By MICHELLE KAUFMAN
Herald Sports Writer
The spirited Trinidadian fans who showed up at the Orange
Bowl for Wednesday night's friendly
against Colombia were disappointed to learn their national team star, Manchester United forward Dwight Yorke, had not made the trip from England.
Depending on whom you asked, Yorke skipped the match because
he either had a groin pull or
missed his flight.
He wasn't missed.
Columbus Crew forward Stern John more than made up for Yorke's
absence. John, who leads
Major League Soccer with 17 goals after scoring 26 his rookie season, scored three goals to lead
Trinidad and Tobago to a 4-3 win over the favored Colombians. John is being wooed by Nottingham Forest of the English Premier League, and his value -- reportedly more than $1 million probably increased with Wednesday's performance.
John's 23rd-minute goal, a 6-yard shot off a deflection by a Colombian defender, tied the game at 1-1. In the 59th minute, John juked Colombian goalie Miguel Calero, leaving him on the ground. By the time Calero got back on his feet, John's rocket of a shot was flying over Calero's left shoulder. John scored the game-winning header in the 74th minute. Midfielder Arnold Dwarika scored Trinidad's other goal.
John is hoping his success in MLS and with the national team will open the door for other Caribbean players.
``There is so much undiscovered talent in the Caribbean,'' John said. ``I know that every goal I score might help another player from my country get a chance.''
Twenty minutes after the final whistle, the majority of the crowd of 6,168 had exited, but a throng of Trinidadians continued dancing in the bleachers while the players -- including former Fusion forward Mickey Trotman -- celebrated on the field.
The Trinidad win overshadowed the spectacular play of Colombian forward Ivan Rene Valenciano, who scored a hat trick of his own. Valenciano returned to the national team after a two-year hiatus, and proved he belonged, leading the Colombian attack all night. He gave Colombia a 1-0 lead with a 19th minute penalty kick. He scored again in the 62nd and 69th minutes.
Valenciano said his goals were meaningless.
``It doesn't matter how many goals you score when you lose,'' said Valenciano, who plays for Independiente de Medellin. ``You don't have any personal satisfaction when your team loses. Winning is all that matters.''
Colombia was missing several of its best players, including 16-year-old Johnnier Montano, who plays for Parma in Italy. But the Colombians wouldn't use the absent players as an excuse.
``It was a very tough game and we threw away a lot of open chances,'' said defender Carlos Asprilla.
``They took advantage of our defensive mistakes and beat us good,'' said Jairo Castillo.
Colombian coach Javier Alvarez said he was using Wednesday's match to evaluate players for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
``The door is open to all players who show a good level and who are fit,'' Alvarez said. ``I want guys who are eager and determined to qualify for the World Cup.''
Valenciano fits the bill. The jury is still out on the others.