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…

Advertisements

World Cup Qualifying Preview and Prediction: USA vs Costa Rica

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier (CONCACAF): USA vs Costa Rica

Red Bull Arena – Friday, September 1 – 18:55 ET (23:55 BST)

Match Odds: USA 7/10 – Draw 23/10 – Costa Rica 4/1

USA vs Costa Rica: Preview

The USA (2-2-2) host Costa Rica (3-1-2) in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena on Friday night. The United States have not lost a game since Bruce Arena took over as head coach from Jurgen Klinsmann. But the USA’s last defeat did come in their 4-0 qualifying loss at Costa Rica last December.

That heavy defeat left the USA bottom of the Hexagonal after back-to-back defeats. Klinsmann’s time was up and Arena was brought back in. Things have improved dramatically since.

The USMNT now sit third in the Hex, three points behind Costa Rica with four games to go. If they can win here, they will move ahead of Los Ticos on goal difference.

Recent form suggests the USA should prove too strong. They are unbeaten in 14 under Arena and have won five-straight games. They beat Costa Rica 2-0 on their way to winning the 2017 Gold Cup Final against Jamaica last month and are on a roll.

Costa Rica haven’t played since that semifinal loss to the United States at last month’s Gold Cup. They started the Hex in blistering form, scoring six goals in two games without conceding. But they have since won just one of their four qualifiers.

Embed from Getty Images

They still have a squad strong enough to win any game in qualifying, but they must get back to where they were at this stage last year. They went unbeaten from June to January last year, posting a 7-0-3 record in that run.

The USA haven’t lost a home World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica since 1985. They have won six of their last eight home games against Los Ticos since that loss 32 years ago.

USA vs Costa Rica: Team News

USA head coach Bruce Arena hasn’t included any surprise call-ups in his squad for the upcoming qualifiers. 18 of the 26 players play in MLS and are in optimum shape at this stage of the regular season. While stars from European clubs such as Christian Pulisic, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson will all expect to start. Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore will all pick up a suspension if they receive yellow cards on Friday night.

Costa Rica will have to cope without star winger Joel Campbell. He is recovering from knee surgery and is ruled out for some time. Los Ticos do still have top talent to call on though, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas the standout name in the roster. Seven MLS players are included in the Costa Rica squad, including Vancouver duo Kendall Waston and Cristian Bolanos as well as Portland’s David Guzman and NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcos Urena might start up front.

USA vs Costa Rica: Key Points

USA’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Costa Rica’s last five: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 14 games since Bruce Arena took over from Jurgen Klinsmann last December. They’ve gone 9-0-5 under Arena in 2017.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The USA veteran needs one more goal to become the USMNT’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is currently tied with Landon Donovan on 57 and will break the record if he finds the back of the net here. He has four in his last seven internationals and comes into Friday’s game in good form with the Sounders. He’s also the leading scorer in the Hex coming into Friday’s fixtures.

Embed from Getty Images

USA vs Costa Rica: Prediction

USA 2-0 Costa Rica – The USA have won their last two home qualifiers without conceding a goal. That shouldn’t change on Friday as they arrive in high spirits with an experienced squad of stars. Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign is almost the complete opposite of the United States’. They started well but now look vulnerable and a resurgent USMNT should get the job done at Red Bull Arena on Friday.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Panama vs USA

Competition: 2018 World Cup Qualifier – Panama vs. USA
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernández – Tuesday, March 28 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Panama 12/5 – Draw 11/5 – USA 21/20

Match Preview

Panama host the USA in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, with just one place and one point separating the sides going into the fourth round of fixtures in a fiercely competitive Hexagonal.

Panama are one of CONCACAF’s toughest sides to break down. They lost 1-0 to Trinidad on Friday night, with Kevin Molino’s goal the only strike they have conceded in three qualifiers so far.

They opened the Hex with a 1-0 win at Honduras and followed it up by holding Mexico to a 0-0 draw at home. Panama have never qualified for a World Cup but sit just three points off Mexico going into Tuesday’s games and know that they will remain on track if they can avoid defeat against the USA.

Embed from Getty Images

That will be no easy task, given how the US men’s national team dismantled Honduras at Avaya Stadium on Friday night. The manner of the 6-0 win in Bruce Arena’s first competitive game since taking over as head coach once again in November was unexpected but incredibly impressive.

Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey tore the Honduran defence apart, while Michael Bradley thrived in the lone defensive-midfield role, even grabbing a goal himself as the USA sent out a statement of intent to their CONCACAF rivals.

Embed from Getty Images

Few changes are expected for Tuesday’s trip to Panama City and the aim will be for the US to try and score early to force the hosts to come forward. Their approach worked perfectly against Honduras and will surely be adopted once again here.

The challenge will now be to follow that result up with another strong performance as they look to move into the top three of the Hex. Tuesday’s game will be the last qualifier until June so Arena knows the team must leave Panama with at least a point.

The USA have never lost a World Cup qualifier to Panama but have not beaten them in their last two meetings, both coming in the 2015 Gold Cup with the Panamanians beating the USMNT on penalties in the 3rd place playoff.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

MLS fans will be familiar with a number of faces in the Panama lineup on Tuesday. Former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo will be looking to keep the US out, helped by Seattle’s stalwart Roman Torres. Toronto’s Armando Cooper will likely play alongside San Jose’s Anibal Godoy in midfield, with former Quakes teammate Alberto Quintero looking to cause trouble from out wide. Former MLS strikers Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres will be looking to make an impact, but it will likely have to come from the bench.

Bruce Arena will have to change his starting lineup as Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks are both at home dealing with injuries picked up on Friday. Jordan Morris has left the squad as his ankle problem means he can’t take to the field, so he’s returned to Seattle for treatment. Alejandro Bedoya is likely to come into the starting lineup in place of Lletget, while Jermaine Jones is available again after serving his suspension and might get a start. 

Key Points

Panama’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

USA’s last five: L/L/D/W/W

Key Stat: Panama have gone nine games without conceding more than a single goal in a match. They have only let in four goals in those nine games.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – Fresh from scoring a hat-trick in Friday’s 6-0 demolition over Honduras, Dempsey will be looking to fire the USA to a second consecutive win in an equally important game. He has found the net in two of the last three meetings with Panama and will expect to cause their solid defence some serious problems on Tuesday.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Panama 1-1 USA – This looks set to be a much trickier contest than Friday night’s for the USMNT but they will not expect to leave Panama with anything less than a point. They have the quality to beat Panama but have been tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes the last two times they have faced them and might just have to settle for the same result here in what is a vital game for both sides.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: USA vs Honduras

Competition: Major League Soccer – USA vs. Honduras
Venue: Avaya Stadium – Friday, March 24th – 22:30 ET (02:30 GMT
Match Odds: USA 4/9 – Draw 14/5 – Honduras 13/2

Match Preview

The USA’s World Cup hopes are hanging precariously in the balance ahead of a huge qualifier against Honduras on Friday night at San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium in California, with Bruce Arena taking charge of his first competitive game since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach.

Klinsmann’s final game in charge came in the US national team’s most recent qualification game – a devastating 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, leaving them bottom of the Hexagonal after two matches. A loss to Honduras on Friday would make it almost impossible for the USA to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in just over a year.

No team has ever qualified for the game’s biggest tournament after picking up just one point from their opening three Hexagonal matches, so not only do the US need to avoid defeat, they need to take the game to Honduras and breakdown what is expected to be a stern defensive setup.

Embed from Getty Images

Los Catrachos sit fourth in the Hex after winning one and losing one so far. They opened with a surprise 1-0 home loss to Panama but picked up in their second game to beat Trinidad & Tobago 3-1.

They will be looking to follow that result up with at least another point in their first road game here. If they can avoid defeat to the US on Friday, the Hondurans will no doubt be feeling a lot more confident about their chances of playing in Russia next summer.

They have some dangerous attacking assets that MLS fans – and Houston Dynamo supporters in particular – will be familiar with already this season. Romell Quioto, Boniek Garcia and Alberth Elis can all create chances out of nothing and will be looking to hit an injury-stricken USA backline on the counter wherever possible.

Embed from Getty Images

Bruce Arena has been dealt a few major injury blows in the lead up to this pivotal game, with Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson all sidelined. All three would have been expected to start and so adjustments will have to be made.

Add in the fact that Jermaine Jones is suspended and Jordan Morris is struggling with an ankle injury picked up in last Sunday’s win over the Red Bulls and it’s easy to start questioning the team’s chances of getting three points on the board.

That said, the US have more than enough depth to cover for the losses and have no fewer than 19 MLS players in the squad. All of them should be fresh as we’re only three weeks into the regular season and that could prove to be a major boost on the night. 

Christian Pulisic is also set to start his third-straight qualifier and the 18-year-old Dortmund star comes into the game high in confidence after starring in the Bundesliga and Champions League in recent weeks.

Victory is expected. A draw would leave the USMNT with an enormous task on their hands. But defeat would surely spell catastrophe for the nation’s hopes of qualifying. It’s an enormous game and one the hosts have to deliver in.

Team News

As mentioned above, Arena has been hit with a number of injuries to key players based in Europe. Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are all out. Jordan Morris is a doubt, but could make an impact off the bench, while Jermaine Jones is suspended. Jozy Altidore looks certain to lead the attack, with Clint Dempsey in line for a return the starting lineup after recovering from his irregular heartbeat problem that ruled him out of action for the backend of 2016. It’s unclear how the defence will lineup but it’s likely we’ll see Geoff Cameron fill in at right-back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez pairing up in the centre of defence and Jorge Villafaña operating down the left side.

Honduras will look to their MLS-based stars to shine brightly at Avaya Stadium on Friday. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis offer devastating pace, while Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza provide them with experienced defensive cover, and that will surely be needed as the USA have to take the game to the visitors.

Key Points

USA’s last five: D/L/L/D/W

Honduras’s last five: D/W/L/L/W

Key Stat: The USMNT have only lost one of their last 31 World Cup qualifiers on home soil, although that did come in their latest home game against Mexico back in November.

Key Player: Christian Pulisic – The Dortmund winger has been in excellent form over the last few weeks, scoring three times in five games in March. He is young enough to be able to handle the volume of games but will be tested with handling intense pressure in a huge game for his country on Friday night. He might only be 18, but Pulisic has already proven he is a special talent and will look to shine here.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

USA 2-1 Honduras – This is likely to be an extremely nervy evening for USA supporters but one that should end in an all-important victory given the quality of the team. There are some key absentees but Bruce Arena has enough tools at his disposal to get the job done. Honduras will be a real threat on the counter but ultimately the hosts should pull through.

Getting Stuck In: The Great American Hype Machine

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into The Great American Hype Machine as the nation waits for a world class player to emerge…

I was used to waiting. It’s part of the deal when you interview celebrities. This time, in 2004,  I was waiting to interview a soccer prodigy.  He was supposed to call at 10am. It reached 1pm. I called the Nike representative that set up the interview and asked if she could call him. She rang back an hour later and said he would be calling me in ten minutes. Two more hours went by. I called the Nike rep back again. She apologized and said he was busy playing an intense game of FIFA with friends during some downtime. He finally called at 5pm and didn’t even apologize for making a grown man wait.

You see, Freddy Adu has been making everyone wait his entire professional career. He has shown glimpses of magic with US youth teams but he has been an utter dud everywhere else he has gone. He has played for 13 teams in eight countries over a 12-year career so far. But is it all his fault? He has to take some of the blame for sinking faster than the Titanic. Some say bad attitude, bad practice habits, laziness, no commitment to defence are among some of his problems. My buddy Eric and I theorize about why he continues to move from club-to club and we just assume that he does something behind the scenes to piss off his managers. Some would just say he sucks. But some blame the ‘Great American Hype Machine’.

Embed from Getty Images

Yes, we Americans are guilty of cranking up the Hype Machine to epic levels. We are always waiting for our Messi, our Ronaldo, our Pele – but we just get Adu. When Adu signed a pro contract with MLS side DC United at the age of 14 (debatable), we were all swept up in the Hype Machine with no idea he would be spat out 12 years later. Before he ever kicked a ball professionally, Nike gave him huge money and soft drink company Sierra Mist created a cool ad that debuted during Adu’s first pro game. It featured him with Pele on a soccer field competing for the last bottle of Sierra Mist. The ad sprouted from the American soccer intelligentsia saying Freddy Adu was the “next Pele” (Hype Machine at its worst). Even Pele bought in: “His left foot is fantastic. It’s like Mozart. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer. If he is prepared mentally and physically, nobody will stop him.” Pele may have been an all-time soccer talent, but he’s not an all-time talent evaluator.

Embed from Getty Images

Adu is only 26 (debatable) and mentally and physically he seems shot. Many think his career has finally come to an end because he now plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, a division below MLS. He shows glimpses of being a decent player but when I found this headline the other day I wondered if Freddy was doing ok: “Freddie Adu has gone from ‘next Pele’ to vacuum cleaner salesman on Twitter”.

This brings us to the next great product of the Great American Hype Machine: Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. There is surely no way this kid will be the next Adu, right? Yes, the Machine has churned out hope-to-nope players like Julian Green and Juan Agudelo, and may take down Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, but I think (and I hope) Pulisic is different. Here’s a few reasons why:

Embed from Getty Images
  • He is 17 (not 14) and is being groomed with smarts by one of the best clubs for developing talent in Europe.
  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp loved him when he was Dortmund’s manager and saw him excel with their youth academy and destroy fools with the US U17 squad (20 goals in 34 appearances).
  • He is humble, respectful, hard working and technically sound (rare for an American player).
  • He is strong for his size, doesn’t back down from anyone (see his work against some of the strongest players in Germany).
  • He feels American. With all due respect to Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and the other German-Americans on the US squad, he is from Hershey, Pennsylvania so he feels authentic.
Embed from Getty Images

When Pulisic became the youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga this past spring, I went bonkers. It convinced me that he was for real. No fugazi. Legit. Not just a good American player but considered a great European prospect. I mean, when a headline like this appears in the Daily Mail, I believe the hype: “Liverpool face competition from Real Madrid and Manchester City in pursuit of Borussia Dortmund whizzkid Christian Pulisic.”

Are you kidding me? Pulisic wearing the kit of my beloved Liverpool? An American, dancing around the midfield to You’ll Never Walk Alone on one of those special European nights at Anfield? I just hope the Hype Machine leaves him alone. Because if he does come down with a bad case of Adu-itis, I don’t know how much more waiting I can take.

Copa America Preview and Prediction: USA vs Colombia

Competition: Copa America Centenario – USA vs. Colombia 

Venue: Levi’s Stadium, California – Saturday, June 4 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: USA 13/8 – Draw 11/5 – Colombia 7/4

Match Preview

USA and Colombia kickstart the 2016 Copa America Centenario on Saturday night as they face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in the tournament’s opening game.

Both sides will have high hopes for this tournament. Colombia will look to continue to impress at international level, while the US Men’s National Team need to repay the passionate support of their fans with strong performances on home soil.

USA come into the game off the back of four-straight wins and it’s important they perform well in this tournament as the nation is desperate to see the national team continue to develop ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Embed from Getty Images

The big stage has always been the place to show off talent and how progression is going. Jurgen Klinsmann knows that and with USA hosting the tournament, the weight of expectation on a good group of players has been intensified.

A below-par showing may mean that there is time for a change at the helm and so a good start to the Copa America is needed.

Colombia stunned the footballing world with their displays at the World Cup two years ago. The rise of their captain, James Rodriguez was perhaps the most remarkable feat from that tournament and he was rewarded by earning a big-money move to Real Madrid.

Embed from Getty Images

They come into this tournament off the back of three consecutive wins, ending a poor run which saw them win just one of seven prior to their recent turnaround.

Manager Jose Pekerman knows what his side are capable of. They struggled at last year’s Copa America in Chile, winning one game and scoring just one goal in four games before being eliminated on penalties by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

But they enter this tournament as one of the more favoured sides and will need to show the form they did two years ago in Brazil if they are to succeed.

Embed from Getty Images

Colombia are missing notable strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez from their squad, so they may be slightly short up front but they still have quality all over the pitch and are rightly favourites on paper.

This will be the 18th all-time meeting between the two nations. Colombia hold the advantage based on history, winning 11 of the previous clashes. USA have only won three games against the South American side, the most recent of which came in a friendly in 2005.

Team News

USA look set to go with a 4-3-3 setup as they have done successfully in recent friendly games. Clint Dempsey will spearhead the attack, with fellow MLS stars Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi fighting for spots out wide along with Bobby Wood. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya look the most likely starters in midfield, though Kyle Beckerman may be considered due to his more defensive capabilities. Tim Howard is expected to start in goal.

Embed from Getty Images

Colombia have tried various formations in recent friendlies but are likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Carlos Bacca leading the attack. James Rodriguez will sit in behind him, with Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardona likely to play out wide. Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will start in goal.

Key Points

USA’s last five internationals: L/W/W/W/W

Colombia’s last five internationals: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Colombia are undefeated in the last three matches between the two sides (W2 D1), conceding just one goal in that time.

Key Player: James Rodriguez – James was, in many people’s eyes, the best player at the 2014 World Cup. He has struggled at club level with Real Madrid this season but returning to his key role for his home nation could spell trouble for the USMNT. His vision, as well as the ability to pull off the spectacular at any moment, makes him almost impossible to stop when on form.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

USA 1-2 Colombia – Opening games always provide excitement and USA will have the benefit of the home crowd in Santa Clara on Saturday. However, Colombia have key players in key areas which should see them edge this one by a single goal. Both will expect to trouble each other’s defences but ultimately, the Colombians have a stronger attacking force and that is likely to show.

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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).

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

From MLS to Premier League, and back again – has Tim Howard still got what it takes?

USA international goalkeeper Tim Howard looks set to join MLS side Colorado Rapids from Everton, according to reports by ESPN FC.

First appearing in MLS in 1998 for MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), Howard then moved to Manchester United in 2003, before signing for Everton in 2007 after a year-long loan spell.

After 13 years of service in the Premier League, he’s finally returning home to the USA for a transfer fee believed to be in the region of $600-750k.

Howard will reportedly sign a contract with the Rapids until 2019, which will see him earn around $2 million per-year.

Embed from Getty Images

It comes after initial reports had indicated that he was after a deal that would have seen him receive an annual salary of $5m.

Either way, he’s about to become the highest-paid goalkeeper in MLS, but the question is, is he really worth it?

Here’s a look at his Premier League stats over the last four seasons:

Tim Howard's Premier League stats since 2012 (via Squawka)

Tim Howard’s Premier League stats since 2012 (via Squawka)

Despite enduring one of his more uncomfortable seasons between the sticks for Everton so far, including losing his place in the side to Joel Robles, Howard has maintained a fairly consistent level of performance.

A closer look at the stats shows that he’s actually performed better in some areas this season than he did in the last campaign, with a higher clean sheet percentage and more saves-per-goal, although he has conceded more goals-per-game.

The 2013/14 season was particularly outstanding, but if you compare this year to 2012/13, his numbers are very similar, so he hasn’t gone downhill over the course of time.

The 36-year-old has been a stalwart for both club and country over the years, making more than 400 appearances for Everton and gaining 106 caps for the US national side, including being part of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads.

Embed from Getty Images

He also made 77 appearances for Manchester United, winning the FA Cup and League Cup during his three-year tenure with the Red Devils.

Verdict: Tim Howard will be an excellent signing for the Colorado Rapids and provides stability, experience and most importantly, top quality goalkeeping. He’s bound to be a hit in MLS and could provide the Rapids with performances that make the difference between winning and losing games.

Howard’s transfer from Everton to Colorado Rapids is expected to go through when the MLS summer transfer window opens in July, meaning he will remain with the Toffees until the end of the Premier League season.

Will Tim Howard be a good signing for Colorado Rapids?

Stats: Could this USMNT star help keep Sunderland in the Premier League?

USA international DeAndre Yedlin started a Premier League game for the first time since early December as he helped Sunderland beat Manchester United 2-1 in their last outing on February 13.

The right-back was struggling to work his way back into the side after being dragged off after just 19 minutes of the 1-0 home defeat against Watford on December 12, but Yedlin hasn’t been fazed and hopes to retain his starting berth.

“Being a young player, it’s something I have to overcome because things like that are going to happen,” he told the BBC.

“I’ve tried to work as hard as I can and get back into the team. That’s happened and hopefully I can keep my spot. You’re going to have highs and lows, but it’s how you get through the lows.”

Embed from Getty Images

The 22 year old left MLS side Seattle Sounders for Premier League club Tottenham in January 2015, where he made just one appearance before being sent on-loan to Sunderland in September 2015.

He’s since battled for a place in the side with English teammate, Billy Jones, and here is how the two have compared statistically for Sunderland in the Premier League this season.

Stats comparison: DeAndre Yedlin vs Billy Jones

Stats comparison: DeAndre Yedlin vs Billy Jones (PL 2015/16)

The numbers show that the Black Cats have a higher win percentage, as well as a lower loss percentage when Yedlin starts instead of Jones, and consequently they pick up more points-per-game with the American in the side.

Despite a respectable campaign with Sunderland so far, Yedlin may have a job on his hands if he maintains hopes of one day becoming the first-choice right-back at his parent club Spurs.

Current Tottenham right-back’s, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, have both slightly outperformed their younger counterpart this season, as you can see from the table below.

Stats comparison: Yedlin vs Sunderland and Spurs right-back's

Stats comparison (via Squawka): Yedlin vs Sunderland and Spurs right-back’s (PL 2015/16)

Yedlin may have to consider his options come May, as a permanent deal at Sunderland or another Premier League club may be a better choice, but he says he’ll give his all whoever he plays for.

“Whatever happens, happens. That’s how my thought process has always been. Obviously if my path is with Tottenham then I’m very happy, I’m going to fight and do all that I can to help them.

“If it’s not then, whatever team I am with, I am going to fight to help them, that’s how my mind has always been,” he said.

Embed from Getty Images

USA’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has also recently said how important it is for Yedlin to continue to be involved in the first-team picture at club level.

“Obviously every time he gets on the field and gets minutes, it’s huge for us,” said Klinsmann, as reported by the Sunderland Echo.

“We monitor him and talk to him, so hopefully he gets even more minutes in the upcoming weeks.

“He’s very talented obviously, but he still knows that he has a way to go and a lot to learn.”

What have you made of DeAndre Yedlin since he came to the Premier League?

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.