U.S. out of excuses after defeat in Trinidad leaves it out of World Cup
DISAPPOINTING. The Worst Day of My Career. One even called it a “Perfect Storm”. Those are the reactions from Players and Coaches today as the US Men’s National Team was sent DENIED the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
No doubt, everyone associated with the U.S. national team is hurting in their own way, but Gonzalez’s comment seemed to crystallize the pain that was a byproduct of the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago — a result that, when combined with scores from elsewhere, resulted in the U.S. being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for the first time since the 1986 cycle.
“I just want to say sorry to the fans, all the U.S. fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia, that believed in us,” Gonzalez said. “We let down an entire nation today.”
It’s a result that is difficult to process on many levels. But let’s be clear: It’s the most embarrassing defeat in U.S. soccer history and one that will be impossible for this group of players and coaches to live down.
CONCACAF is a massively forgiving region from which to qualify. And the Americans were in control of their destiny going up against a team that had nothing to play for. The U.S. roster and starting lineup had loads of experience compared to their T&T counterparts and the team had a manager, in Arena, who had led the U.S. to the World Cup on two previous occasions.
So what happened? The U.S. essentially sleepwalked through the first 45 minutes of the match, and was second best in too many phases. The half ended with T&T deservedly two goals up. The first came from a Gonzalez own goal in the 17th minute, in which T&T forward Shahdon Winchester got a faint touch to a cross, which deflected off Gonzalez’s shin and looped over Tim Howard in the U.S. goal.
“It’s one of the most unlucky goals ever I think for myself,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one that will haunt me forever.”
Alvin Jones then unleashed a 30-yard dart that cleanly beat Howard, and the U.S. was in huge trouble. A Christian Pulisic goal two minutes into the second half pulled them back within one, but the players couldn’t find an equalizer as Clint Dempsey hit the post.
At which point, the rest of the improbable dominoes began to fall. As the minutes ticked by, Honduras was already beating Mexico 3-2, proving the long-held sentiment that El Tri wouldn’t return the favor from four years ago when the U.S. essentially saved Mexico from elimination by denying Panama.
As it turned out, Panama got its revenge thanks to a ghost goal equalizer and a late winner by Roman Torres, and when news of his effort wafted through the Ato Boldon Stadium, the U.S. was sunk. Players walked off the field in a daze, save for Matt Besler, who simply sat down on the pitch in disbelief.
And so the rampant inconsistency that plagued the U.S. throughout this World Cup qualifying cycle proved fatal. But it elicited a mystifying question: How is it that the U.S. team that took apart Panama on Friday night could play so poorly with a spot at the World Cup on the line?
“Nerves play into it, they had a good game plan, 1,000 different things,” Howard said. Bradley added: “Different games.”
That is certainly true, as T&T wisely sat in and soaked up pressure and then tried to exploit the spaces available on the counter. But there were also moments when the Soca Warriors pinged the ball around with ease, with the Americans unable to get near them.