The U.S. national team has been eliminated from contention for the 2018 World Cup. It’s a dark night in the history of American soccer, one that will surely cost this sport in this country a healthy heaping of momentum.
These are the men, along with Bruce Arena, Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati, who will bear the brunt of the backlash over the coming days, weeks, months and years…
GK — Tim Howard: 2 — We’ve known all along that Howard would be 39 when the next World Cup rolls around, yet very little has been done to usher in his replacement. Even Brad Guzan, admittedly largely through fault of his own, has been cast aside in favor of a 36-, 37- and now 38-year-old Howard. He showed his age like never before in the first half.
RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 5 — Yedlin was the USMNT’s lone danger man in the first half, as he bombed forward and caused problem’s for T&T, but the final ball was ultimately lacking in quality. His goal-line clearance early in the second half kept the score 2-1.
CB — Omar Gonzalez: 3 — His early own goal aside, Gonzalez was a colossal disaster for the second straight game. Geoff Cameron clearly wasn’t fit enough to go in either of these two games, and while that’s understandable, it’s equally frightening to consider Gonzalez will be one minor injury away from starting games with such consequence.
CB — Matt Besler: 4 — Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about Besler on Friday: Didn’t struggle as badly as Gonzalez, mostly because he’s more accustomed to playing in open space, but playing alongside Gonzalez really highlights his most problematic deficiency: a minor lack of pace and athleticism. Yup.
LB — Jorge Villafaña: 5 — Hey, now we’ve got almost five full years to find the left back of the future.
[ RECAP: USMNT eliminated from World Cup contention ]
CM — Michael Bradley: 5 — No man can play the entire central midfield on his own, but here we are, asking Bradley to do it again and again and again.
CM — Paul Arriola: 5 — Arriola’s role in this midfield is to win second balls, and harass and harry when he fails to win second balls. He did neither in this game, and he was understandably sacrificed at halftime.
CM — Darlington Nagbe: 4 —It was Nagbe who was criminally out of position in the build-up to T&T’s second goal, giving Alvin Jones an uncontested 30-yard buffer in midfield. Nagbe’s inclusion as a central midfielder is warranted when the USMNT has plenty of meaningful possession, but in a game like this one where it’s disjointed and all about the second ball, he’s kind of just… out there.
CM — Christian Pulisic: 6 — His early second-half goal brought the USMNT back into the game, but that was it from the wonderkid on Tuesday. T&T forced him deeper and deeper — often times 20 and 30 and 40 yards inside his own half — just to get on the ball. There’s not a whole lot he’s going to do for you back there.
FW — Jozy Altidore: 4 — Pulisic being forced deeper and deeper has a knock-on effect for Altidore, who then must drop deeper and deeper to find the ball himself. He’s a playmaker and a good link in the hole, but what’s there to link inside the center circle when your no. 10 is far deeper himself?
FW — Bobby Wood: 4 — Just as there’s a knock-on effect between Pulisic and Altidore, there also exists one between Altidore and Wood, who relies on Altidore circulating the ball in dangerous areas to make his own channel runs useful. Without that meaningful possession and passing from Altidore, Wood is left to do a whole lot of standing around.
SUB — Clint Dempsey: 5.5 — Dempsey was less a tactical change, and more a “please just go make something happen” halftime sub. He took up unexpected spots in the final third, which caused a few problems, and hit the post with 15 minutes to go, but that was about it.
SUB —Kellyn Acosta: 5 — Brought on for Villafaña, Acosta essentially played alongside Bradley and left the defense in a back-three setup. Why Dax McCarty, the man who so successfully partnered Bradley late in the game on Friday, wasn’t brought on instead is known by Arena and only Arena.
SUB —Benny Feilhaber: N/A — Brought on six minutes from the end of regular time, Feilhaber had insufficient time to make an impact.