U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team
After all its fits and starts and a coaching change, it came down to this: The United States men’s national soccer team needed to beat a side – Trinidad and Tobago – that had lost six straight qualifying matches.
Even a tie wouldn’t kill the U.S.’ chances of taking part in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But there, on a slick and sloppy field in Couva, Trinidad on Tuesday night, the U.S., ranked 28th in the world, lost 2-1 to the team ranked 99th. That, combined with Honduras’ surprising 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica, dropped the U.S. from third place to fifth place in its six-member group. Three nations get automatic bids and the fourth-place team goes to a playoff. That fourth-place team is now Honduras.
“We let down an entire nation today,” U.S. defender Oscar Gonzalez told the Associated Press.
It was Gonzalez who put a ball past his own keeper to give Trinidad a 1-0 lead and the U.S. mustered only a single score.
“No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “It’s a blemish for us.”
A blemish? This is a zit the size of Mount Everest. The U.S. has played in the World Cup seven straight times, and that streak began in 1989 – after a four-decade absence – with a win at Trinidad. The sport has grown steadily in popularity and now a real opportunity to proselytize is gone.
There will be 32 nations competing for the world championship next year in Russia in one of the planet’s great events. The U.S. won’t be one of them.