It was a wild night in CONCACAF on the final night of World Cup qualifying, with the United States national team falling 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago in a stunning upset that, along with results elsewhere in CONCACAF , has seen the usmnt fail to qualify for the world cup.
USA clearly looked like they were struggling almost from the start in this match, whether it was due to fatigue or heat or poor pitch conditions or some other reason. The midfield struggled to connect with the attack and was often caught too far down the pitch, and that gave Trinidad and Tobago the chances they needed to start generating scoring chances, although the first goal of the match came off a rare goal. own goal by usmnt defender omar gonzalez , who tried to clear an alvin jones cross over the goal, but clumsily hit the ball with his shin and sailed it over tim howard and under the crossbar.
Reading: Us men’s soccer vs trinidad
gonzalez nearly conceded a penalty just moments later in a decision that seemed like a lucky break for the usmnt, but they wouldn’t be counting their lucky stars for long as late in the half jones would be allowed to walk by the field uncontested before setting up and unleashing a 30-yard shot that Tim Howard was too, too late to try to stop. In Howard’s defense, it would have taken a big stop for someone to stop, but his belated reaction negated any hope he might have had.
the united states recovered one moments after the second half when christian pulisic flew onto the field to score a stunning goal, but it quickly returned to normal, with an additional serving of cynical fouls from trinidad and tobago, along with some theatrics from their attackers. , especially after a second sanction appeal was denied. not even clint dempsey could get the u.s. rolling attack, with the Texan attacker hitting his only good scoring opportunity off the post.
results elsewhere went equally against usmnt, with honduras beating mexico 3-2 in san pedro sula to overcome the united states. to third place on the hexagonal table and take the last automatic qualifying place. panama beating costa rica late was the final nail in the coffin for usa’s world cup hopes, and the controversy of an opening goal that never seemed to cross the line for panama won’t help the usmnt’s ill feelings for that result.
This is not the result the usmnt wanted. It is not the result that his fans wanted. it is, in a word, disastrous. everything has gone wrong, because for this team and its talent, even with a team still in transition, not being able to reach the world cup for the first time since 1986 is simply unacceptable. leaving it so late to qualify was bad enough – failing at the last step like this, when a good performance was all they needed to get ahead, is just embarrassing and unacceptable. this is not good enough, and it’s time for massive changes to the national team setup; we just have to hope that they actually happen.
united states: tim howard; deandre yedlin, omar gonzalez, matt besler, jorge villafaña (kellyn acosta 72′); Michael Bradley, Paul Arriola (Clint Dempsey 46′), Darlington Nagbe (Benny Feilhaber 85′), Christian Pulisic; bobby wood, jozy altidore
goals: pulisic (46’)
trinidad and tobago: adrian foncette; alvin jones, daneil cyrus, curtis gonzales, tristan hodge kevon villaroel 82′); Nathan Lewis, Leston Paul, Kevan George, Khaleem Hyland, Levi Garcia (Joevin Jones 72′); shahdon winchester (trevin caesar 78′)
goals: gonzalo (og 17’), a. jones (37′)
three things we learned
can the usmnt have a new goalkeeper now?
tim howard has been a legendary figure for the usmnt for a long, long time. but over the past year he has looked increasingly unstable for both club and country, and his nightmarish performance in the first half really shone that into the light. he’s gotten too slow on his feet, too slow on his reactions, and he doesn’t even seem to be consistently making the right decisions anymore to run his defense. It’s time for America to turn to someone new in goal, and it’s time for Tim Howard to retire.
bill hamid is the obvious choice, having been brilliant in mls action for dc united this season. brad guzan and nick rhyming are no longer serious starting options. Ethan Horvath is a very intriguing choice, but he is only 22 and just beginning to find his place at a new, bigger club after a summer move from the mold in Norway to Club Brugge in Belgium. he’s probably not ready to take the starting reins just yet, though it would be reasonable to call him up to the senior team on a regular basis so he gets used to the system.
Whoever the next man is, the change must be made now. tim howard’s era at the usmnt ended a while ago; It’s a shame his trainers haven’t figured it out yet.
the one-man gamble in midfield didn’t pay off this time
with the usmnt not taking the same kind of high tempo that they did against panama on friday, either because the unchanged lineup was fatigued or for any other reason, trinidad and tobago were given the time and space they they needed to separate. the usmnt’s high-stakes midfield setup. this allowed the soca warriors to generate numerous dangerous attacks and directly contributed to their 2-0 lead in the first half.
the crux of the problem is that michael bradley was once again alone against the usa. uu. back line. with the defense playing somewhat passively when approaching the ball and the rest of the us. uu. squad trying to push an attack that never got going, the wide diamond was forced even higher after dropping early. that opened up even more space for soca warriors to work. It was clear very early on that this form wasn’t working this time, and waiting until halftime to change it was absolutely the wrong decision for Bruce Arena.
christian pulisic is the american messi, but not as you think
usmnt fans have been searching for the “american messi” for years: a dynamic, world-class attacking player who can help elevate the national team to an elite level. And while people laughed at comparisons between Pulisic and Lionel Messi early in his career, they’re starting to be curiously accurate, just in a different way than people thought.
look at messi’s time with the argentinian national team, especially of late and especially on tuesday night with his own world cup qualification on the line. he continually puts his team on his back and leads them to big results in big games. Lately, Pulisic has been doing the same thing, exemplified against Trinidad and Tobago when he blasted his way through the Soca Warriors defense on his account to score a vital goal to cut their lead in half and give the U.S. . uu. a chance to get the result they so badly needed.
pulisic is only 19 years old, but he has shown all the fire and quality necessary to be one of those special players who help elevate a team for reasons that go far beyond his technical quality on the field. we’re seeing something really special in this sport, and we hope the fans will appreciate him for everything he does.