This past Tuesday, the United States Mens Soccer team traveled to Ato Boldon Stadium to take on the small country of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) with its World Cup hopes on the line. Coming off a sensational victory against Panama, all it had to do was beat a country smaller than the state of New Jersey. There was no way manager Bruce Arena and the team could mess this one up—but sure enough, they did.
In the 17th minute, centerback Omar Gonzalez redirected an incoming cross right over the head of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, giving T&T the 1-0 lead. At that point, a few people grew nervous—the U.S. has shot itself in the foot before by losing crucial games—but there was still plenty of time in the game. 20 minutes later, T&T would score a phenomenal goal from 30 yards out, putting itself up 2-0 before the half. By then, everyone at home was thoroughly and utterly disappointed in the play of the U.S. team. With five very skilled, English Premier League-level players on the team, how could it possibly be losing to a team ranked last in the Hexagonal group with a negative 16 goal differential?
In the second half, the U.S. came out firing, scoring in the first two minutes off a brilliant play from 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. The next 48 minutes, however, were brimmed with frustration, agony, and tears. The United States, with its loss to Trinidad and Tobago, was eliminated from qualifying for the upcoming 2018 World Cup.
President of the U.S. Soccer Federation Sunil Gulati called the team’s qualifying campaign a “huge disappointment.” That is an understatement. Hopefully this devastating event will open the eyes of the people in charge of U.S. soccer and force them to realize that something in the team needs to change.
Potential solutions to U.S. Mens Soccer’s talent drain include youth development and better coaching. In more competitive countries, academies and youth programs invest in younger talent to develop them to the next level, whereas in America, kids have to pay to play, eliminating talented young players who simply cannot make the financial commitment. Another deeply-rooted national issue is the quality of coaching. It is hard to find a really good coach nowadays, and frankly, there just aren’t enough of them in the U.S. to teach the young stars how to improve.
Come World Cup time, Head Coach Bruce Arena, Sunil Gulati, and Captain Michael Bradley should take notes on what real soccer looks like. But I guess there’s always the next four years. See you in Qatar?