An unthinkable reality: An English take on the USA’s World Cup failure

The USA aren’t going to the World Cup.

I didn’t think I’d ever have to write that sentence. I can’t believe I’m doing so now.

When the final whistle blew in Trinidad on Tuesday night, it was 3AM here in the UK. I didn’t sit through 90 torturous minutes, as the reality of the USA’s World Cup failure slowly sank in. Instead, I woke up to a melting pot of despair. The USA had lost. Panama and Honduras won.

The United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup isn’t just devastating on a nation level, it’s global. The World Cup will be a worse tournament without the USA. It will be a worse tournament without the likes of Ghana, Chile and the Netherlands too. But the USA’s absence hurts more.

They’ve reached the Round of 16 in back-to-back tournaments. Their passion both on the field and in the stands has been fantastic to see. But most importantly, they’ve been improving.

Soccer is a big deal in the USA now. Sure, it could still get even bigger. But the fact is, people have started to fall in love with the game. The biggest reason for the surge in support is probably because of how well they battled at the 2014 World Cup. They might have gone out to Belgium, but they won a lot of people’s hearts over that day.

But those hearts were all broken with Tuesday’s result in Trinidad.

Embed from Getty ImagesThe USA have been to seven successive World Cup’s. They’ve not missed the tournament since 1986. To put it into perspective, England have missed a World Cup more recently than the USMNT, as the Three Lions failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

There is a real sense of entitlement when it comes to World Cup qualification here in England. Many fans don’t even watch many of the qualifiers. They just expect to see England at the main event. And yes, for the past 20 years, qualifying has been easy for the Three Lions. They’ve only lost four of their last 56 World Cup qualifiers.

That’s as many as the USA lost in this year’s Hexagonal alone.

But qualification for the USA should be a straightforward task too. The quality of teams across the CONCACAF region is improving, but the USA should not be finishing behind the likes of Panama and Honduras. There is no excuse for that, regardless of who is the head coach and who’s in charge of the United States Soccer Federation.

Tuesday night’s defeat to Trinidad will surely go down as the most embarrassing and heartbreaking night in US Soccer history. It sure feels like that now, and I’m sure it will still feel like that for a long time.

Taylor Twellman summed up the emotion of USA fans on ESPN after the game. He was incensed and rightly so.

But this must now act as the catalyst for change for the USA. A lot of fingers are being pointed. There are a lot of places to look for where things have gone wrong over the past couple of years. But there is no greater time to bring about large-scale changes than when staring at a reality like the USA is right now.

A new coach will surely be needed. Some players will have played their last game for the USMNT. Others will now step forward. Changes will be made as to how the USA scouts players, how it develops them. It will take time. But the USA now has time. They will not play a competitive game again now until the 2019 Gold Cup.

I might not be American, but I believe in US Soccer. I believe in MLS. And I believe that the USA’s World Cup failure will be the catalyst for change, the catalyst for a brighter future. Things can only improve from here…

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World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Lithuania

Competition: World Cup 2018 Qualifier – England vs. Lithuania
Venue: Wembley – Sunday, March 26th – 17:00 GMT (13:00 ET
Match Odds: England 1/8 – Draw 7/1 – Lithuania 22/1

Match Preview

England welcome Lithuania to Wembley on Sunday evening in the 5th game of their World Cup Qualifiers. The Group F table is much as you’d expect, with England unbeaten in their previous four outings but there is plenty of work for Gareth Southgates side still to do.

The Three Lions have ten points from their four games and this fixture should be straightforward enough for them. The quality of the England attack should be more than capable of unlocking the Lithuania defence.

England have not lost a home World Cup Qualifier (Europe) since 2000, winning 18 of 20 games and have conceded just eight goals in those games. If those stats are anything to go by England should be comfortably winning to nil.

Lithuania have been no mugs so far in the qualifications rounds and are still in contention to reach the finals. They have five points from four games and trail second place by just three points.

They come into this one having lost 4-0 to Slovakia away from home. If Lithuania want to be challenging until the latter stages of the qualification rounds they will want to put in a respectable performance here so they can go into their next two home games with confidence of picking up positive results.

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Team News

Southgate will more than likely make changes to the England side that lost on Wednesday evening. Gary Cahill is suspended and Chris Smalling has pulled out through injury, Ben Gibson has been called up as his replacement. This may mean Southgate will revert back to four at the back rather than three. John Stones will more than likely start and Michael Keane should keep his place in the starting XI. Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling will be hoping to feature.

The Lithuania squad boast no real household names, so no surprises should be expected from them here. They will work extremely hard to cause England a tricky evening but as huge underdogs you can expect them to lineup with a packed out defence and midfield, possibly in a 4-5-1 or 5-4-1 formation.

Key Points

England’s last five: W/D/W/D/L

Lithuania’s last five: D/D/W/L/L

Key Stat: England remain unbeaten in the qualifying rounds and haven’t conceded.

Key Player: Dele Alli – The Spurs midfielder will be looking to have a huge impact on the game and continue his impressive season. His surging runs with and without the ball will cause Lithuania all sorts of problems this weekend.

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Score Prediction

England 4-0 Lithuania – Gareth Southgate’s side should be looking at a comfortable win here. They’ll be hoping to score early and settle the game down. If England have a healthy lead by half-time then Southgate will give some of the players on the bench some minutes. Lithuania will be resilient in keeping England out but for how long they can manage to do so is questionable.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Guatemala vs USA

Competition: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier – Guatemala vs. USA

Venue: Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala – Friday, March 25 – 22:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Guatemala 17/2 – Draw 100/30 – USA 1/3

Match Preview

Guatemala host the USA in an important World Cup qualifier on Friday night in what will be the first of two games between the nations in five days.

Both sides have played two games so far in Group C of CONCACAF qualifying, with the USA topping the group ahead of Trinidad and Tobago on goal difference. Guatemala sit in third place, but know that picking up at least one good result against the USA over the next week will keep their hopes alive.

Guatemala have never qualified for a World Cup but did reach the Hexagonal stage of qualifying in 2006, where they finished fifth and narrowly missed out the intercontinental playoff spot.

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Los Chapines fell 2-1 to Trinidad before thrashing St Vincent and the Grenadines 4-0 in their first two Group C games. Back-to-back losses to the USA this week will all but end their hopes of qualifying, so Guatemala need to try and make home advantage count on Friday evening.

The US Men’s National Team are entering two important games as the double header against Guatemala will be Jurgen Klinsmann’s last chance to assess his squad ahead of this summer’s Copa America Centenario.

The German head coach has said the USA “badly want to get the job done before the Copa America if possible” and he is targeting six points from the two games against Los Chapines this week.

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An opening 6-1 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines was followed by a 0-0 draw in Trinidad. The USA have only won two of their last eight games away from home and a win on Friday would be a real boost.

Klinsmann has called up an experienced squad for these games. He will expect his side to record two victories as all attentions will turn to this summer’s Copa America as soon as this home-and-home series with Guatemala is over.

These nations have met at this stage of CONCACAF qualifying in each of the past five World Cup cycles. The USA have posted a 7-0-5 record in those qualifiers but have only won one of the five games in Guatemala (W1 D4).

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Team News

Jurgen Klinsmann has called up 26 players for the upcoming home-and-home series with Guatemala over the next five days, with 13 MLS stars in the latest squad. There are eight players looking to appear in their first World Cup qualifying matches, while 15 members of the squad travelled to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Bobby Wood will be one to watch as the Union Berlin forward will hope to continue to shine if given the chance to in attack.

Guatemala have called up 24 players for the two qualifying games against USA, with six attackers named to the roster. MLS fans will be familiar with Colorado Rapids midfielder Marco Pappa as well as Carlos Ruiz, who played for five MLS clubs between 2002 and 2013. Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas) and Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew) have also made the squad and will hope to impress.

Key Points

Guatemala’s last five: D/L/W/W/W

USA’s last five: L/W/D/W/W

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 21 consecutive matches against Guatemala – their longest current unbeaten run against any other international side.

Key Player: Marco Pappa – Americans will be familiar with Guatemala’s Marco Pappa. The midfielder in currently in his seventh MLS season after joining the Colorado Rapids this offseason. He is nearing full fitness now and will need to be at his best to break down the USMNT defence and give Guatemala a chance of winning this game.

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Score Prediction

Guatemala 1-1 USA – Clashes between these two in Guatemala have proven to be low-scoring affairs in recent history and a close-fought battle is expected here. The USA are favourites and have a much stronger squad. But Guatemala will be tough to break down and could pick up another home draw in what is an important qualifier for both nations.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Trinidad & Tobago vs USA

Competition: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier – Trinidad and Tobago vs. USA

Venue: Hasely Crawford Stadium – Tuesday, November 17 – 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT) 

Match Odds: Trinidad 5/2 – Draw 11/5 – USA 19/20

Match Preview

Trinidad & Tobago host the USA in a key World Cup Qualifying clash in Group C on Tuesday night, with both sides looking to build on perfect starts to the campaign.

Trinidad managed to record a solid 2-1 victory over Guatemala on Friday night and know that a home win against the US here will put them in a great position early in the qualifying process.

The US Men’s National Team travel to the Caribbean in good shape as they survived a very early scare against St Vincent and The Grenadines to come back and win 6-1 on Friday evening.

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That result was always expected, though, and the first real test lies in store here. Klinsmann knows his players must perform to their best if they’re to beat this Trinidad side, especially after what has been a solid few months for The Soca Warriors.

Trinidad beat Mexico to top spot in Group A of the Gold Cup in the summer before losing on penalties to Panama in the quarter-finals and have not lost a game in 90 minutes in any of their last eight.

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USA on the other hand have only won two of their last seven and need to start putting a string of victories together now to rebuild confidence in the camp.

This will be the first meeting between the two side since a World Cup qualifying clash in 2009. USA won that game 1-0 at Hasely Crawford Stadium and will expect a similar result this time around too.

Team News

Trinidad & Tobago head coach Stephen Hart is unlikely to make too many changes, if any, to the side that won in Guatemala on Friday. MLS fans will be familiar with some of the names in the Trinidad side as Joevin Jones, Daneil Cyrus (both Chicago Fire) are set to start, while Kevan George (Columbus Crew) and Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes) will likely appear from the bench. Cardiff City striker Kenwyne Jones will spearhead the attack.

Jurgen Klinsmann has already revealed that Tim Howard, who is now fully focused after an international sabbatical, will start in goal for just the second time since the 2014 World Cup. There are unlikely to be too many changes as Klinsmann will want to start finding a consistent lineup but Fabian Johnson might be pushed back to his usual left-back berth, allowing Darlington Nagbe to start on the left side of midfield.

Key Points

Trinidad & Tobago’s last five: D/D/W/D/W

USA’s last five: W/L/L/L/W

Key Stat: USA have won 11 of the last 13 meetings with Trinidad (D1 L1) over the past 21 years and historically tend to dominate Tuesday’s opponents.

Key Player: Jozy Altidore – The powerful Toronto forward scored twice and picked up an assist in Friday’s 6-1 win over St Vincent and he will want to push on with further goal contributions here.

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Score Prediction

Trinidad & Tobago 1-2 USA – Expect this to be a close battle between two of CONCACAF’s better sides. The USA know this will be a stern test but they should have enough to seal a narrow victory and take control of Group C.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: USA vs St Vincent & The Grenadines

Competition: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier – USA vs. St Vincent & The Grenadines

Venue:Busch Stadium, St Louis – Friday, November 13 – 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT)

Match Odds: USA 1/250 – Draw 14/1 – St Vincent 33/1

Match Preview

The US Men’s National Team get their 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign underway on Friday night with a home clash against one of CONCACAF’s smallest nations in St Vincent & The Grenadines at Busch Stadium in St Louis.

The two nations have never met before but the USA are overwhelming favourites to seal a comfortable victory against the nation with a population of just over 100,000 people.

Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking forward to starting the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying campaign after a poor summer that saw the team underperform in the Gold Cup before losing the CONCACAF Confederations Cup playoff to Mexico in October.

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The USA have now only won one of their last six games, suffering five defeats in that time, and know they need to pick back up again.

The visit of St Vincent will be an intriguing one as so little is know about them. They beat Aruba 3-2 on aggregate in the playoff game to get to this stage of qualifying but are not expected to trouble the USMNT on Friday.

Klinsmann has labelled St Vincent as “tricky opponents” because he is so unfamiliar with how they play and who their main talents are.

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One man to watch is Oalex Anderson, who scored in their first-leg playoff win over Aruba in September. He plies his trade with USL team Seattle Sounders 2 and has scored nine goals since making his international debut just over a year ago.

But USA supporters will be mainly focusing on how the two newest members of Klinsmann’s team fare. MLS duo Darlington Nagbe and Matt Miazga are both attending their first USMNT camp and will hope to impress in a squad filled with young talent as Klinsmann looks to the future.

Key Points

USA’s last five: D/W/L/L/L

St Vincent & The Grenadines last five: D/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: USA have not lost a World Cup qualifying match on home soil since a 3-2 defeat to Honduras in 2001.

Key Player: Darlington Nagbe – The Portland Timbers playmaker will be desperate to impress head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on his USMNT debut. He’s unlikely to play 90 minutes but will look to make the difference nonetheless.

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Score Prediction

USA 3-0 St Vincent & The Grenadines – This should be a routine victory for the USA as they look to start their World Cup qualifying campaign in the right way. It was a turbulent summer for Klinsmann and his team. Although a comfortable win against one of CONCACAF’s smallest sides won’t answer many questions, it will give the home fans want they want to see.

Chelsea and Arsenal stars want Kaka to join but Orlando is his home

Brazilian star Kaka has only played three games for MLS Expansion Franchise Orlando City SC but admits that his Premier League pals would love him to play in England.

However, the 32-year-old playmaker is the highest-paid player in MLS and is loving his time in Orlando – his new home, and has no plans to move on anytime soon.

Kaka is good friends with Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil as well as Chelsea‘s Brazilian trio of Felipe Luis, Oscar and Willian and has revealed that they would all love to play with him in the Premier League.

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“They joke with me saying, ‘Come and play for Chelsea or Arsenal’ but I am so happy here in Orlando,” Kaka said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Kaka has a three-year contract with Orlando City and has no plans to leave his new team. However, he did have some high praise for Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, whom he worked under at Real Madrid.

“His ambition for victory sets Mourinho apart. He wants to win every game, so he prepares all the smallest details; in training, at the game, everything. I loved to work with him.

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“He tries everything to extract the best from the players, to push them. This is what he can do better than anyone else.

“I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Mourinho, he is one of the best coaches in the world.”

Kaka was the world’s greatest player back in 2007 as he beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or – the award that Messi and Ronaldo have dominated since, and the Orlando City captain takes great pride from his triumph over two of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

“I won the Ballon d’Or and World Player of Year against Cristiano and Messi,” he said. “They win it every year now, but I could beat them back then. For me that’s important because I had the best opponents. I’m proud when I see that.”

Kaka’s illustrious career is something few will forget and just because he has made the move to Major League Soccer doesn’t mean he’s taken his foot off the pedal.

It’s quite the opposite in fact. Kaka scored the Lions’ first-ever MLS goal in the 1-1 draw against New York City FC at the start of the month and wants to win trophies with Orlando City.

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At the same time, he has his eyes on the 2018 World Cup in Russia and won’t rule out taking part in the tournament he won with Brazil in 2002 once again.

“It is in three-and-a-half years and if Dunga needs me I’ll be ready to play in the national team. It is a real motivation for me.”

Would Kaka still be able to shine in the Premier League? Should he end his career in MLS with Orlando?