Sorry, US soccer fans, but you won’t be seeing your men’s national team play in the 2017 World Cup.
The US was eliminated from men’s World Cup contention after a stunning 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night. Also contributing to this was Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica and Honduras’s 3-2 win over Mexico. This will be Panama’s first ever World Cup appearance, with the US missing out on the tournament for the first time in over 30 years.
The United States’ loss finished off an exciting final day of qualifying, with Portugal and France securing spots in Europe and Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia doing the same in South America.
The US’s qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup has been tumultuous to say the least. After losing its first two qualifiers in the final round, the team fired coach Jurgen Klinsmann in favor of rehiring Bruce Arena, who coached the team from 1998 to 2006. Although Arena’s arrival was expected to bolster the team’s chances of qualifying for the tournament in Russia, they ended up winning only three of their remaining eight matches.
After Tuesday’s defeat, Arena said, “We didn’t qualify for the World Cup, that was my job.” He later added, “We have no excuses. We failed today.”
President of United States soccer Sunil Gulati also expressed disappointment in the team’s inability to qualify. “We certainly expected to qualify, throughout the process, and especially after Friday night,” he stated, while also adding, “It’s a huge disappointment for everybody; the players, the staff, the coaches, the federation. It’s not good enough.”
The US men’s national team came into Tuesday’s match needing only a win or a draw in order to qualify for the World Cup after defeating Panama 4-0 on Friday. A Tuesday loss by Panama or Honduras would have also secured the US’s spot in the tournament, but none of the three games went their way.
The team’s players have also taken direct responsibility for their failure to qualify. Defender Omar Gonzalez said that a Trinidad and Tobago goal that bounced off his shin “is one that will haunt me forever.” He also called the game “the worst of my career.”
Midfielder Michael Bradley said, “The reality is that it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”
Perhaps even more heartbreaking than the loss itself is that fact that Tuesday night may have spelled the end of the careers of 34-year-old captain Clint Dempsey and 38-year-old goalkeeper Tim Howard, both of whom have been mainstays of US men’s soccer for years. No decisions have been made public but it is something worth considering, both for the program as a whole and for fans across the country.
This marks the first time the team will not compete in the World Cup since 1986. However, US soccer fans still have the women’s World Cup in 2019 to look forward to. Given the continued dominance of the nation’s women’s team over the years, it is highly unlikely that they will suffer the same fate as their men’s counterpart.
[via The New York Times]