PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Three thoughts after the U.S.' 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier:
• Underwhelming? Yes. But it's still six points. It's hard to imagine the U.S. performing much worse and still finding a way to get a huge six points from this week's two qualifiers against El Salvador and T&T, the two bottom-feeders of the Hex. The U.S. played a brutal first half, losing possession easily (often without much pressure at all) and letting T&T have the three best chances of the first 45. Not much improved in the second half, either, but Landon Donovan's penetrating run down the left side created space for him to lay off to Ricardo Clark, who has shown in the past that he can shoot from distance. (Copa América 2007, anyone?) Bottom line: With 16 points, the U.S. is in good shape to qualify for South Africa 2010 and doesn't have a must-win situation at Honduras on Matchday 9 next month. Good thing, though, because if they continue playing this way, the Yanks will have no chance in San Pedro Sula.
• Donovan is the U.S.' only consistent offensive threat these days. There's no way the Yanks would have gotten six points this week if it hadn't been for Donovan, who after years of going hot and cold has turned into a regular performer when the games matter most. Remember the '06 World Cup, when Donovan was often afraid to take on defenders with the ball at his feet? You just don't see that anymore. Clint Dempsey needs to turn into that type of player for the Americans. Dempsey seems out of synch with most of his teammates in the attack, and his reliance on tricks when they're not necessary often results in killer giveaways. What happened to the Dempsey that we saw during the second half of the Confederations Cup?
• It's still 2009, not 2010. If there's any solace for most U.S. fans, it's that how you perform in 2010 may have nothing to do with how you qualify for the World Cup. Would anyone have predicted that the U.S. (which finished third in qualifying for '02) would be a World Cup quarterfinalist a year later? That Brazil (which barely qualified for '02) would raise the trophy a year later? England fans will no doubt be sky-high after their team's 5-1 blowout of Croatia on Wednesday, but what does that say about England's chances in 2010? Perhaps very little. In the end, qualifying is about qualifying -- and then wiping the slate clean.
Thoughts on the game? Post them below and check back later for my post-press conference piece on SI.com.