The U.S. and the Frightful World Cup Qualifiers: Sitting in the Middle of the Table, the USMNT Needs Points

Ben Polikoff, Maroon-News Staff

Coming off the recent international break, the United States Men’s Soccer National Team can’t be too happy about its status in regard to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The team started its campaign against Costa Rica on September 1, and put forth an underwhelming performance to say the least.

“We lost to a team that played better than us tonight. We’re not going to be able to get this game back. It’s over with. We’ve got to regroup and get our team ready to play on Tuesday,” manager Bruce Arena said in a post-game interview.

Costa Rica had no problems in its 2-0 display with the scoring provided by Marco Urena and stellar saves from Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. This loss for the United States was huge because it gave Costa Rica sole position of second place in the CONCACAF qualifying group behind a thriving Mexico team that secured its qualification over the weekend.

Later in the week, the United States squad traveled to Honduras where it was in desperate need of points.

Throughout the whole game, the U.S. team looked very flat. There was no creativity or quality in its game and once again the team was clearly outplayed.

Honduras dominated the entire first half and was rewarded for its efforts with a goal from Romell Quioto off a mistake by center back Omar Gonzalez. As the game went on, the United States continued to lose 50-50 balls and looked unmotivated.

Despite this, the United States kept the deficit at one and eventually got an equalizer through Bobby Wood with five minutes left in the game.

Wood’s pivotal game-tying goal gave the United States a point in a game that it had no business getting any points from; this made the next round of qualifying for the United States a lot easier.

The next set of games will see the United States play two games on October 6 and 10 against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively. Tying Honduras meant that the United States needs at least one win and one tie to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Not making the World Cup would be disastrous for American soccer, considering the team made it out of the so-called “group of death” in 2014.

Additionally, the team was able to take, arguably, a top five team in the world, Belgium, into extra time and were one Chris Wondolowski bad miss away from making it into the quarter finals. Arena’s fate of whether he remains manager should be determined by the results of both matches.

He will have his work cut out in trying to find the United States’ game a bit of flexibility and being tactically prepared for each game.

Tactics have been a struggle for Arena, especially in big games. Against 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Arena holds a record of 1-3-2. Arena should look for a center back combination that has chemistry and skill because that has been the position that the United States has lacked depth and consistency in besides John Brooks.

Overall, the United States has some work to do. Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is essential and will be disastrous if they fail to do so.

Former U.S. soccer star Alexi Lalas was vocally critical of the poor performances as of late. He called the players “tattooed millionaires” who have a sense of entitlement. Soccer has come a long way in America over the years, and Lalas was a key part of the developing stages. The growth of the MLS is a prime example of how soccer has changed in the States. Former players and future players alike expect more from this team. Impressive turnouts to home matches have not been enough for the USMNT, so fans are now left wondering: what will be?

Contact Ben Polikoff at [email protected].