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U.S. National Teams


November 19, 2016
Profiling 25-year-old Paul Caligiuri

As part of's look back at the events of 27 years ago today, we present editor Michael Lewis's account of the U.S. qualifying for the World Cup in 1989. This story first appeared in the Nov. 23, 1989 edition of Soccer Week and is used with permission.

By Michael Lewis

Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago -- The United States could not have found a more unlikely hero in its historic 1-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago Sunday.

Paul Caligiuri, who scored the lone goal of the match to propel the U.S. into its first World Cup in 40 years, is a defensive midfielder who seldom scores goals. He also was starting his first qualifying match.

"For me, this is something extra," Caligiuri said. "I knew I had the capability of helping this team. Maybe the goal made history, but the team made history."

Ironically, Caligiuri has scored only twice in 24 international appearances and both times have been against Trinidad.

The first came in May, 1985, the long score of a 1-0 U.S. World Cup qualifying win that helped eliminate Trinidad from that competition.

The second one, of course, came Sunday.

"My contributions until today have been minimal," Caligiuri said. "But I scored against Trinidad . . . (four) years ago and I seem to do well against them."

Caligiuri captained the 1985 UCLA team that won the NCAA Division I title. He represented the U.S. at a special international all-star game in 1987. He started all three U.S. games at the Seoul Olympics. He became one of the first U.S. players to play for a professional European team, performing with S.V. Meppen of the West German Second Division the last two years.

Caligiuri, 25, saw limited action in the seven previous qualifying games. He missed the first three games last spring because of his commitments with Meppen. He played the final half of the 2-1 win over Guatemala June 17, but was sidelined until Sunday with a stress fracture of his left leg.

Last week he played in a 2-1 warm-up victory over Bermuda in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

"I proved myself in that game," Caligiuri said.

U.S. coach Bob Gansler thought so, too. Gansler decided to start Caligiuri instead of John Stollmeyer, a midfielder with strong ties to Trinidad who had not missed a minute in the seven previous qualifying matches.

"I felt his quickness was better suited for (Russell) Latapy and (Dwight) Yorke," Gansler said of the two Trinidad players.

He was right. Caligiuri helped the defense limit Trinidad to six shot and scored that history goal, a 30-ayrd shot that surprised goalkeeper Michael Maurice in the 31st minute.

"It was an early goal," Caligiuri said. "It was important we maintained our composure. It brought our level up."

U.S. Soccer Hall of Famers Walter Bahr was fortunate to witness two of the most memorable goals in U.S. soccer history. In 1950 he played in the famous 1-0 shocker of England as Joe Gaetjens scored the only goal. On Sunday, he was on the sidelines as Caligiuri became a candidate for soccer immortality.

"Our goal was a well-kept secret," Bahr said. "The World Cup has grown so much in stature since 1950 that this was big for U.S. soccer. That goal will be heard around the world and in the states."

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