The nightmare scenario has played out for the U.S. men’s national team.
A roller coaster of a qualifying campaign ended in shambles, with a stunning 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago, coupled with wins by Panama and Honduras over Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively, has eliminated the USA from the World Cup. The Americans will not be playing in Russia next summer.
Trinidad and Tobago, which hadn’t won in its last nine matches (0-8-1), exacted revenge for the 1989 elimination at the hands of the United States, doing so in stunning fashion. An own goal from Omar Gonzalez and a rocket from Alvin Jones provided the offense, while Christian Pulisic’s second-half goal wasn’t enough to save the Americans.
Trinidad & Tobago conceded much of the early possession to the USA but still carved out an early chance, only for it to be spoiled by an offside call. Shahdon Winchester snuck behind the U.S. back line too soon and beat Tim Howard, but the goal was waved off in the fifth minute.
The USA answered immediately with a great chance of its own. Paul Arriola found DeAndre Yedlin on the right wing, and he carried forward before cutting back a cross for Jozy Altidore in the center of the box. The two-goal hero from Friday had a clear look but fired over the bar, letting T&T off in the seventh minute.
Trinidad & Tobago came up with a stunning opener in the 17th minute after a Gonzalez own goal. In trying to clear a cross to Winchester, Gonzalez had the ball loop off his shin and over Howard, sneaking in just under the crossbar. Moments after the goal, Gonzalez was nearly at fault for a penalty, though nothing was called. The T&T goal also came moments after Oribe Peralta scored for Mexico vs. Honduras, which was helpful at the time.
Honduras pulled even with Mexico on a free kick soon after, though, shrinking the margin for error.
Things then somehow got worse for the USA, with Alvin Jones scoring his first international goal in stunning fashion, ripping a rocket that left Howard with no chance.
All that did was make the USA more reliant on Mexico and Costa Rica, and the two rivals obliged. Johan Venegas scored a go-ahead goal for Costa Rica vs. Panama, while Carlos Vela restored Mexico’s lead over Honduras.
The USA started the second half on fire through 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. His laser from the edge of the box sliced the deficit in half, bringing the USA within 2-1.
That goal proved to be vital given what happened elsewhere in CONCACAF. Honduras and Panama both scored equalizers, making things quite interesting. Panama’s in particular, was controversial, as it never appeared to cross the line in full but was given to Blas Perez.
At that point, one more goal from each would eliminate the USA altogether, but in the live standings, the USA was still in position to go through–temporarily.
That reprieve was short-lived. Honduras tallied again, provisionally bumping the USA down to fourth place.
Clint Dempsey came off the bench again for the USA and nearly delivered the equalizer that would have saved the USA on a pair of occasions. First was off a set piece designed play, with his chance from the top of the box tipped over the bar. In the 78th minute, his 18-yard, bounding effort clanged off the post, missing by inches.
The USA would be made to rue those close calls. Panama’s Roman Torres scored a late stunner vs. Costa Rica to send the USA to fifth and out of the World Cup altogether.
It’s the first World Cup the USA has missed since 1986.
Here are the rosters for both teams:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas),Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
GOALKEEPERS: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Greg Ranjitsingh (Louisville City FC), Glenroy Samuel (Morvant Caledonia United)
DEFENDERS: Daneil Cyrus (Juticalpa), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kareem Moses (North Carolina FC), Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids)
MIDFIELDERS: Neil Benjamin Jr. (W Connection), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar), Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly Harmah), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders), Jared London (Club Sando), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Leston Paul (Pasaquina FC), Kathon St. Hillaire (St. Ann’s Rangers)
FORWARDS: Trevin Caesar (Sacramento Republic), Akeem Roach (Vida), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos)