Un­der fire US misses World Cup

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS -

By Ron­ald Blum COUVA, TRINIDAD » Stand­ing in the sta­dium tun­nel near the U.S. locker room af­ter the Col­lapse in Couva, cap­tain Michael Bradley was asked over and over what went wrong.

How had the United States, a re­gional power that had made seven straight World Cup ap­pear­ances, failed to qual­ify for next year’s tour­na­ment?

What led to the Amer­i­cans’ stun­ning, crush­ing, al­most far­ci­cal 2-1 loss to al­ready elim­i­nated Trinidad and Tobago that caused them to tum­ble to fifth in the six-na­tion fi­nal round of the North and Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean re­gion.

A year of de­fen­sive break­downs un­der two coach­ing staffs did in the U.S., which fin­ished with three wins, three losses and four ties.

“We like to hang our hat on the fact that we out­work teams and we press teams,” goal­keeper Tim Howard said. “They won a lot of sec­ond balls tonight and put us un­der pres­sure.”

A re­lent­less work ethic the Amer­i­cans re­lied on for years was ab­sent too of­ten.

“You can’t go and score four, five goals ev­ery game. We have to be able to be hard to play against,” for­ward Jozy Alti­dore said. “We weren’t hard enough to play against too many times on these nights.”

In this cycle, the Amer­i­cans not only lost their first home qual­i­fier since the 2002 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing rounds, they lost two home games in a qual­i­fy­ing cycle for the first time since 1957 — dur­ing their 40-year ab­sence from soc­cer’s top event.

“When you lose the first two games and you drop points on too many days, your mar­gin for er­ror goes away, and so you know you’re at the mercy of a night like this, where ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble goes against you, both here and in the two other games,” Bradley said. “When we start the hex poorly, when we don’t take the points that we should on some other days, then you leave open the chance on the last day this can hap­pen.”

Bradley is 30 and may not play in another World Cup. Howard (38) and Clint Dempsey (34) will never again ap­pear on soc­cer’s big­gest stage.

“If I said dis­ap­point­ment, it would be an un­der­state­ment,” Howard said.

A look at what went wrong in qual­i­fy­ing for the United States:

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