On a night that was supposed to see American soccer fans breathe a sigh of relief as the Yanks slid blissfully into an automatically-qualifying World Cup berth in CONCACAF, we instead bore witness to the worst American performance in years as the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Read that one more time. 1986.
In the 31 years since the last failed campaign, the United States has qualified for seven straight World Cups, the first relying on the foot of Paul Caliguri against a heavily-favored Trinidad & Tobago team (which is ironic, now that I think about it) and the last a battle against underdog Panama in which Graham Zusi headed home a cross from Brad Davis to tie the match, sink Panama, and send Mexico into a playoff for a World Cup spot (see “San Zusi”). But now, that’s all in the past.
Tonight’s performance from the US national team was unacceptable, period. There is no way to talk around that. This team - these 11 men that put on the red, white, and blue and walked onto the field at Ato Bolton Stadium in Trinidad - played disjointed, unmotivated, and uninspired soccer for 90 minutes plus stoppage time. This is a massive national failure and it should be a wakeup call for the US Soccer Federation to immediately clean house. The progress of soccer in the States has been set back a decade, if not more.
US Soccer’s social media referred to tonight’s match as “heartbreak”. I prefer “dumpster fire”. All we needed was a draw; one measly point would have sent us to at least a playoff versus Australia. Honduras and Panama could have both won tonight, and the Yanks would still control their own destiny and at least still be in World Cup contention. Instead, Trinidad and Tobago made the USMNT look like American Samoa against Australia, and now all of the players that played tonight, all of the coaches sitting in the technical area, all of the US Soccer head honchos watching from Chicago, and all American soccer fans looking on from bars across the nation will be sitting on their couches next summer, not in a playoff in Sydney and certainly not in a stadium in Russia.
This is unacceptable from US Soccer. There is no replay, no review, no re-election, and no reconsideration for this. The United States is not going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and we can place the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of USSF president Sunil Gulati, interim USMNT manager Bruce Arena, his staff, and the 13 American players that participated in some part in tonight’s disastrous match. May tonight be a lesson for the future of American soccer, and let us hope our future leaders take it to heart.
But if you don’t want to hear it from me, listen to what US Soccer personality Taylor Twellman had to say:
Moral of the story: don’t be bad; be better.
See you for qualifiers and the Women’s World Cup in 2019.