Stunning loss to Trinidad leaves US out of World Cup
The longest, most arduous journey for a US national soccer team in a generation was stopped just short of the finish line Tuesday night, with Trinidad and Tobago dealing the Americans a crushing 2-1 upset just minutes before both Panama and Honduras won their final qualifiers.
The US started the day needing only a draw to reach its eighth consecutive World Cup. Instead, the three results combined to drop the Americans to fifth in the six-team CONCACAF tournament, ahead of only Trinidad.
“I never thought I’d see this day,” said Omar Gonzalez, who hadn’t been born the last time the US missed soccer’s biggest event.
“It’s the worst day of my career,” continued the former Los Angeles Galaxy defender, whose first-half own-goal was the difference between the US going on or going home. “I don’t even know how to put into words what I’m feeling. We let down an entire nation today.”
Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama advanced directly to next summer’s tournament – Panama with a controversial 2-1 win over Costa Rica – while Honduras, with a 3-2 victory over Mexico, qualified for a two-leg intercontinental playoff with Australia next month with an additional berth on the line.
The US, meanwhile, ends its qualifying campaign one point shy of the World Cup.
“We had everything there for us today,” coach Bruce Arena said. “No excuses. We should not be staying home from this World Cup. And I take the responsibility for this.”
Arena was hired last November, after the US opened qualifying with consecutive losses under Jurgen Klinsmann. That left the new coach with eight games to rescue the program and though he lost just two of his 18 games in charge, both came in World Cup qualifiers _ at home to Costa Rica last month and Tuesday in Trinidad. “We didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Arena said. “That was the job, to get us to qualify for the World Cup. We failed.”
The last time the US went to the final day of qualifying with its World Cup status uncertain was 1989, and that game was also played in Trinidad. That one ended more happily for the Americans, though, with Paul Caligiuri’s first-half goal before a packed house in Trinidad’s national stadium climaxing a Cinderella run that took the Americans to their first World Cup in 40 years.
Until Tuesday, they hadn’t missed the tournament since.
“We weren’t good enough,” forward Jozy Altidore said. “We dug ourselves a big hole. We just weren’t able to deal with Trinidad attacking-wise.
“We have nobody else to blame but ourselves.”
WITH ARGENTINA facing the dire possibility of missing out on a World Cup for the first time since 1970, its brilliant captain Lionel Messi (center) delivered when it matter most with three goals in a 3-1 win over Ecuador on Tuesday night to help his country book its place at next year’s tournament in Russia.