The United States men’s national team has not made much progress since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup
The lowest moment in recent history for the United States men’s national soccer team was on the night of Oct. 10, 2018, on a rain-soaked pitch in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago.
The U.S. was on the cusp of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and only needed a draw against the Trinidad and Tobago national team, who were dead last in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football qualifying standings and had not won in their last nine matches.
Even if the U.S. were to lose this game, a failsafe existed in the form of either Mexico or Costa Rica winning their respective game, which would send the U.S. to their eighth straight World Cup. It seemed like a sure thing.
On that fateful night, everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the U.S. men’s national team went haywire.
An own goal that was deflected off the leg of U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez somehow found its way past goalkeeper Tim Howard in minute 17. Trinidad would add another goal in minute 37, and while the Americans would add a goal late, it would not be enough.
The United States lost 2-1 to the worst team in the final round of qualifying. To make matters worse, Mexico and Costa Rica, who were two of the best teams in the region, managed to lose both of their matches. For the first time since 1986, the United States would not be in the World Cup. To say this was an embarrassment would be an understatement.
I believe it was one of the worst moments in American sports history. For the United States to fail to get a tie against a team that was 1-8 previously in qualifying was a national embarrassment. Missing out on the World Cup would deal a massive blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Fans across the U.S. would miss out on seeing their national team play on the world’s biggest stage, and subsequently, the up-and-coming players on the national team would miss out on a valuable experience that would strengthen their development. To make things even worse, qualifying for the next World Cup does not begin until 2021, leaving us a long time to think about what happened.
Since then, the U.S. Soccer Federation has fired their head coach, Bruce Arena, and after many months of interim coaches at the helm, Gregg Berhalter was selected to lead the long journey back to the next World Cup in 2022 in Qatar. Many of the players that were a part of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads are now gone, leaving a lot of young and talented but unproven players to develop at the international level.
A lot of the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was years in the making. The U.S. had an aging roster of players that were on the back end of their international careers. Players like Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, who were a huge part of past World Cups, were just not producing at the same level as in the past.
Now that the U.S. has an almost entirely different roster, it looks like the team has no sense of direction. An embarrassing loss to Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League in October highlighted the fact that the U.S. still has a long way to go to reach the next World Cup. The U.S. roster is currently highlighted by budding superstar Christian Pulisic, who is the best scorer for the team and plays club soccer for Chelsea in one of the top soccer leagues in the world. Other than Pulisic, the U.S. roster is a rotating door of names.
If the U.S. has issues competing with teams on our own continent, then being able to someday compete with the top European or South American nations is going to be a daunting task.
It all comes down to a complete lack of talent within the U.S. Soccer Federation. One problem is finding talent and developing it, but the main problem is dual-national players committing to other nations. If you’re a young player and you have the choice of playing for the United States or Mexico, right now I would bet that player is going to choose Mexico.
While the men’s team is trying to find their identity on the field, I would like to shout out the U.S. Women’s National Team for winning two straight World Cups and continuing to make this country proud. They are setting an example for how American soccer should be played and I look forward to their continued success.