A few days back home turned the U.S. soccer team from a cellar dweller into a record-setter.
On a night when a loss would have put the Americans in danger of World Cup elimination, the United States dominated from start to finish, routing Barbados 7-0 Wednesday.
Eddie Pope scored in the 14th minute, then Brian McBride and Joe-Max Moore made it 3-0 by halftime.
Given a two-man advantage for the final 49 minutes following the ejection of two Barbados players, the United States spent the second half in soccer's equivalent of playground hoops - dribbling around the outmanned defenders for the best shot.
John O'Brien scored 29 seconds into the second half - the first time he handled the ball.
Tab Ramos added his first international goal since 1998 in the 72nd minute, Earnie Stewart scored two minutes later and Moore scored again in the 82nd.
It matched the largest victory margin ever for the United States - and it was the first time the Americans ever scored seven goals in a World Cup qualifier.
With 22 goals in 80 international appearances, Moore moved into second on the U.S. career scoring list, 11 behind Eric Wynalda.
Augustus Hurdle was ejected in the 38th minute for twice elbowing Cobi Jones (with Jones throwing a punch in between) and Eric Lavine was ejected three minutes later for getting his second yellow card for a rough foul on Chris Armas.
Coming off a tie and a loss on the road in their opening two games, the Americans put themselves in contention for one of the groups's two berths in next year's regional finals.
The United States (1-1-1) jumped to second in Group C of the North and Central American and Caribbean semifinals with four points, trailing Costa Rica (2-1).
Guatemala (1-1-1) is third, trailing the U.S. team on goal difference, and Barbados (1-2) dropped to last.
A 1-1 tie at Guatemala and a 2-1 loss at Costa Rica last month created the precarious situation for the U.S. team, which hasn't missed a World Cup since 1986.
Moore and McBride returned from injuries to give the Americans a new forward line, and it seemed like the field was tilted toward the end the United States was shooting at.
Fielding a lineup with seven European-based players, the Americans outshot Barbados 10-2 in the first half, taking the lead in the 14th minute when Pope outjumped two defenders to beat goalkeeper Horace Stoute on Stewart's corner kick.
Moore, who scored eight goals in 19 games last season for Everton in England's Premier League, let the ball bounce off a heel in the 28th, creating McBride's goal.
Stewart raced up the field to create the third goal, passing to Moore, who was stopped on a right-footed shot, then scored off the rebound with his left foot.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.