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U.S. Soccer: On the Verge of Disaster

September 1st, 2017 · 1 Comment · Football, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

Well, this is alarming.

The United States national soccer team played host to Costa Rica tonight at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey in a 2018 World Cup qualifying match.

USMNT fans gathered to see what they expected would be a spirited riposte aimed at the Ticos for a 4-0 thrashing they gave the Yanks in Costa Rica last November, the humiliation that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and returned Bruce Arena as coach.

What U.S. fans witnessed was a 2-0 victory by Costa Rica, and that yearning for revenge turned into cold panic, because the national team now stands a real risk of missing the Russia 2018 World Cup.

And that would be a disaster for U.S. soccer, failing to qualify out of a region that has only three reliably competent national sides. Or is it now only two?

This is the situation:

The U.S. has eight points, ahead of Honduras, also on eight points, by goal difference. Panama is on seven points.

Mexico and Costa Rico can plan for Russia.

Meanwhile, one of the U.S., Honduras and Panama will finish third and go to Russia; one will be fourth and enter a home-and-away playoff with Asia’s No. 5 team; and the other will shift into “wait for 2022” mode.

If the U.S. fails, it will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986, which is 100 million years B.C. in American soccer history.

The U.S. now travels to San Pedro Sula for a critical match with Honduras on Monday. A defeat knocks the U.S. out of third place and into fourth.

A victory by Panama, home against Trinidad & Tobago that night, moves Panama to fourth and the U.S. to fifth — the “start planning for Qatar 2022” position.

This is dire, especially considering how flat the Yanks were against Costa Rica. That side is better than Americans want to believe, but the U.S. controlled the ball for most of the match and had several scoring chances. But sloppiness led to two goals by Marco Urena, who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes, and now the warning sirens are blaring.

Now we find out about this group of players, and maybe Arena, too, who seemed in total control of the situation, unbeaten in 14 matches, but now a couple of results away from sharing some coaching ignominy with Klinsmann, who turned over a twice-beaten U.S. side when he was invited to leave by soccer federation president Sunil Gulati.

This is a delicate situation, and the U.S. will want to be very careful going forward against the typically rough and ready Hondurans, who play for a country with the world’s leading homicide rate.

On October 6, the U.S. is at home in Orlando to play Panama; Honduras is at Costa Rica.

The final batch of Concacaf qualifying matches are October 10, with the U.S. at last-place Trinidad, Panama home to Costa Rica and Honduras home to Mexico.

This is a scary situation. Not much is more alarming than worldwide mockery.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene // Sep 2, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Don’t count on it, but maybe the US will get some help from Mexico and Costa Rica. They each play Honduras in October (and Costa Rica gets them in San Jose, not San Pedro Sula) and Costa Rica plays Panama (in Panama).

    And Mexico certainly owes the US. As you may recall, on the final night of qualification for World Cup 2014, Mexico lost to Costa Rica 2-1 and the US was losing to Panama 2-1. A Panama win would have put Panama into the playoff with New Zealand for the last CONCACAF slot and Mexico would have failed to make the World Cup entirely. But Graham Zusi scored for the US in the 92nd minute (and Aron Johannsen scored in the 93rd minute). Mexico was into the intercontinental playoff (and destroyed New Zealand) and poor Panama was out.

    CONCACAF qualification is a weird animal and more unforgiving than people give it credit for. Seems to me that UEFA with its 14 slots is much more predictable of(e.g., this year only the Netherlands among the usual suspects seems to be at any risk of not making it).

    Of course, beginning in 2026 with the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams and even if the US and Mexico (and Canada) do not get automatic host slots, CONCACAF qualifying will be a complete non-event. I for one will really miss it—no more meaningful trips to Columbus in January for US-Mexico.
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