CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is a nightmare. There’s just something about it that exists outside of the normal arena of world soccer. Up is down, down is up, nothing makes any sense. This is multiplied tenfold when a team is forced to play away from home.
This was never as evident as it was on October 12, 2012. The United States men’s national team headed to Antigua and Barbuda for a qualifier that was supposed to be an afterthought. Surely, the mighty USA would crush 106th ranked Antigua...
The Americans did end up winning that match except it took a 90th minute Eddie Johnson header to get it done against a team everyone thought they’d obliterate.
That’s CONCACAF, man. Anything that you can imagine going wrong can go wrong. That’s why the U.S. simply cannot go into Friday’s qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines taking anything for granted. It’s a must-win match in an unfamiliar environment with a playing surface that will undoubtedly cause problems to the USMNT’s desired play style.
Alejandro Bedoya is well aware of the issues facing the team on Friday.
“It’s always tougher than it is on paper,” Bedoya said. “The conditions aren’t favorable. It’s a lot hotter down there. For various reasons, it’s always tough, not easy, to go down there and play the way we want to play. We’re doing everything we can. We have everything to play for and we need nothing but a good result to keep us going.”
This isn’t a cliched speech to give your opponents their due respect like you’d see in many other sports. In CONCACAF, the underdogs pack a significant bite. If the USMNT aren’t aware of the circumstances and aren’t prepared to grind out a result, they could be in real trouble in World Cup qualification.
Slipping up in this penultimate fourth round qualifier would intensify the pressure immensely on the U.S. when they head to Jacksonville next Tuesday to take on current Group C leaders Trinidad and Tobago.
Jurgen Klinsmann is well aware of the importance of this match and has preached to his team the value of urgency in this situation.
“We are preparing for these two games very seriously, with a lot of urgency because we want to finish off our group in first place if possible”
The odds makers and neutral supporters will make you think this match should be won easily, but anyone who has experienced the wackiness of away World Cup qualifiers in CONCACAF knows better.
I’ve seen firsthand on social media that people are suggesting that Klinsmann should experiment in this match. Maybe throw some young players out there for some reason. This is the exact mindset that will get the U.S. in major trouble and it’s one they must avoid.
It will be an awkward spot for the USMNT on Friday against Vincy Heat. Yet, if they come prepared and are aware of how difficult this scenario can be, they should get the job done, but it won’t be easy.