While it might be dramatic it seems that every day since the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago 2-1, thus failing to qualify for the World Cup, has been a bad day. Granted, there are much, much worse problems in the world right now, but for those of us who watch every single U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team game, it is a really awful end to what was mostly a painful World Cup qualifying cycle. The result is a cost to be paid, by everyone from U.S. Soccer leadership to the players to the average fan, who I saw felt a lot of anger and disbelief and sadness. There will be no watching their team play against the world’s best next summer; however, that’s a minor thing compared to what others will pay.
Bruce Arena announced a 27 (!) man roster for three upcoming games over the next couple weeks and it’s one that should make most fans happy. It is a very deep and strong list of players for this June camp that will culminate in a second crack at Mexico at the Azteca in Mexico City on June 11. After the disastrous first match against El Tri in Columbus, it will be something of a revenge game for team and a great early bellwether for how the team plays under Arena. We’ll have more on the site closer to that match, but first a look at the roster.
Well, no one can accuse U.S. soccer of being boring the last couple weeks at least. I intended to write about the aftermath of the Mexico match but couldn’t bring myself to rewatch the game at the time. Then, after the shellacking delivered by Costa Rica, I wanted to wait until the dust had settled and it was clear what the fallout would be for Jurgen Klinsmann. So, now seems like as good a time as ever to review the state of the program, particularly with new head coach Bruce Arena installed.
While Tuesday’s election might be stealing most of the headlines this week, Friday is also nearly a national holiday because it marks the beginning of the final stage of World Cup Qualifying for the United States Men’s National Team. There are currently six teams vying for the top three spots in this final round (often referred to as the “Hex”) in order to earn automatic qualification to the 2018 World Cup. Despite being overshadowed outside of Soccer Twitter, the opening match is against heated rivals Mexico on U.S. soil in Columbus, Ohio. For those who don’t know, the USMNT has a strange knack for winning dos a cero against Mexico in Columbus and it makes this game all the more special.
Look at that, we made the semifinals! Since I think the U.S. has now achieved exactly what the expectation should have been for the Copa America, they are playing with house money. The match against Ecuador was the ideal version of the current USMNT. The first half showcased the evolution of the team, as they did well in both controlling the pace, stringing together excellent passing sequences, and looking dangerous in controlled attacking moves. It all led to a Clint Dempsey goal that was very deserved. The second half, after absolute chaos resulted in two red cards, was a reemergence of the best of the older U.S. style of play, full of grit and fight, which also gave us a Dempsey-involved goal (albeit, in a more ugly fashion).
Full disclosure: I only caught the back 45 minutes of the USMNT game against Paraguay, in which they survived going down to 10 men, won 1-0 and sealed their place in the knockout rounds of the Copa America. However, I saw enough to know two things: (a) DeAndre Yedlin still has some learning to do and (b) this team wants to go the distance. There might be some disagreement on what, exactly, “the distance” should be for this team, but more on that later. First, we need to celebrate the U.S. overcoming their 2-0 loss to Colombia by throttling Costa Rica 4-0 and surviving Paraguay 1-0.
Do you remember when I said it was a roller coaster ride to watch the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team? Well, this is the part of the ride where you PANIC because we just plummeted hard. After a very positive three game warm up, the team ended up losing 2-0 to Colombia on Friday in the opening game of the Copa America. Now, the U.S. will face off against Costa Rica tonight at 8:00 PM with everything on the line. This game is now a must win to get out of the group stage of the tournament.