Anger. Frustration. Sadness. These are just a mix of the many different emotions U.S. Men’s Soccer fans were experiencing during the heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors Tuesday night.
The stipulations before the game could not be any clearer. In order to be able to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, you would need to finish in the top three of six teams in the CONCACAF region. All the United States had to do was win or draw in Trinidad and Tobago, and they would qualify by being that third team. Unfortunately, things did not turn out in our favor.
Although playing away from home is always a challenge for sports teams, this game on paper was a sure-win for the USMNT. Trinidad and Tobago was the worst performing team in the Hexagonal stage (final six) of World Cup Qualifying, only winning one game out of their last nine. Most of the team’s veteran players had not been called into their roster for this game. A team consisting of mostly players that play in Trinidad and Tobago’s own professional soccer league really had no chance at slaying the giant that was the US Men’s National Soccer Team. Until they did.
It started in the 17th minute. Alvin Jones, one of the Trinidadian center backs whipped in a fantastic cross from the right end of the field, dangerously towards the U.S. goal. Omar Gonzalez, one of the U.S. center backs attempted to divert the looming ball away, only to give it one of the most face palm-able touches in the great sport of soccer. The ball whips off of his toe and flew up like a home run, only to fall right back down behind the body of goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the back of the net. First blow. Silly, but not all hope is lost.
Until twenty minutes later, when Alvin Jones (who else but him?) brought a nation most famous for its beautiful beaches, Nicki Minaj’s birthplace and its own Carnival, into eternal jubilation. Even though they weren’t playing for much, as their previous results meant they could not qualify for the world cup.
Jones blasted a missile of a long range shot towards the U.S. goal, one that was so powerful Tim Howard could do nothing but watch the ball zoom past his eyes even at full strech. Come halftime, the U.S. had dug itself into a hole that seemingly was unfathomably deep and ridiculously embarrassing. Even the so-called “Wonder Boy” Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old who scored a goal for the U.S. in the 47th minute could not save the day for the Yanks. After 47 minutes, it was 2-1 to T&T, and it stayed that way for the rest of the game.
In the short-term, an embarrassing and forgettable result. But the long-term consequences are unforgiveable. The US Men’s National Team will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The state of the US Soccer Development system is crumbling. Head Coach Bruce Arena and US Soccer President Sunil Gulati are on the hot seat. Current USMNT veterans like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, are aging past their prime.
So many question marks, not many answers to this point. All that is known right now, is the US Men’s National Team, and the millions of soccer fans in this great nation will have to wait another four more years to play for the soccer world’s most valued prized. Soccer analyst Taylor Twellman in an interview with ESPNFC, put it best: "What are we doing? WHAT ARE WE DOING?!"
Photo Credit: Google, Labeled for Reuse