Yes, the United States men’s national team played one of its worst meaningful matches of the last two decades on Friday, but how much trouble are they really in when it comes to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup (at least on a micro level)?
On the macro level, a lot. Friday’s performance would’ve seen the Yanks concede about 8 goals at Azteca or Estadio Nacional. Even given injuries, Jurgen Klinsmann’s awful lineup choices hampered the team en route to a 2-0 loss.
On a micro level, it’s certainly not the end of the world (though it’ll be close to it if the Yanks fail to beat Guatemala in Columbus on Tuesday, a failure that would make Friday’s defeat look like a walk in the park).
The good news is that the USMNT has played its two trickiest road matches, while Guatemala still has plenty to do despite its second-place spot in Group C. And while many would’ve accepted four points from Guatemala, three points wouldn’t be the end of the world at all.
Let’s check the table quick.
2018 qualification through three games
Trinidad & Tobago — 7 points, +2 goal diff
Guatemala — 6 points, +5 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +3 goal diff
St. Vincent and the Grenadines — 0 points, -10 goal diff
Remember, the Yanks were in a very similar place at this exact point in 2014 World Cup qualification. Klinsmann’s crew won at Antigua & Barbuda, drew in Guatemala and lost in Jamaica. The table looked like this:
2014 qualification through three games
Jamaica — 7 points, +2 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Guatemala — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Antigua & Barbuda — 1 point, -4 goal diff
The glaring difference is that A&B was able to pick up a point from Jamaica, and the Yanks snared a point in Guatemala. But the positioning was nearly as precarious for Klinsmann.
So where are the States now?
First and foremost, the Yanks have blown their chance to play two meaningless qualifiers in September. T&T will likely have 10 points after Tuesday’s return visit from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala will be at-worst a point behind the U.S.
That said, the U.S. still hosts Guatemala on Tuesday and T&T on Sept. 6 (one would imagine that game will be held somewhere quite unseasonable for the visitors). Their lone road game remaining is at Saint Vincent, who they bashed 6-1 in November.
[ MORE: Klinsmann takes the blame ]
However, the U.S. does finish with T&T while Guatemala ends its group stage with a visit from Saint Vincent. They more or less need 10 points heading into that game to feel decent at all.
The main point is that a loss on Tuesday all-but-mathematically eliminates the U.S. from qualification to the 2018 World Cup while a win puts them firmly in the driver’s seat for the Hex. T&T and Guatemala can’t both take three points from each other during the Yanks’ Sept. 2 visit to Saint Vincent.
So, basically, you’re both a USMNT and T&T fan for the next two match days. If both take six points, the table would look like this:
T&T — 13 points
USMNT — 10 points
Guatemala — 6 points
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines — 0 points
That leaves the Yanks and T&T in the Hex before they square off in the U.S. on Sept. 6. Anti-climactic, yes, but wouldn’t that be nice?