A stunning confluence of events occurred Tuesday night to eliminate the United States men’s national team from World Cup qualification.
Trinidad and Tobago pulled off a seminal upset on home soil, beating the U.S. 2-1 at Ato Boldon Stadium. That, coupled with events across the Western Hemisphere, ended up ensuring the Americans will miss a World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Honduras and Panama each trailed the U.S. by two points coming into Tuesday night’s final leg of CONCACAF qualification, but both Central American nations prevailed in their contests to vault past the Americans. Honduras beat Mexico 3-2, and Panama edged Costa Rica 2-1.
CONCACAF’s representatives will be Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, with Honduras having a chance to give the group a fourth team via playoff.
For the Americans, this is a jarring setback when considering their resource advantage over the Central American nations that finished ahead of them in this group. However, it took an unlikely result from the Caribbean team slotted in last place in the final CONCACAF table to ensure it happened.
The Trinidadians scored two first-half goals — the first on an own goal from Omar Gonzalez in the 17th minute — to put the Americans at a steep disadvantage, and the Soca Warriors held on despite Christian Pulisic‘s 47th-minute strike that halved the deficit for the desperate island visitors. Trinidad and Tobago won despite the U.S. winning the possession battle 61 percent to 39 percent. However, Team USA put just six shots on goal compared to Trinidad’s five.
So despite the spoiler-minded team comprised of players from the two southern-Caribbean islands finishing with just six CONCACAF points, three of those coming against the U.S. figures to drop World Cup ratings considerably in the States come next summer.
The U.S. won three of its final five CONCACAF contests but couldn’t overcome a rough start in this Cup pursuit.