Win Thursday and finish this international break in at least the inter-confederation playoff spot.
That’s what’s at stake for the United States men’s national team heading into Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado.
Sure, the Yanks could go down to Azteca and win against a Mexico team as difficult to figure out as them, but Thursday’s three points should be a sure-fire and wonderful thing.
[ MORE: How will Arena line ’em up? ]
That’s not to say Bruce Arena’s men are going to get the job done. They are, Christian Pulisic’s growth and Geoff Cameron‘s health aside, the exact same flawed bunch that saw Jurgen Klinsmann fired after underperforming late last year.
This is a group that only drew Venezuela 1-1 on Saturday night in Utah, allowing a goal off another set piece to a team that entered the match on a 2W-2D-6L kick.
But it’s also a group playing a Trinidad and Tobago team that just doesn’t win here in meaningful games. Say what you will about MLS standouts Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino, but they are just that and facing a strong enough U.S. side in the high altitude of Commerce City. The Soca Warriors lost their last away WCQ 3-1 to Honduras, the same Honduras side that fell 6-0 to the U.S. last international break.
This should absolutely, positively, be a comfortable win. Frankly, it’s the sort of match-up that makes Jozy Altidore one of the scariest men in CONCACAF, whether paired with Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, or a tiny toy dog. Altidore scored twice when the Yanks waxed T&T in September, and has five in five career appearances against the Soca Warriors.
So, yeah, like the headline says: Don’t screw this up, fellas. Don’t overlook T&T but also be sure to enter the match with the swagger of a heavy favorite. The bettors say the Yanks are more of a lock (1:9) to beat T&T then Mexico is to beat visiting Honduras and Costa Rica is to handle Panama.
Simply put, if Arena spent the last few days firming up his defending on corner kicks, and if Geoff Cameron’s center back mate doesn’t turn into a turnstile, the Yanks win this easy and we turn our attention to Mexico.