World Cup hopes end for woe­ful U.S.


West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY RON­ALD BLUM

COUVA, Trinidad — Twen­tyeight years after the United States ended a four-decade World Cup ab­sence with a stun­ning vic­tory at Trinidad, the Amer­i­cans’ chances for the 2018 tour­na­ment in Rus­sia ended on this is­land na­tion off the coast of Venezuela in even more as­ton­ish­ing fash­ion.

Need­ing only a tie and con­fi­dent of vic­tory against the world’s 99th-ranked team, the U.S. was elim­i­nated from World Cup con­tention Tues­day night with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that ended a run of seven straight Amer­i­can ap­pear­ances at soc­cer’s show­case.

“We let down an en­tire na­tion to­day,” said de­fender Omar Gon­za­lez, whose 17th-minute own goal started the col­lapse.

Gon­za­lez ca­su­ally tried to clear Alvin Jones’ cross and sent it loop­ing from 15 yards over the out­stretched right arm of Tim Howard. Jones dou­bled the deal in the 37th minute with a 35-yard


Chris­tian Pulisic, the Americas’ ris­ing 19-yearold star, scored in the 47th minute, giv­ing the U.S. hope.

Clint Dempsey, at 34 try­ing to make it to a fourth World Cup, en­tered at the start of the sec­ond half and was de­nied by goal­keeper Adrian Fon­cette’s leap­ing save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Bobby Wood’s header in the 88th was sent wide by Fon­cette.

Even a de­feat could have earned a berth, but only if Panama and Hon­duras both lost. And if the U.S. and only one of those ri­vals were beaten, the Amer­i­cans would have fin­ished fourth and ad­vanced to a play­off next month against Aus­tralia.

Panama trailed 1-0 to Costa Rica at half­time and Hon­duras was be­hind 2-1 to Mex­ico, but both ral­lied against na­tions that al­ready had clinched berths. Gabriel Tor­res scored for Panama in the 52nd minute on a shot that did not ap­pear to cross the goal line, and Hon­duras went ahead on Guillermo Ochoa’s own goal in the 54th and Romell Quioto’s goal in the 60th.

At that point, the 28th-ranked Amer­i­cans were play­off bound, but Ro­man Tor­res scored in the 88th minute to give Panama a 2-1 win, a third­place fin­ish with 13 points and its first World Cup berth. Hon­duras fin­ished fourth on goal dif­fer­ence and goes to the play­off.

The Amer­i­cans, who would have qual­i­fied with 13 points be­cause of a su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence, in­stead had 12 points and fin­ished fifth in the hexag­o­nal.

“It’s a blem­ish for us,” coach Bruce Arena said. “We should not be stay­ing home for this World Cup and I take the re­spon­si­bil­ity for that.”


United States’ Matt Besler squats on the pitch after los­ing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago on Tues­day.

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