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KICK START; TEN YEARS LATER, ONE GOAL STILL MEANS A LOT.

Byline: Fred J. Robledo Staff Writer

Galaxy defender Paul Caligiuri had no idea that his ``shot-heard-around-the-world'' goal 10 years ago today would become the most significant moment in American soccer history.

But without Caligiuri's goal that beat Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 on Nov. 19, 1989 - qualify the United States for the 1990 World Cup - America probably would not have been allowed to host the 1994 World Cup, Major League Soccer probably would not exist and scores of Americans might never have had an opportunity to play professional soccer.

Caligiuri, preparing for Sunday's MLS Cup championship against D.C. United, still gets chills when he recalls his miraculous, 30-yard dipping left-footed volley that beat Trinidad & Tobago in front of more than 35,000 red-clad fans packed into Port of Spain's National Stadium.

``It was my first start in three qualifying matches and we had only scored one goal in three games prior,'' Caligiuri said. ``Trinidad was unbeaten at home and we knew scoring a goal was going to be a huge chore.

``When the goal came, Trinidad was getting the best of us at the time. It was instinctive. I received the ball about 40 yards out, pushed it forward, but a defender closed me down. I beat him to my left and just hit it. When I saw it dipping I knew it had a chance. When it went in, we were all just thrilled to death because a zero-zero tie meant Trinidad would have advanced instead of us.

``When the game was over, what I had done, or what we had done, started to settle in.''

That lone goal gave the Americans the victory, sending them to the World Cup in Italy. It was America's first Cup appearance in 40 years.

Because of that victory, the U.S. was able to host the 1994 World Cup, which paved the way for Major League Soccer's berth in 1996.

``We knew what the immediate impact of that goal meant,'' said Caligiuri, a product of Walnut High and UCLA. ``We were aware of the fact that Brazil and Mexico were alternative sites for the 1994 World Cup if we didn't qualify in 1990.

``We realized a lot of sponsorships were pending on us qualifying for the World Cup. We also knew that our jobs were on the line and our salaries would be over in a week or so if we didn't advance.''

Signing a few trading cards and posters for fans following training Thursday in Boston, Caligiuri is still moved by the effects of that goal.

``It never changed me as a person,'' he said. ``I never thought the focus should have been on me. It should have been about what our team accomplished.

``But to look back and see the impact it's had on soccer here, it's amazing. To know that I played such a critical role in sports history . . . you can't explain that feeling. It gives you the chills.''

Others know what it meant for them. D.C. United defender Jeff Agoos, a three-time MLS All-Star and U.S. national team regular, might have been working somewhere else had the U.S. tied or lost that day.

``That was probably the goal that set pro soccer in motion here,'' said Agoos. ``It had huge significance to soccer in the U.S., propelling us to being a bigger mainstream sport. The three World Cup appearances since are due to that moment. Cal's goal has been a catalyst for a lot of things that have happened here.''

The U.S. was beaten soundly in Italy the next summer, but qualifying opened doors for rising standouts such as Tab Ramos and John Harkes to earn contracts overseas.

``At least half of the things that have happened in U.S. soccer since would never have occurred if Paul didn't score that goal,'' said Ramos. ``I signed in Spain because somebody saw me play in the World Cup. If we didn't go to Italy who knows how prepared our team would have been for the 1994 World Cup? And the impact that our team made in 1994 (reaching the second round) provided the push to get this league (MLS) started.

``That goal was probably the most important moment that we've had here, at least since I've been playing.''

MLS CUP

Who: Galaxy vs. D.C. United

When: Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Where: Foxboro Stadium

TV: Ch. 7

CAPTION(S):

Photo, box

Photo: Paul Caligiuri, above, launched U.S. soccer into the present with his game-winning goal in 1989.

Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

Box: MLS CUP (See text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 19, 1999
Words:763
Previous Article:GALAXY NOTEBOOK: GALAXY GETS A LITTLE HELP FROM JUERGEN.
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