Tuesday night was the worst night in U.S. Men’s National Team history. There are no two ways about it. The USMNT failed in every way on Tuesday night in Trinidad & Tobago, and the program has been set back because of it.
It’s not just the World Cup, but also the missed opportunity. When next summer rolls around and the game captivates audiences all throughout the world, the U.S. won’t be there. That’s a failure from top to bottom.
That failure didn’t begin on Tuesday, but it certainly did end on Tuesday as the U.S. botched a chance at Russia.
Here’s a closer look at the big takeaways from Tuesday’s match:
LINEUP CHOICES DOOM USMNT
Bruce Arena wanted continuity with his USMNT lineup. It wasn’t the right choice.
After playing a tough 90 minutes against Panama on Friday, the U.S. lineup was unchanged heading just days later against T&T. It was a decision that was one of the big mistakes on the day as the U.S. looked slow from the onset.
It wasn’t just the tired legs, though. In a match the USMNT needed a draw, the team emerged with no midfield cover for Michael Bradley. Look at the spacing on the second goal. That doesn’t happen with bodies in the middle.
That all falls on Arena, whose tactics were damning on Tuesday.
PULISIC LONE BRIGHT SPOT
The USMNT’s youngest star was the only one who showed up on Tuesday.
Say what you want about the rest of the team, but Christian Pulisic came to play. He provided energy and he provided the goal that brought the USMNT one step closer. Was he as good as he was against Panama? No, but he was one of the only USMNT players that provided much of anything.
In a match loaded with USMNT veterans, Pulisic was the brightest spot. Clint Dempsey had a few moments, sure, but if there was ever going to be a magic moment, it was going to come from Pulisic. Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood were invisible. Darlington Nagbe was awful. Paul Arriola was invisible.
Pulisic will get another chance at this. He’s just 19. The rest of the team should look in the mirror and realize their chance may just be over.
USMNT DEFENSE FAILS
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have played in many big games. They simply didn’t get it done on Tuesday.
Gonzalez’s own goal was the nightmare start and one of several brutal moments from the Pachuca defender scattered throughout the qualifying cycle. He could have conceded a penalty just moments later and he looked several steps slow for all 90 minutes.
Besler wasn’t as bad, but he certainly wasn’t as good. Tim Howard was routinely left out to dry after making saves as no one in the U.S. defense even bothered hustling back to make clearances. That’s on Besler, Gonzalez, DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana, and that’s inexcusable.
Would Geoff Cameron have made a difference? Was it tired minds, tired legs or just a lack of effort? Who knows, but it wasn’t good enough for T&T, let alone a World Cup.
CREDIT TO T&T
T&T had nothing on the line on Tuesday. They were in a small stadium with few fans, a wet field and zero hope of World Cup qualification.
They played like their lives depended on it.
Alvin Jones didn’t play like a player with nothing on the line. Neither did Shahdon Winchester. Adrian Foncette’s four saves were made as if T&T needed a win more than anything in the world.
For as bad as the USMNT was, you have to give credit to a T&T team that did something special on Tuesday. At the end of the day, T&T played like they cared, and that’s more than you can say for the USMNT.
That’s the big question, right?
A lot will be said and written in the coming days. It’s inevitable. Criticism is coming, and changes are likely to come with it.
Bruce Arena is finished as USMNT manager. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati may very well join him come election time. Several players on the field may never dress for the U.S., and maybe they shouldn’t. Expect at least some sort of overhaul. It’s time.
Over the next few days, months and years, changes will come to American soccer, for better or worse. Tuesday night was the knockout punch, but there have been plenty of blows over the past few years.