New England Soccer Today

Ex-CT Wolves’ Bliss Recalls ’89 Qualifier in STL

Friday’s World Cup Qualifier between the United States and St. Vincent & the Grenadines will put the Yanks in St. Louis for the first time since 1997, but a local voice recently spoke about a match that took place in the historic soccer hub a generation ago.

Former Connecticut Wolves (A-League) defender and coach Brian Bliss – who most recently served as head coach of the Chicago Fire in 2015 – told last week about a crucial World Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and El Salvador on Nov. 5, 1989, a game that ended in a 0-0 draw.

The U.S. went into the match hoping to get a win – which would allow them to clinch their first World Cup berth in 40 years – ahead of a tough road clash at Trinidad & Tobago.

“We thought the game in St. Louis was our opportunity,” Bliss told “We thought we win in St. Louis and come out needing just a draw in Trinidad. That was manageable.”

That prospect, though, was no modest goal. The U.S. entered the match stuck in a 208-minute scoring drought during qualifying. And El Salvador wasn’t about to make it easy for their hosts, either.

“We weren’t a prolific scoring team, and as it was we were going through a rough patch up front at the time,” Bliss said. “So we knew going to Trinidad needing a goal was going to be problematic.”

Despite the scoring woes, Bliss, who also played for the Boston Bolts in 1990, nearly allowed the U.S. to snap their scoreless streak in St. Louis. In the first half, he launched a tricky, outside-footed cross that veered on frame before El Salvador’s keeper made an acrobatic save to deny.

While the guests were happy to escape with the road draw, the U.S. could only rue their chances – at least until Paul Caligiuri’s famous “Shot Heard Round the World” sealed the U.S.’s trip to Italy ’90 two weeks later.

“If we had done things the easy way, it would have been anticlimactic,” Bliss cracked. “I don’t think that team would be remembered quite as well as we are if we’d just beaten El Salvador 1-0 at home and gone down and got a draw in Trinidad.

“It definitely wasn’t on purpose, but we did it in dramatic, Hollywood fashion, and I think American soccer is probably better for it somehow.”

For the record, the U.S. is 5-1-2 all time in the city of St. Louis, and 4-1-1 in World Cup Qualifiers. That one draw? Well, it could’ve gone worse, as we all know now.

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