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USMNT clinches World Cup berth despite loss to Costa Rica

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Four and a half years after an excruciating result in Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. men’s national team has arrived back into the 2022 World Cup. Though the squad lost in Costa Rica Wednesday night, it held off Costa Rica on goal differential to complete the qualifying cycle with third-place finish and automatic berth to Qatar.

Gregg Berhalter’s side fell 2-0 in San Jose on Wednesday night, but will join Canada and Mexico as the three automatic qualified Concacaf nations in this year’s World Cup Finals. It was only the third defeat for the Americans in the octagonal round through 14 matches played in this cycle.

The USMNT created the better of the opportunities in the first half, but Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas kept his side level through the opening half. Miles Robinson’s hard-driven shot was denied by Navas in the ninth minute before the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper repelled Ricardo Pepi’s effort at the near post in 13th minute.

Robinson came close to breaking the deadlock in the 48th minute, but his header off of a corner kick was also saved by Navas. Walker Zimmerman’s follow-up chance was blasted over the crossbar.

Despite making seven roster changes from Sunday’s 2-1 win over El Salvador, Costa Rica struck first in the 52nd minute. Juan Pablo Vargas headed home a corner kick from Brandon Aguilera, getting past Kellyn Acosta and in front of Zimmerman to nod past Zack Steffen.

The Ticos doubled their lead in the 60th minute as Anthony Contreras pounced in the box to slam home a cross from Jewison Bennette. Bennette’s cross from the left wing snuck between Miles and Antonee Robinson, allowing Contreras to slot home.

Jesus Ferreira, Gio Reyna, and Shaq Moore all entered the match in the 62nd minute, but could not help start a comeback. Reyna’s connection with Christian Pulisic eventually led to a promising opportunity for Yunus Musah at the top of the Costa Rica box, but Orlando Galo deflected the shot wide.

Navas finished with six saves before being replaced by Esteban Alvarado in the 79th minute, receiving a loud ovation from the home fans at Estadio Nacional.

The USMNT will now wait for Friday’s World Cup draw in Qatar to learn who it will face in November’s group stage.

Comments

  1. Everyone seems to forget that this is a very young team. Results and the way they looked really goosld at times and poor at times during qualification reflects this. In fact the USMNT is the youngest team out of all qualified teams for Qatar. Everyone should be happy we are now going to the WC. Stop boo hooing over the result. Now the real work begins. Friendlies are already lined up for a couple South American teams including Argentina.

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    • Excuses for poor performance. Most of these young players have played in top international club competitions against much tougher teams.

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      • Totally agree. Most of these kids get paid more than brain surgeons. They should be held to a high standard.

      • Entirely different at international level with crap fields and raucous away crowds. We dominated at home. Yet again young team. And some of these players aren’t starting week in and week out for their club teams in Europe. I get everyone has expectations, but those are yiur expectations.

  2. I have gotten the sense that our strategy to play the ball out of the back on goal kicks or when the goalie controls the ball has resulted in no better outcome than merely blasting the ball down field and hoping for the best, while at the same time exposing us to risky turnovers deep in our defensive end. I understand the logic for this strategy but team USA doesn’t seem to execute it well.

    Perhaps we should re-allocate the time spent working on a unsuccessful strategy and focus on things like taking and defending set pieces, which need to improve as well.

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    • I have pointed out several times the smart alternative developed by Klinsmann, but because Klinsmann has been judged a failure, most everybody seems to ignore it. At the time Guzan was the GK and Zardes at left wing. Guzan would make a goal kick right to Zardes who would always win the header and head it forward. More than half the time the US would take control past midfield and when we didn’t, it wasn’t turned over in a dangerous position.

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    • We lost to Canada because we tried to boot it downfield and lost the second ball. If you don’t execute it doesn’t matter.

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      • JohnnyR – I would say they lost to Canada because they had no idea how to convert possession into scoring chances. It wasn’t like Canada created a lot of acoring chances and US had the ball most of the game. The tactic of having a wing back cross the ball from the endline when there was only one person in the box compared to 6 defenders and a goalie was not likely to have been successful even if they didn’t kick 90% of them to the goalie.

  3. Glad we qualified, but this should alway be the bare minimum acceptable floor for US Soccer. It’s like getting congratulations for graduating high school.

    We also finished third on GD. A few things go the other way this window and we could have been in fourth. With the talent in this pool this shouldn’t be something we left to GD on the final away match in CR.

    In past cycles our NT always played better than the sum of its parts. Last cycle being a shortage of parts but this cycle I can is the first cycle we’ve played well below the sum of our parts.

    I’ve like some thing GBs done and certain games you definitely see things working. Maybe it’s due to our youth but in other games we look terrible.

    We should have done much better in qualifying than this. With the talent and pool depth this cycle has I have lay a large amount of blame at the feet of GB and his system. Several roster selection head scratchers and omissions, and subs. We could nit pic all day but ultimately it’s the results and again we left qualification down to the last game and got third based on GD, with unquestionably the best and deepest pool this nation has ever produced.

    This wasn’t good enough and we need better results. The question I keep asking myself but not sure the answer is, ‘Does our managers past and current experience and expertise qualify him to manage this pool given their talent and club accomplishments.’ Sometimes I say he does sometimes it’s a clear No and kind of reiterates the game to game up and down of our play but ultimately he’s responsible.

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    • “We also finished third on GD. A few things go the other way this window and we could have been in fourth.”

      If the US get one of their chances into the Canada net in the home game, and all else stays the same, the US wins the group. Everyone can talk about ifs. What it all means is that WCQ is difficult with very narrow margins for error. One goal and the US wins the group.

      “In past cycles our NT always played better than the sum of its parts. Last cycle being a shortage of parts but this cycle I can is the first cycle we’ve played well below the sum of our parts.”

      What is the sum of its parts? What are its parts? Let’s see…Last night had – across the attack: a star who in just the last months has earned consistent starts at his preferred position. So recently that we all need to go look at the line-up to see if he started and which position. A 9 who hasn’t scored in months and is struggling to get minutes and a winger who plays a max of 30 minutes a game as a sub. A midfield featuring an anchor who isn’t guaranteed to even play lately let alone start, a 19 year old who rarely starts and plays a max of 30 minutes and a veteran MLSer. A back line with three MLSers and a Championship left back. Finally, a back up goal keeper who gets dusted off to play cup games. Compare that to Mexico. Compare that to Canada. Not huge difference – perhaps actually worse. Swap in the 19 year old just coming back from injury who has never been a consistent starter for his club or the 23 year old who plays at the mid table club in the defense-less Eredivisie. What are the parts of this team and what should the sum be? Perhaps the confusion is: when asked that question people answer instead this one – What are the parts and what will the sum be in the future rather than of what it is now.

      I think you are right to wonder about it being youth. This is a U23 team (call it Olympic because it has like 3 over age players). There’s a distinction between the Olympics and the WC. No country brings a U23 team to the WC. Why is that? Because experience means something. You get consistency with experience. It’s like the hot draft pick in the NFL entering the league with all the potential in the world but needs a FEW season to come into their own. This team is filled with those players. What’s the sum of those parts? Perhaps they are even over achieving? Not one is player blowing it away on their club teams.

      Overall, this team is right about where it should be in my estimation. Yes, GB is frustrating at times but he’s gotten right much much more than wrong. I think if the players were more consistent the tactics are getting them looks and the defense hasn’t been bleeding goals. I’m not sure those things actually change much with a different coach. After this WC (dress rehearsal for 2026) should the coach be reviewed? Why not?

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      • So sorry US would have been in 2nd even with a win vs Canada at home. I misread the goal differential. the point stands though….narrow margins

    • Joe Dirt – I agree completely that the sample size is large enough to see that the sum is less than the parts. People can argue the reasons, but regardless, that usually predicates a change which is typically the coach. The likelihood of this improving between now and Qatar without significant change seems remote at best. I guess if someone is happy with what they saw during qualifying there will think there is no need for change but they shouldn’t expect anything different in Qatar.

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    • Thank you. Would anyone here trade our player pool for that of any other CONCACAF nation? I sure wouldn’t. While Canada’s first team MIGHT be our equal, they don’t have near our depth. The performance against a bunch of nobodies from CR was uninspired, even listless, sloppy, and really lacking in intensity. It’s a good thing CR didn’t play their first team our we might not have finished ahead of them on goal differential. They should be ashamed.

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      • Thanks Gary. Always good to hear from ya on SBI.

        I agree totally and I think one way we all should be thinking about our NT is in how and what we measure this teams performance by. For instance as you mentioned earlier this teams ceiling is much higher given it’s talent and depth than anything we’ve ever had at MNT yet we’re comparing their performance against the previous cycle which is like comparing apples to oranges.

        The hard part is figuring out what is this generation’s ceiling that’s a variable that hard to say but somehow the powers that be at US Soccer need to set a bar somewhere and measure this teams performance including it’s managers and staff against that potential ceiling rather than comparing it’s performance to the lower base effect of last cycles performance.

  4. What a relief!
    The second half became Groundhog Day! Everything went down the left side again and again resulting in poor passing, dribbling into double teams, and turnovers. CR did a great job of pushing the ball wide and being physical on the ball. Almost solidifies the need for Reyna to play more central. Weah has a big role on this team, a long with Dest for providing width and ability to get behind defenders out wide either with the dribble or on a switch. Jedi Robinson is predictable and hurts Pulisic and flow of ball movement. Does it hurt to not dribble into a double team along the side line again? Could de la Torres maybe throw in a few switches?
    Also, Zimmerman not the answer at CB. Maybe in CONCACAF but not at WC level defending and winning balls in the air

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    • I think we need to question Miles Robinson, too, and not be so quick to throw our European based CB’s under the bus. M. Robinson actually ducked under the pass that led directly to the second goal. He was in the middle of the box and ducked under a pass. Why would any defender do that?

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  5. Hard to celebrate after a game like that, but it is an accomplishment, congrats to all players and coaches! My take on last night’s game is that we had no legs, and I could see it after the first 10 minutes. Completely understandable after the efforts in the previous two, but everyone except Weah looked really sluggish from the opening whistle. In retrospect, we should have rotated heavily, particularly since we didn’t need points in that game. Contrast our effort with Costa Rica, who rotated in “nobodies” but they were fresh and hungry. It makes a difference, or certainly did last night. Personally I am not too worried, and actually feel kinda bad for the guys who deserve to party at last, but I’m sure didn’t much feel like it. Live and learn, guys can’t play 3 90 minute games in a week, two on the road, one at altitude, without a drop off in the last one. Who would’ve thunk?

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  6. I think people are worrying too much about this one meaningless game (it was basically impossible to not qualify). At the same time I also think that the whole campaign has showed us we have some major issues if we want to compete somewhat at the WC:

    – Bluntly, our strikers suck. Pepi is as useful as a traffic cone, Pefok disappears when he wears the usmnt jersey, Sargent can’t score, and Ferrera is very limited. We need to find a guy that can be consistent and keep playing him in that role during friendlies— but who? I like to think Dike has the qualities but we will see. Major gap in out lineup

    – GK has to be sorted out. Steffen has been unreliable and no one day else seems to be that one dominant keeper we used to have in the past

    go USA!

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    • disagree with your opening comment. people aren’t fretting about one game. they’re fretting about the performance over two years. I mean yes, this was especially bad, since CR literally gave us the game to protect their yellow cards, and we still lost by 2.
      But we were all hoping something would gel with these talented players, and we are so far from that. It is really hard to see anything resembling a tactical approach when these guys take the field together, win or lose. It’s got to be frustrating for the players, too.

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  7. Bleh. Talk about qualifying on a sour note. In past cycles I’ve been critical of Gregg for rotating too much, this time he went the other way and threw a bunch of dead legs in against a bunch of frisky youngsters, on the road, in the third game of a three-game cycle. Not good, Gregg. Jedi’s clearly our #1, sure…Jedi after 180 minutes is not better than a fresh George Bello. Steffen was clearly banged up and while I commend how he toughed it out this cycle he hasn’t moved well in any of the three games…was there some reason we couldn’t give Horvath a game over a clearly-not-100% Steffen? Musah did remarkably well for having already played 180 minutes, but even he wasn’t really himself. Pulisic has never been a heavy-minutes guy, whereas Weah was coming off a yellow card suspension and was one of the few players with actual spring in his step, but we yank him early? And we sub out Yedlin – himself coming off a yellow-card suspension – just after halftime, while leaving Jedi in for the full 270 over three games? Wut? And despite the fact that we’ve got a fairly fresh-legged Acosta we continue to ride an injured Tyler Adams at the 6, and end up having to burn up a sub for him?
    Gregg sometimes gets just really basic stuff wrong, and that’s worrisome. Yeah, we qualified, and that’s the big thing. But there’s a lot we can improve upon and really need to, and some of it’s old-fashioned minute management. It was distinctly…not good last night.

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    • Lol quozzel, I replied at the same time with similar observations. I didn’t get into the specifics as well but completely agree with everything laid out here. Weah and Yedlin should have been the last ones subbed since fresh, and Weah at least looked dangerous. Steffen has obviously not been 100%, etc, etc, you said it very well. Hard to believe with all the high tech monitoring of these players, the game plays out like this. I guess the specifics of the stomach virus is something we don’t know so maybe that factors in. But when I saw the lineup I was honestly shocked, my common sense alarm began going off…

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  8. The toll of 3 games in 7 days with travel took its toll on the US. You might say that the CR coach was brilliant for using so many well-rested players.
    When the US failed to score in the first half, the young players from CR saw a chance and took it beating the US to most free balls and maintaining pressure that unsettled the US.
    Some of the stars for the US in the first 2 games were clearly affected. A. Robinson was remarkable for his iron man feat, but he clearly lost focus on defense, his collision with Steffan lead to CR’s 2nd goal, and he was fortunate not to be punished for it more often. Zimmerman lost a header dual that with fresher legs he most likely would have gotten a touch on. Pulisic just wasn’t as sharp as he was in the previous game. Reyna just looked tired, probably more due to illness than overuse, but was still clever with the ball. Adams was missed in the 2nd half, his replacement, de la Torre, was one of the few bright spots for the US in the 2nd half. It makes you wonder if the US would not have been better served to rotate more players, or simply give starts in the 3rd game to rested players. (This does not explain the performance of Yedlin and Weah.)

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  9. US just doesnt have the offensive firepower to score a lot of goals. Hats off to the coaching staff and defense for getting us here. Gonna be harder in the World Cup, but if you dont let in many goals and the US didn’t, you can go along way, ask CostaRica

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  10. The top 5 teams were all within a couple points of each other. Canada lost 2 of 3 this round. Hats off to the team and coach for gutting it out and getting through. Concacaf qualifying is never easy.

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  11. I get the big picture. We qualified for the World Cup. It IS a big deal, and it’s NOT easy to do, nor is winning on the road in CONCACAF. Plenty of teams have squeaked through qualifying and gone on to have a great tournament. Maybe this team will be one of them.

    Still, I can’t help but feel frustrated. This is a young team, but still easily our most accomplished group at the club level. We qualified in third place, on goal differential. We lost to 2 teams, Panama and Costa Rica, that between them have 1 player who would start on our team. Maybe only 1 who would make our roster. Canada has their best team ever, but on paper, our team is at least as good. And we finished behind the least inspiring Mexican team I can remember (I’m 50) with the possible exception of 2014.

    Great that we’re in. Cool. I just hope we get our stuff together and play to our potential in Qatar.

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  12. I think everyone is EXCITED about the USMNT qualifying for the world cup, and congrates to GB, the players and all the coaching staff!!!! I think the “disappointment” here is that after all the training, games played and miles travelled…….WE ACTUALLY LOOKED THIS BAD!!!! This is not just a team that knew they qualified and took their foot off the gas or lost motivation in the second half……no, we looked bad from the jump and to add insult to injury (according to Pulisic) we were actually playing to win (beaten BY A COSTA RICA B TEAM no less). They still had much to play for and had all the chips in their favor for being the first generation of the USMNT to beat Costa Rica (B-TEAM) at home in qualifying. This was not a game that everyone seemed super relaxed or were just holding on to the ball and stringing together a lot of well timed purposeful passes or players getting into great positions to score from good technical / tactical adjustments or the players just taking multiple CASUAL shots on goal that had to stand NARVAS on his head……NO, this team performance was straight out bad, disorganized and should be a cause for concern. We switched-off, with most of our “firepower on the field” we just switched-off, this late in the qualifying and looked sssoooooooo disorganized as a team….so much so we couldn’t put together any decent attack against a Costa Rica B team? Lets enjoy that we qualified but this last performance by the USMNT, knowing what they are actually capable of, sure leaves a lot to be desired

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  13. – The team that lost in T&T in 2014 was pretty weak, and were likely 3 and out. The rebuild effort since that time has been very successful.
    – Credit needs to go to the much maligned Berhalter for cultivating talent and building up a deep pool of talent. Splitting the Nations League and Gold Cup rosters last summer made a major difference. One only needs to look at the changes from the first WCQ break to this last break to see the difference.
    – This roster depth will be key when we learn our opponents in the draw. It’s all about getting out of the group stage. There’s enough roster options to give us an advantage.
    – While Qatar was a poor choice for the WC, it does help this young US team. It’ll provide more time in the summer and part of the fall season to learn and grow. I think we’ll see 1 or 2 options from our striker pool rise up by that time.

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  14. So many whiners…typically soft. notice the names.

    And this is not the US golden generation, just our latest. All you folks sucking wind after we qualified…waaa waaa. Give Klinsmann a call, ask him what he’s up to all these years after sabotaging US soccer. He lost again, and his supporters…exposed again for the losers they are.

    We’re back in the the WC. Congratulations to all the players and coaches.

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    • Beachbum – glad you are keeping a positive outlook. You will probably have a better day than me today. While you probably weren’t referring to me as one of the whiners, I was pretty disapppointed with the effort yesterday and haven’t been able to muster up any feelings of celebration yet.

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  15. We need a top level goalie that plays. Steffan and Turner are lacking. Slonina needs to mature quickly. This team also badly needs a goalscorer / finisher. If we can fix those two positions really quickly well be ok.

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    • It is a bit amusing that for the USMNT, we are worried about our keeper which has traditionally been our strongest position and our foundation. That being said, I have been impressed by Turner – hope he comes back and that things work out well for him at Arsenal. Steffen on the other hand, has not looked good and seems to be really fragile physically. A bad back can do that to you.

      The USMNT has needed a good scorer since Bert Patenaude.

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    • One way to find a top level goalie is to STOP handing starts to Steffan and start trying out other players. He clearly wasn’t 100% and we had a 6 goal cushion so why not give somebody else a look? One way to find a top level striker is to stop handing starts to Pepi and start trying out other players. We had a 6 goal cushion so why not give somebody else a look?

      That’s one thing about GB that I just don’t get. He will drop quickly some players from the squad if they have a dip in national or club team form yet will continue to play others who have done nothing for club and country for a while, If we finished top of the table I would just go with it but finishing 3rd by means of tie breaker makes me wonder what is going on.

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    • Amen. But.. An evenly matched group is not as bad as it sounds (in my view). Being in a “group of death” can often work out for mid tier teams. 2014 was a great example. Not only for the US, but also for Costa Rica. Gotta claim points, of course, but the other teams tend to cannibalize points from each other

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    • First, New Zealand isn’t going to be in the WC; Costa Rica will win that playoff and put 4 CONCACAF teams in Qatar.

      Sitting in the second pot could be great for the US. If you look at historical groups at the WC at least from 1990 on, the US always is in a group with 2 UEFA teams and we have advanced only when getting 4 points – and 5 points in South Africa. We have never advanced out of group in a European hosted WC.

      Hopefully Qatar will give the US and other non-euro teams a better chance at advancing.

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  16. What a fitting end to a thoroughly mediocre campaign. Our golden generation has achieved the barest of minimums at every stage. We set the bar low and still hit the bar on our way over. The verdict: we are still not good at soccer. We’ll get total of three points in our three games in Qatar. But it’s ok, because they’re away games. SMH.

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  17. Personally, I can’t feel happy, even though they qualified, because their performjance today was pretty disgusting. During the first half the US was slow, sloppy, and showed little effort. They were totally outplayed by a bunch of nobodies. The first half performance was as bad as that against T&T. Pulisic needs to toughen up. He spent more time complaining to the ref than he did in playing. When players were fighting for the ball, US players ended up on the ground and CR players ended up with the ball. When they brought in subs in the 2nd half, it got better, but the 2nd goal was inexcusable. Miles Robinson actually ducked under the ball that led to the goal. What, he was afraid he might hurt himself? I don’t think Steffen has been very impressive this cycle. I think Turner has shown himself to be much better. We won’t go far in the WC if the team doesn’t show more fight.

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    • A lot of guys playing 3rd game in 7 days. Throw in one of those at 7,000 ft. 9 hrs of flights vs 2 1/2 hours of travel. Add in intestinal distress to many members of the team facing a young hungry rested squad playing for spots on the WC roster and you get what we saw. Let’s not gloss over Dest, McKennie, and Aaronson being out. Disappointing performance but it makes no difference to our seeding for the WC and should only stand to keep competition for GK and 3rd and 4th CM open.

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      • And let’s be real, our guys already held up the “Qualified” banner at the end of the Panama match. There’s no way a team led by a guy with a Champion’s League game against Real Madrid next Wednesday, and role players in the end/middle of their Euro/MLS club seasons, are going balls out when they just have to lose by no more than 5 goals to qualify for the f#$&# World Cup. The whole cycle was shaky, but they always have been, likely always will be with Canada joining the fray. Love folks sending their internet intensity vibes out to a team of young professional athletes who will always be better at the game than any of us… But let’s not read too much into this one.
        —-
        We’re going to the World Cup baby!!! I’m just giddy to be there ; )

      • JonnyR – it might matter. Only have to drop a few points to get Pot 3. To me, they don’t deserve Pot 2 as it is supposed to be for teams 8 – 15, and I really don’ t think they are there collectively. Individually, yes; collectively no.

      • US dropped to 15, so you were right that it didn’t end up hurting our seeding. Poor Canada, on the other hand, came into this cycle being ranked to be the last team in Pot 3, but got passed up by both Tunisia and Cameroon. If I am looking at it correctly, that would put them in Pot 4, guaranteeing that they will have to play 3 teams currently banked higher than them (unless they draw Qatar).

    • Before the qualifiers, most of us knew that this team had way too much talent to NOT qualify. In an interview, Hugo Perez was going on and on about just how loaded the USMNT was and how playing them was impossible and he was 100% right.

      And so it proved. The only question was would this team use qualifying to develop into the threatening team its talent tells you it should be.

      It doesn’t look like it.

      This team plays to the level of the opposition and the occasion. The rankings tell you they just barely got into the World Cup when facing a pretty inept bunch of CONCACAF opponents. The USMNT should have placed first in this tournament and shouldn’t have been close.

      At Azteca they faced the lousiest Mexico team in a long time and still couldn’t finish them off. Then they had a rousing game vs a completely overmatched Panama team, followed by this stinker.

      One wonders how they will do in the World Cup if they face teams like Switzerland, Croatia or Denmark, teams unlikely to give them anything.

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