The United States Men’s National Team will not be in the World Cup for the first time since 1986. It was an atrocious performance for the U.S., which only needed one point. Change will definitely be coming through the entire U.S. Soccer Federation, and the members of this team should be embarrassed after a 2-1 loss to last-place Trinidad and Tobago at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Prior to the game, there was a moat around the field. Crews worked to get the water off but the field was still described as “soft,” and there were large brown spots on the field, and players, such as Christian Pulisic had trouble on the surface and had to change cleats. But the field conditions cannot adequately explain such a complete failure by the United States, including an own-goal by Omar Gonzalez and a pair of uncharacteristically soft goals allowed by Tim Howard.
Early on, the U.S. sat back a little and let the hosts keep possession in their own half, while the Yanks tried to use the width and to put services in through crosses. Combined with many fouls called early, the game went back and forth until the 17th minute. Shahdon Winchester put a cross in and Gonzalez did an awful job defending. The ball deflected off the U.S. center back and looped over Howard to put Trinidad up, 1-0.
Immediately following the goal, T&T should have had a chance at going 2-0 via the penalty spot, but the referee did not call the rough challenge from Gonzalez.
After the goal, the U.S. picked up the intensity some but the Yanks still struggled to hold onto the ball. With several poor turnovers, fouls, and slips, the U.S. had a lot of difficulty in getting into the final third as the Soca Warriors went into a defensive shell.
Alvin Jones scored an absolute brilliant goal in the 37th moment. The 23-year-old defender put Trinidad up 2-0 off a bomb from about 35 yards out.
Howard was extremely slow to react and should have at least got a hand on the ball from that far away, but Howard seemed to struggle to see the ball well all night. A few minutes after the second goal, Howard failed to handle a free kick from long distance, chesting it into the path of an oncoming defender and having to scramble to concede a corner as the entire U.S. defense fell asleep and failed to react after the set piece.
The first half ended 2-0 to Trinidad, and the U.S. looked as bad as it has since the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Howard was shaky in goal, the defense was almost nonexistent, and the offense could not connect anything in the final third. Cobi Jones put it best on the broadcast, saying, “Defenders second to every ball,” and Trinidad was the better team for the first 45 minutes.
After such a poor first half, Clint Dempsey came in at half for Paul Arriola. The effect was immediate and in just the 46th minute Christian Pulisic scored his ninth career goal for the U.S. to cut the lead in half.
In the second half the Soca Warriors started dropping like flies and the referee gave them all the calls. Some were dumb fouls by the Americans, others were flops by the Trinidadians, notably any time Bobby Wood tried to win a ball in the air. The least amount of contact was called on Wood. But officiating didn’t ultimately decide this one and the U.S. still looked its worst since Klinsmann’s last game in charge.
After Honduras went ahead against Mexico, the U.S. dropped to fourth place and all of a sudden Bruce Arena had his team pushing forward with a desperate need for a goal around the 65th minute. The intensity only last about five minutes though, and then the U.S. looked like the same uninspired team that started the game.
Dempsey had a potential equalizer saved on a set piece and then hit the post in the 77th minute, after a fingertip save from T&T goalkeeper Adrian Foncette. Pulisic was the only American to follow up but was called for a soft foul that ended the U.S. attack. Jozy Altidore connected with Darlington Nagbe in the 80th minute, but the attempt went inches wide. In the 83rd minute Dempsey was nearly in on goal, but could not get past the last line of defense and could only win a corner.
Benny Feilhaber came on for Nagbe in the 84th minute, in a last ditch move by Arena to get a point and qualify for Russia. With Feilhaber on the pitch, the U.S. threw everything forward and only the center backs remained in defensive positions.
Foncette made another goal line stop after Pulisic put a perfect cross in the box. Wood got on the end of it, but was denied the game tying goal with just two minutes remaining.
As stoppage time hit, Panama scored to go 2-1 ahead of Costa Rica, and put the U.S. out of the World Cup altogether. The referee issued five minutes of extra time, and the Yanks were given a slim chance to find an equalizer but they could not capitalize on it. After the U.S., Costa Rica, and Mexico all lost, the USMNT will be watching the World Cup from a couch.
This hurts. It hurts a lot.