By Carolina Sanchez
For the first time since 1986, the United States Men’s Soccer team has failed to qualify for the World Cup. They fell to Trinidad and Tobago with a 2-1 loss that knocked them out of the world’s largest sporting event.
Earlier in the year, they lost the Gold Cup which would have automatically sent the team to the World Cup. They then lost to Mexico, fell to Costa Rica, beat Honduras, tied Panama, and beat Trinidad and Tobago in the first round of qualifiers. This year, in the second round, they tied Mexico, lost to Costa Rica, tied Honduras, beat Panama and lost to Trinidad and Tobago. That landed them second-to-last in their bracket.
In the middle of qualifiers, they switched coaches. The team went from Jurgen Klinsmann to Bruce Arena. Klinsmann had a checkered run as coach and when the team made the change to Arena many people hoped the team was on the up and up. Arena has many accomplishments under his belt: he has won five MLS Championships, led the team to the most wins in U.S. Men’s Soccer Team history, took the national team the farthest it had ever gotten in the World Cup, and helped grow the popularity of soccer in the United States.
His appointment was thought to have saved their chances at qualifying, but it clearly did not. The day after the loss to Trinidad and Tobago, he resigned, which meant that he took the blame for the team’s failure.
In the eyes of many disappointed fans, the downfall for this team was the old players. They were slow and flat-footed throughout the qualifying games. Many of them were stars in their prime, but are well past that time today. However, keeping players on the roster longer than normal has been a trend for the team. They were also unable to practice the day before. These are just some of the many excuses to not qualifying.
The hometown hero and U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan said in an interview with MLSsoccer.com, “it’s unacceptable in every way and it’s disappointing and we got what we deserved.” Players Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Bedoya said that they let down the country and their team mates with the loss. Bruce Arena later confided, “To make an kind of crazy changes, I think, would be foolish. We’re building a good system with our professional league. We have players playing abroad of some quality. There’s enough there. There are no excuses for us not qualifying for the World Cup.” The president of U.S. soccer agrees: “It’s a huge disappointment for everybody, for the players, the staff, the coaches, the federation. It’s not good enough.”
But with this loss the U.S. soccer program may not get many shake-ups. This is because many of the players are now too old to play in the next World Cup and the team’s standout player is a 19-year-old who is currently playing in Europe. There is some hope: under-18 teams in the United States are filled with talented players. These players will hopefully fill the roster for the next Olympics and World Cup. The U.S. also has a saving grace in its women’s national team, which has continued to win World Cup after World Cup and has led the world in women’s soccer since 1991.