US Men’s National Soccer Team Finding 2014 World Cup Qualification Difficult
Qualifying for World Cups should never be a difficult task for a team like America in the CONCACAF region that features the United States, Mexico, and a host of Central American and Caribbean island nations. However, qualification is currently in the second group round and the Americans have limped along to two wins, a draw, and a loss. The results have left the country tied with Guatemala and Jamaica on 7 points in their group with only two matches remaining. America would have likely preferred to have already progressed to the third and final round of World Cup qualifiers, but the cards haven’t fallen that way and now they face a potential all-or-nothing match with Guatemala to make sure they at least finish second in the group and move on.
So why has this group proved so difficult? Well, one thing I point to is that these games have been the first competitive matches of Jurgen Klinnsman’s USA managerial career. Yes, he has coached well and earned big victories against Italy and Mexico, but those games were friendlies and there is a massive difference in competitive matches. He needs to evaluate his squad quickly to ensure that we don’t endure a serious embarrassment when the group games finish up next month.
Another troubling factor has been injuries to key players. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley both missed the Jamaica matches. These two men have been an integral part of the team recently and account for a good amount of America’s goals. Similarly, USA star Clint Dempsey wasn’t in top form during these two games. His summer-long transfer saga resulted in his refusal to suit up for Fulham, so the Jamaica matches were his first serious games since June, and he looked tired. He did score a tap-in goal in the loss at Jamaica, but he didn’t do much else, and as the nation’s best soccer player, his top form was greatly missed.
So now America will have to sweat it out in two matches, first against Antigua and Barbuda, followed by a home match against Guatemala. The second game will be the most intense and will be the decider, regardless of the events that unfold in the first match. The USA will need all hands on deck for this game, and will feel the burden of 2014 World Cup qualification squarely on their shoulders. Should they lose this game, there will be a swift firing of Klinsmann and massive changes ahead. The time to win has arrived, and as frustrating as the team has played, I do suspect that they will manage to progress. Hopefully, America will have a full squad and can get the job done!