We made it, y’all. 2017 is almost over, and kudos to you for making it through one more lap around the sun as a fan of the United States Men’s National Team. This year was one for the history books...and one for the trash. At this point, it probably feels like torture to relive the year the USMNT had, but through the incredibly low points, there were some good moments. Let’s take a minute to recap the best and the worst things we experienced with the USMNT in 2017.
The USMNT win the Gold Cup
The United States had some shaky moments to start the group stage, with a draw to Panama and a close victory against a feisty Martinique side, but the MNT shook off their foes to win the 2017 Gold Cup. Along the way, the MNT got past Panama, Martinique, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica before defeating Jamaica in the final. Jordan Morris tied for the Golden Boot with 3 goals during the tournament, with Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore also adding 2 each for the Americans. People may argue that this is the “off year” Gold Cup, the one that doesn’t matter. But, winning the confederation tournament for the 6th time is a big deal and through it all, we did it with some new players in the fold. Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe impressed in their first major stints with the national team, while Kellyn Acosta, Bill Hamid, and Eric Lichaj also made the most of their time with the team during the tournament. In the end, it was a Gold Cup championship that many hoped would help spur the team forward in World Cup qualifying and the rest of the year.
The Year of Pulisic
It’s Christian Pulisic’s world. We just are fortunate enough to live in it. The phenom who recently turned 19 took the American soccer world by storm in 2017, becoming a mainstay in the lineup for Borussia Dortmund (7 goals, 8 assists in 2017) and becoming the gamechanger for the USMNT (6 goals, 5 assists). He has easily become the most feared American player and is already the best player on the team. He was responsible for 11 of the 17 goals the United States scored in the 9 matches he played this year. Simply put, he was everywhere, he did everything, and he was the man. His dynamic, fearless play energized the team and the fans, and it gives most hope that we’re witnessing the evolution of a once-in-a-generation talent that is ready to take on the rest of the world. He was easily one of the bright spots in 2017.
The kids have arrived
The USMNT has a lot to look forward to in 2018. Part of the reason we can say that is because we saw some great performances by the U-17s and U-20s. Players like Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah, Tyler Adams, Jonathan Gonzalez, Chris Durkin, Andrew Carleton, Ayo Akinola, Jonathan Klinsmann, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Brooks Lennon were among the young stars that won the hearts of fans with their play during the U-17 World Cup, the U-20 World Cup, and through club play. These guys will be names to know as we enter 2018, because some of them are poised to break out with the national team next year. We will see these names a lot, and it’s what they did in 2017 that will give them opportunities to become valuable parts of the MNT as we begin a new cycle.
The 14-match unbeaten streak to begin 2017
If you look back at the USMNT record for 2017, you’d think we had a really good year. The team went 10-2-7 (W-L-D), including a 14-match unbeaten streak to start the year. In fact, the USMNT had the fewest losses in a year since 2004, when the team went 8-1-6. Much of that was World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup, but to have a year where you only experience two losses is still a worthy accomplishment for a team that normally has a few losses throughout the year.
The USMNT fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup
Yep, you knew this was coming. After losing on the road to Trinidad and Tobago, who finished last in the Hexagonal standings and trotted out a lineup missing several key players, the United States crashed out of World Cup qualifying, failing to advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. It was a remarkable fall from grace for the MNT, who entered the match needing only a draw to book their ticket to Russia. In a final match day that offered 28 qualifying scenarios, only one would see the USMNT on the outside looking in. Thanks to Mexico losing to Honduras and Costa Rica losing to Panama coupled with the MNT’s loss, that one scenario happened. It is the reason that many consider the entire year to be a failure, and for good reason. The entire year centered around qualifying for the World Cup, and despite the successes early in the year, the last month of qualifying was where the MNT played its worst soccer at the worst possible time. They got 4 points from a possible 12, where 5 would have seen them heading to the World Cup in June. And because of that, the United States will be watching the World Cup from the couch while wondering what could have been.
The USMNT lose at home to Costa Rica
Remember when I said the MNT only had 2 losses in 2017? This was one of them. The loss to Costa Rica in New Jersey was devastating for the team’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup. The embarrassing 2-0 defeat was the one that most look to as the moment that the MNT was officially in trouble. It’s crazy that the only two losses of the year came with such importance, but the two leading to the crash out of the World Cup negates the rest of the good moments we have, and when looking back at 2017, the Costa Rica loss will be the one that resonates as the beginning of the end.
The MNT did not register a single road victory in 2017
The USMNT played 5 matches outside the United States in 2017: World Cup qualifiers at Panama, Mexico, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago, and a November friendly against Portugal. They did not a single one, going 0-1-4 (W-L-D). Winning on the road is difficult, but to be successful, you must get results. Good teams are able to win on the road, and this team just didn’t get it done. The last time the United States failed to win a single match on foreign soil in a calendar year: 1986. That year seems to be popping up a lot in comparisons to 2017, and that’s not good at all.
Now, it’s your turn. What were your highlights on the year? What points other than the obvious made you curl up in a ball of emotion? Hit the comments and let us know.