The U.S. blew a chance to make the World Cup with a poor showing
It was the most embarrassing loss in the United States Men’s Soccer history. Last night the United States Men’s Soccer team were stunned by a depleted Trinidad and Tobago team by a score of 2-1.
The game was played before a few hundred fans at Ato Boldon Stadium. The home team was already eliminated the game was meaningless to the fans from the small island nation.
So for the first time in twenty-eight years, the United States will not be going to the World Cup. The 2018 tournament is going to be held in Russia and the United States could have advanced with a draw against the 99th best team in the soccer world.
Needing only a tie and confident of victory against the world’s 99th-ranked team, the U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that ended a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer’s showcase.
“We let down an entire nation today,” said defender Omar Gonzalez, whose 17th-minute own goal started the collapse.
The problem started when Gonzalez attempted to clear Alvin Jones’ cross and sent it looping from 15 yards over the outstretched right arm of Tim Howard. Jones doubled the deal in the 37th minute with a 35-yard strike.
Meanwhile, things started to look brighter when 19-year-old superstar Christian Pulisic, scored in the 47th minute. But that was all the United States could muster in the 90 minutes on the pitch.
The U.S. team still had a chance make it to the World Cup with a loss. They needed both Panama and Honduras both loss and if the U.S. and only one of those rivals were beaten, the Americans would have finished fourth and advanced to a playoff next month against Australia.
But both Panama beat Costa Rica 2-1 giving them the third spot and Honduras beat Mexico, who had already qualified by a 3-2 score. That gave Honduras their first ever World Cup berth beating out the United States for the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Americans, who would have qualified with 13 points because of a superior goal difference, instead had 12 points and finished fifth in the hexagonal.
“It’s a blemish for us,” coach Bruce Arena said. “We should not be staying home for this World Cup and I take the responsibility for that.”
American players were not aware of the scores of the other games until after the final whistle.
“When I looked over at the bench and everyone was sitting down,” Gonzalez said, “I could just see from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t good.”
Ironically, in 1989 it was Trinidad that needed just a tie to reach its first World Cup, but Paul Caligiuri’s long-range goal in the 30th minute put the U.S. in the tournament for the first time since 1950.
“You can go around in circles a million times over again, but the reality is that it was all there for us and we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said.
Arena, a 66-year-old member of the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame, agreed with his usual bluntness.
“We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal,” the coach said. “That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated.”
Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the USSF, which has steadily built the sport in the last 26 years building the sport while expanding their sponsor base and growing their brand with the help of their television partners.
Speaking of the television partners, Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after outbidding ESPN for the U.S. rights, now has to go into next year’s World Cup without a United States team.
Another embarrassing point in the loss has the USSF hoping to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada. At this point, they are in good shape, even with the loss because Morocco is the only other bidder.
“Every time you have a setback you have to look at things, re-evaluate and get better,” 38-year-old goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “And as a program, we have to get better. This hex proved that. There’s some good teams on the up and up and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Quotes in the story came from U.S. Soccer.
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