Experts and pundits all over the world believed the USMNT had an easy path to the 2018 World Cup.
They only needed to win against Trinidad & Tobago in the final round of the Hex, and they would be in. It seemed easy, right? After all, T&T were eliminated a while ago from the competition and had nothing but their pride to play for. Unfortunately, the USMNT could not counter that. They lost 1-2 against the SocaWarriors, and that result eliminated them from the race for a World Cup berth.
Of course, that was not the only result they needed to get eliminated. Panama defeated Costa Rica, and Honduras won against Mexico. So the USMNT finished in fifth place with 12 points, behind Panama and Honduras who finished with 13.
Who Should Get The Blame?
There are no second thoughts on this matter. This has to be one of the biggest disasters in the history of the USMNT. But who should take the blame for it?
It would be easy to say Bruce Arena is the biggest responsible for what happened in this game. And while he certainly has a lot of blame because he could not plan the game properly, it would be unfair to put all the blame on his shoulders. Because the team did not lose the chance to qualify in the final game. They lost it sooner, back when Jurgen Klinsmann was at the helm of the National Team.
Klinsmann did not do a good job in the qualifying campaign. He barely made it to the final round and lost to both Mexico and Costa Rica before getting canned on November 21 last year. Those two losses were eventually too much to handle, and the USMNT could never recover.
Arena posted some good numbers with the USMNT in his return. He won 10 games, drew six and only lost two in his 18 matches leading the side. But the two defeats – against Costa Rica and Trinidad Tobago – deemed the future of the team. The USA needed to be perfect in the final matches, and could not respond to the challenge.
The loss against Trinidad Tobago was particularly heart-breaking since the first goal came on an own goal from Omar Gonzalez. And many people want Arena to be fired following this result. Clinching a World Cup berth was essential for him to maintain the job, and could not do it despite the fact he entered the final week of the campaign potentially clinching a direct spot.
What’s Next For The USMNT?
It is tough to say what is going to happen next. But the USMNT needs to re-evaluate what they are going to do moving forward. Several of the team’s most important players such as Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley might be too old for the 2022 World Cup, so there has to be a renewal process in place.
Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, and Kellyn Acosta appear as interesting building blocks going forward. But who should take the starting GK role? Who will replace the scoring provided by players such as Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski? And who will anchor the midfield zone alongside Acosta? There are many questions that need to be answered in the coming months.
The one thing that is clear is that this team needs to go through a rebuilding process. Because the players that gave the fans so many memorable moments eventually could not make it to Russia. And now it’s the perfect time to start over. That’s the only way the team will bounce back quickly.