Antigua ahead in qualifiers

The first pair of games among the five matches for each team in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is completed and El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Canada, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda all registered maximum six points from their two matches so far in matches on Friday, Sept. 2 and Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The most impressive so far has been Antigua and Barbuda (6 pts) with 13 goals in Group F play. The Antiguans defeated U. S. Virgin Islands, 8-1, and Curacao, 5-2 to lead Group F over Haiti on goal difference. Peter Byers scored three times and Randolf Burton twice to move the team atop the Group. Haiti (6 pts) is in second spot after its 4-2 win over Curacao on Sept. 6.

In Group A, El Salvador is atop the group with maximum points after defeating the Cayman Islands, 4-1 in its second game. Christian Bautista, Xavier Garcia and Luis Anaya scored goals to lead El Salvador in its second win, while second place Suriname played to a 1-1 draw with Dominica Republic. Both games were played on Sept. 6. Dominican Republic (1pt.) is in third while winless Cayman Islands is pointless.

In Group B, Keon Daniel (17th minute) and Darryl Roberts put Trinidad ahead atop the group with a 2-0 win over hosts Barbados on Tuesday, Sept. 6; Trinidad had defeated Bermuda at home, 1-0, three days earlier in its first match. The result extended Trinidad’s unbeaten streak against Barbados to 10 games since 1997. In the other matches in this group, second place Guyana had the benefit of playing its first two games at home and beat Bermuda, 2-1; Vurlon Mills scored both goals for Guyana, which defeated Barbados, 2-0 in the opening match days earlier. Khano Smith scored in the 90th minute for Bermuda, which shares last place in Group B with Barbados, both with no points.

Group C has been reduced to three teams, Panama, Dominica and Nicaragua, after the Bahamas dropped out of the tournament. Hosts Panama beat Nicaragua, 2-1, on goals from Luis Tejada and Blas Perez to overcome an own-goal by Roman Torres. It was Panama’s only game, meanwhile, Nicaragua defeated hosts Dominica, 2-0, in Dominica’s first game.

Canada topped hosts Puerto Rico, 3-0, to win its second game on Sept. 6 to move atop of Group D with maximum six points. The Canadians previously defeated St. Lucia in their first game. Second place St. Kitts and Nevis (4 pts.) beat St. Lucia, 4-2, after a draw with Puerto Rico in its first game. Puerto Rico (1 pt.) is in third place and winless St. Lucia in last. The goals in the 84th and injury time by the two second-half substitutes followed a late first-half strike by Iain Hume.

Guatemala leads Group E with six points after defeating hosts Belize, 2-1, in its second game; the Guatemalans defeated St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 4-0, in Guatemala in the opening game. Guatemala got goals from Gustavo Cabrera and Minor Lopez. Deon McCauley scored for a fourth straight game for Belize, which is in second place. Winless St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada will play face-off in the second game on Sept. 18, in St. Vincent. Grenada lost to Belize in the teams’ opening game.

Red Bulls Draw Again

The New York Red Bulls (6-6-15) tied an MLS game for the 15th time and is slowly moving further away from the play-off scene, but there is still hope. “We’re still in it and that’s a good thing,’’ said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, after Saturday’s 1-1 home tie versus lowly Vancouver Whitecaps (4-13-10), the expansion team that has not won on the road this season.

The Whitecaps scored in the 23rd minute through David Chiumiento, who beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul with a shot that went high into the net. It looked as though Vancouver would finally get its first win on the road, but its hopes were dashed when substitute forward Juan Agudelo scored in the 68th minute to pull off the tie. The goal was Agudelo’s sixth and came when his team was playing a player short after the first half ejection of defender Jan Gunnar Solli.

“I was very happy to see him make a difference,’’ Backe said of Agudelo’s effort. ‘’He played with passion and was physically strong. It’s great to see him perform like that and he’s a player we have to see if he can start in the future.’’ The Red Bulls are one point ahead of Portland and two points ahead of D.C. United for the last playoff spot with seven games remaining.

In other MLS games last weekend, Los Angeles Galaxy topped Colorado Rapids, 1-0; Kansas City beat Houston, 3-0; Real Salt Lake defeated Seattle Sounders, 2-1; Toronto over Columbus, 4-2; New England Revolution got past FC Dallas, 2-0; Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers played to a goalless draw; San Jose Earthquake topped Chicago Fire, 2-0; and DC United beat Chivas USA, 3-0.

In international friendlies, Jamaica lost to Ecuador, 2-0, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Teofilio Gutierrez (45th min.) and Jackson Martinez (90th min.) scored for Ecuador. It was Jamaica’s fourth consecutive loss. The USA lost its third consecutive game, 1-0, decision to host Belgium. The Americans recently lost to Costa Rica and Mexico.

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