be a game that gets us over the top."

His team leads its six-nation group with a 2-0 record and six points. The June 20 game is the fifth in the 10-game qualifying round that will send three teams from the group to the World Cup next year in Japan and South Korea.

The Americans beat Mexico 2-0 and Honduras 2-1, their first win in a qualifying game in Central America since 1989. With a 5-0 record -- they'd have to beat Costa Rica at home and Jamaica on the road -- the Americans would have a berth just about secured.

"I have a feeling I don't need to talk to them about (overconfidence)," Arena said. "If you've been in the middle of the last two games, it's been difficult."

They were nothing like Australia's 31-0 win over American Samoa in another qualifying match Wednesday. Arena said he didn't know details of the game but wasn't pleased with the outcome.

"I'd probably hate to be on the side of a team winning by 31 goals," Arena said. "I'm not certain how good that is for the game to have a score that lopsided."

That won't happen in his group, which he feels is stronger than the qualifying group the United States was in for the 1998 World Cup.

Costa Rica is second in the North and Central American and Caribbean group with four points, Mexico and Jamaica have three each, Honduras has one and Trinidad and Tobago is last with zero.

"You need to see about four or five games (per team) until the smoke settles a little bit to see who the front-runners are," Arena said.

He said he was surprised to win the first two games.

"We need to get better as an attacking team. We know that," Arena said. "We're strong in goal. Another one of our strengths has been depth."

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