I keep saying it, and will never come off this point: in international soccer, you win on the road. Do that, stamp it “mission accomplished” and move on.
In that regard, the ongoing over-reaction to a 2-1 result over tiny Antigua and Barbuda is so much wasted breath. On a poor excuse for an international soccer field, on the road, in the rain and against a reasonably well-organized Caribbean side, a win is a win is a win.
But! … That doesn’t mean there is reason for alarm.
It’s not about last night. It’s about a string of “last nights.”
As I like to say, “One could be a mistake. Two starts to look like a trend. But three is definitely a problem.”
Mitigating factors like that field and injuries notwithstanding, the underwhelming win over Antigua and Barbuda, a side that will never even get within bribing distance of a World Cup, was just the latest cause for concern. Let’s look at the U.S. semifinal round results:
- The 3-1 win in over Antigua and Barbuda back in June in Tampa, on a far better field, is probably more concerning in retrospect than last night’s contest, where the result was acceptable, even if the “look” of it wasn’t.
- A 1-1 draw in Guatemala might have been OK but for the way it finished, with the United States failing to close out a match, conceding a late goal.
- A 2-1 loss in Jamaica was even worse than the result looks – and it doesn’t look good by any stretch. Clint Dempsey scored right away, but the United States gave up another lead, conceding imprudent fouls that led to free kick goals.
The team looked quite capable in a 1-0 win over Jamaica in Columbus, but the bottom line was a slim, one-goal win – a.k.a., too close for comfort.
There are individual concerns, too … but we can dive into those later.
Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to elevate the program, to push boundaries and achieve new levels. And that may yet happen.
But there’s scant evidence of this push for progress right now. I think it’s unfair to say the team has regressed – and that sentiment is out there.
But the players and the team as a whole need to show more. So at this point, it’s hard to argue with the alarmists. That one, big, crashing, resounding win would help a ton, helping to restore the wavering fan faith and the player confidence.
The whole thing does need to get better, and even Klinsmann says so.
“We have the three points and that’s the most important thing. Do we have to play better? Absolutely. Individually, we’re not happy with what we saw, but we expected a very difficult challenge and it came down to the wire,” Klinsmann said. “There are a couple of things we have to discuss internally that we need to do much, much better in Kansas City.”