The United States Men’s Soccer Team will not fly to Russia next summer for the World Cup, after a painful loss against Trinidad and Tobago.
“It’s disappointing,” Bruce Arena, former U.S. Men’s National Team coach, who resigned after the elimination, said in a post-game press conference. “We should not be staying home for this world cup. I take the responsibility for that.”
This is the first time since 1986 that the USMNT stays out of a World Cup competition. Going into their final game, the national team only had to win or tie against the worst team in the competition, Trinidad and Tobago, in order to ensure their classification to the World Cup.
Still, in what seemed to be an impossible turn of events, Mexico and Costa Rica, both teams already qualified when they played their last game, lost their games against Honduras and Panama, respectively.
The USMNT lost 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago. A result that combined with the victories of Honduras, 3-2 against Mexico, and Panama, 2-1 against Costa Rica, left the U.S. out of Russia.
Panama assured their ticket to their first World Cup ever, while Honduras kept their hopes of attending their third consecutive World Cup alive by gaining a spot in a playoff round against Australia that will also be held in Russia.
In the meantime, USMNT soccer fans and players are still trying to find an explanation to what happened in the game against Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is not a whole lot to say, you know. On nights like this, when things go wrong you have no choice but to stand and face the music,” Michael Bradley, midfielder for the USMNT, said.
“Our path for qualification was sure,” Garrit Headley, John Brown University finance major and USMNT fan, said. “All we had to do was beat Trinidad and Tobago and we were in. . .to this day I don’t know what happened that night.”
“I think that one of the things that disappointed U.S. fans the most was the lack of passion, the lack of desire in that game,” Brenton Benware, head coach for JBU’s men’s soccer team, said. “At Trinidad and Tobago, the game that knocked us out, we were playing a lot of youth, people that weren’t even in the highest level. It just seemed like a lot lesser, halfhearted effort and I think they were called out.”
Both Benware and Headley see potential for development in the USMNT setback.
“This is a wakeup call. Most people are disappointed with the way that this has played out, particularly because we fell that we should be at a place where we’ve developed, where we’ve grown and we are not used to missing the World Cup.” Benware said. He said he belives this loss could be the “the best thing that ever happened to U.S. soccer”, because it gives the team a chance to pursue a process and start “building from the ground up.”
Headley agreed and suggested this could represent a chance to develop new talent for the next World Cup to be held in Qatar in 2022.
“I don’t think everything is lost,” Headley said. “We can use this as a time to regroup and focus on 2022 and work on developing young talent like Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin.”
Still, Headley said the elimination might harm the growth of soccer in the U.S.
“It’s really sad, ultimately is that it really hurts the growth of soccer in the U.S. because the World Cup is one of the main highlights for soccer in the United States,” Headley said. “People that want soccer to develop in the United States are heartbroken know because they know that now that the United States is not in the World Cup that interest that a lot of the people in the United States had is not going to be there.”
Benware said his excitement for the World Cup will not decline. Even though his favorite teams, the U.S. and the Netherlands are eliminated, he will be watching and enjoying the greatest sports event in the world.
“I might be cheering for Iceland and Brazil,” Benware said.
After Bruce Arena’s resignation, Dave Sarachan took over the team as the interim head coach of the national team. The USMNT will play again on Nov. 14 on a friendly match against Portugal.