The United States football team were roundly criticised, by both their media and former players, after they failed to book a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
A headline on ESPN website read “US out of excuses, out of World Cup”, while the New York described Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago as “the darkest moment in US history”.
The Bruce Arena-coached squad were even slammed by a number of ex-players, turned pundits, including defender Alexi Lalas and striker Taylor Twellman.
Lalas noted, “They let themselves down, they let us down and they will have to think about that for a very long time.”
According to Twellman, “This (was) an utter embarrassment. With the amount of money that is in Major League Soccer and in this sport, you can’t get a draw, a tie, against Trinidad? You don’t deserve to go to the World Cup.”
This will be the first time since 1986 that the US will not be involved in the FIFA World Cup.
Team captain Michael Bradley said on Tuesday night, “When you lose the first two games and you drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes away, and so you know you’re at the mercy of a night like this, where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games (referring to Honduras’ 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica).”
“We like to hang our hat on the fact that we outwork teams and we press teams,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “They won a lot of second balls tonight and put us under pressure.”
A relentless work ethic the Americans relied on for years was absent too often.
“You can’t go and score four, five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against,” forward Jozy Altidore said. “We weren’t hard enough to play against too many times on these nights.”
In this cycle, the Americans not only lost their first home qualifier since the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds, they lost two home games in a qualifying cycle for the first time since 1957 — during their 40-year absence from soccer’s top event.
Bradley is 30 and may not play in another World Cup. Howard (38) and Clint Dempsey (34) will never again appear on soccer’s biggest stage.
“If I said disappointment, it would be an understatement,” Howard said.
US’ failure to qualify will even be felt off the field of play. Fox Sports recently announced a contract worth US$200 million for coverage of the 2018 World Cup while Nike, providers of the US team jerseys, extended their deal through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.