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USA 1 - 2 Trinidad & Tobago: World Cup Qualifying

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I would call it heartbreak for the U.S., but it felt more like a dumpster fire.

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine a worse first half for the United States. Needing just a draw to automatically qualify for the World Cup, the same team that dominated Panama just days before looked disjointed and stuck in the mud, both literally and figuratively. Early U.S. chances were sloppy and strangely lackadaisical. Trinidad & Tobago, on the other hand, came to play with nothing to play for outside of pride, challenging the U.S. midfield and causing disruptions in any U.S. attack.

The opening goal came off of a mis-hit clearance from Omar Gonzalez. A cross bounced in off the bumpy pitch, and Gonzalez swung at it, only managing to slice the ball behind him, up, and over Tim Howard for a perfect chip into the far corner. It was bad defending and even worse luck from Gonzalez.

The second Trinidad goal was even stranger. Alvin Jones found the ball with little pressure on him forty yards out from goal, and decided to take a hit. The ball was well struck, and Tim Howard had a maddeningly slow reaction to the dipping strike, only able to watch the ball settle into the side netting. The game went into halftime with a shock 2-goal Trinidad & Tobago lead.

Sensing the urgency of the moment, Bruce Arena introduced Clint Dempsey at halftime, and the striker repaid Arena’s trust almost instantly. His pressure led to Christian Pulisic’s goal in the second half, the teenage phenom creating a half foot of space and smashing a goal in from outside the box. Dempsey caused problem after problem for T&T, bouncing a shot off the post and forcing a brilliant reaction save. But with time winding down, the U.S. simply did not have the answers against the last place Soca Warriors. Honduras and Panama did have the answers against Mexico and Costa Rica, however, both teams winning their matchup against the first and second place CONCACAF finishers. The U.S. string of World Cup qualifications, which began in Trinidad in 1989, ended there in 2017.

It’s hard to imagine we’ll see Tim Howard ever again in U.S. colors. The same could be said for Omar Gonzalez, whose own-goal put the nail in the coffin of a terrible ualifying cycle for him. Many players will go, with this team having very little in the way of a truly young base to build off of for the next World Cup cycle, and those players who might normally hang around for a few more years shadowed under the cloud of a team with so many resources at their disposal, with so many players in professional squads greater than those of their counterparts, fell apart in Trinidad. This is a complete and utter failure of epic proportions on the part of the players, coaching staff, and federation. Hopefully it brings about the change needed in the program.