Two cents worth: Missing World Cup a big blow to U.S. soccer

I’m embarrassed to be a fan of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team.

The U.S. lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, and because of other results in the region’s qualifying, the boys in red, white and blue are missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

This is truly a devastating loss. Coming into Tuesday night’s match, the U.S. was 18-4-3 against T&T dating back to 1982. Only one of those losses came in a meaningful match.

Here’s the part that frustrates me the most: The U.S. need to win this game to punch a ticket to Russia in 2018 and it was against a team with no chance of qualifying. The U.S. had everything to play for against a team playing out the string. But instead of talking about the must-win nature of the game, the team complained about the wet field conditions.

The talk from U.S. Soccer is always how the senior team needs to compete with the powers of Europe. Administrators, coaches and fans want the U.S. to compare with the likes of Belgium, Portugal and England. When the goals are at their loftiest, they want the U.S. to play like Germany, Spain, France or Italy.

When any of those teams travel east during qualifying to play in smaller, poorer countries, they’re playing at schools and parks. They’re playing on grassy clearings, mud pits and dirt-riddled patches with two rickety goal-posts on either side. They go there and they win.

Iceland, a country with fewer people than Colorado’s Western Slope, qualified for the World Cup. They had a much tougher road than the United States will ever have. On Monday, Iceland defeated Kosovo 2-0. They didn’t whine about the field. They won with a roster not unlike the United States, feature one international superstar. The difference is that the players around that superstar showed up and played.

Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old soccer prodigy, was involved in 14 goals in 14 qualifying games for the United States. He had seven goals and seven assists. He’s not the problem. But outside of him, it’s time to clean house.

Manager Bruce Arena shouldn’t be employed by the time this column prints. There are several big names, Tim Howard included, who should never suit up for the U.S. again.

There are so many hurdles the U.S. needs to address to be successful on the international stage. Top-flight athletes in this country rarely play soccer. The pay-to-play club system locks out young players in lower income brackets.

But despite all that, every team since 1986 has found a way to qualify. It’s disgraceful that this organization wasted a World Cup cycle for the most talented soccer player to ever be born in this country.


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