When Bruce Arena began his stint as U.S. Men’s National Team manager in January, he was brought in with one goal in mind. He was not hired to bring in some overarching ideologies or push the game to a new stratosphere. He was hired to navigate World Cup qualifying and book a ticket to Russia.
On Tuesday, that goal came crashing down in Trinidad & Tobago.
Needing just a single point to all but lock up a World Cup berth, Arena’s USMNT put together a flat, lethargic performance in a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago. The loss ended the USMNT’s World Cup dream in the qualifying stage as the U.S. will now miss the globe’s largest soccer tournament for the first time since 1986.
“This game, in my view, was perfectly positioned for the U.S. team,” Arena said. “We failed on the day. We have no excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.”
After throttling Panama, 4-0, on Friday, Arena went with an unchanged lineup for Tuesday’s match. It was an XI that featured a number of World Cup veterans, including the centerback duo of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, forward Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley.
From the onset, that lineup looked a step off the pace. Arena said that, heading into the match, he was looking forward to giving the group a second runout following a standout performance. However, what followed was a performance that saw the U.S. eliminated from World Cup contention.
Despite the disaster of Tuesday night and all of the issues that preceded it, Arena says he does not regret taking the USMNT job. As for what his future holds, Arena added that he wasn’t sure of the next step in the aftermath of the darkest moment in USMNT history.
“We didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” he said. “That was my job: to qualify for the World Cup.
“It’s disappointing,” he added. “We should not be staying home from this World Cup, and I take responsibility for that.”