US shuts out T&T in 1st leg of Copa America qualifier

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US shuts out T&T in 1st leg of Copa America qualifier

Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson and Gio Reyna scored late goals in a span of 7 minutes, 23 seconds, leading the United States over Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 on Thursday night in the opener of a two-leg series for a berth in next year’s Copa America.

Pepi entered in the 66th minute and put the U.S. ahead in the 82nd with an angled shot from a Robinson pass.

Robinson doubled the lead in the 86th with a long-range left-foot shot that deflected off Alvin Jones and past goalkeeper Denzil Smith, and Reyna added his third goal in two matches in the 89th after a quick touch from Folarin Balogun.

The second leg of the total-goals CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal series is Monday night in Trinidad, where the Americans were denied a berth in the 2018 World Cup with 2-1 loss in October 2017.

The U.S. held a man advantage after Noah Powder, a 25-year-old Trinidad midfielder from Edison, New Jersey, was ejected in the 38th minute. Powder was shown his second yellow card for swinging a leg and tripping Weston McKennie from behind.

But with the 11th-ranked Americans missing Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah and Tyler Adams because of injuries, they struggled against No. 99 Trinidad despite 75% possession in the first half. The Americans outshot the Soca Warriors 7-0 in the half but put no shots on target.

Jamaican referee Oshan Nation initially awarded a penalty in the 60th minute when defender Daniel Phillips slid from behind into McKennie in the penalty area, but the call was reversed after a video review by Canadian Drew Fisher.

The second leg will be at Port-of-Spain’s Hasely Crawford Stadium, 34 years and one day after Paul Caligiuri’s goal at that stadium lifted the U.S. to a 1-0 win over the Soca Warriors and the Americans’ first World Cup appearance in 40 years. About 20 miles south in Couva, Trinidad beat the U.S. in 2017 and ended the Americans’ streak of World Cups at seven.