USMNT did the unthinkable and lost a must-win – wait, no worse: a must-tie – game to a tiny little Caribbean island. Costa Rica and Mexico compounded the nightmare by bending over and taking it from Panama and Honduras, but there’s no point in being mad at them because the United States controlled its own destiny and blew it.
A lot of people have been asking me on the twitter dot com (a) how to get through this and (b) whether there are any silver linings. The answers to these questions are, respectively, (a) alcohol and (b) absolutely not.
There is no sugar coating it. This was the worst loss in US soccer history. But before briefly discussing where we go from here, let’s start with what went wrong.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
It’s really quite simple.
– Players played like shit. Omar Gonzalez and Tim Howard were especially poor but almost everybody on the field not named Christian Pulisic had forgettable outings.
– Coaches coached like shit. Bruce Arena stuck with a flawed starting XI, including Gonzalez over Geoff Cameron because reasons, so not only did he go with some less talented guys but he went with some less talented guys who may also have been a little tired from Friday’s game.
– Got some unfortunate bounces. Gonzo’s horrendous own goal (and Howard’s terrible attempted save), T&T nobody striking the ball more purely than he ever has in his life (for second goal), and Dempsey’s shot off the post come to mind. However, a wise man once said: if if’s and but’s were candy and nuts oh what a party we’d have.
Let’s be clear: tonight’s game in and of itself did not cost us a trip to Puty’s World Cup. The USMNT’s performance throughout qualifying was at best inconsistent, at worst a fucking embarrassment to their fellow Americans. Jurgen Klinsmann (who lost the first two games in the Hex) is not suddenly “off the hook” for the stupid moves he made, but Bruce Arena is just as culpable if not more so considering the lower caliber of competition in the two loses in the final four games.
– Bruce Arena is GONE.
– Sunil Gulati is GONE. He probably did some good things as head of USSF but his legacy will be hiring the two coaches who did the unthinkable and managed not to qualify for the World Cup despite the exploding popularity and unmatched resources of the United States of America.
– Many if not most of the players are GONE.
I am not even angry yet. I don’t know what the five stages of grief are but I’m stuck firmly in numb and empty at the moment. This is a tragedy for American soccer fans, but it is not the death of the sport in our great nation. We still have EPL, we still have Braca/Real, we still have Bayern and Juve and PSG and Champions League. And, yes, we still have MLS. What’s more, millions of people – including lots of casual fans – are still going get into the World Cup next summer. You’re telling me people are going to pass up a chance to day drink and gamble? Yep, nope. The USMNT will also be fine in the mid- to long-term. The talent pool is deeper than it ever has been, and now without an important tournament on the calendar next summer it will allow whoever is brought in to replace Gulati/Arena an opportunity to clean house and give kids some much needed experience. HOWEVER, today is a dark, dark, dark day for you, me and the rest of the jogo bonito fans.
I’ll be back on Friday with another weekend preview in which we’ve got some fireflames matchups…
For now though I am going to drink myself into a stupor and hope some of the pain goes away.