Soccer: USMNT with their backs against the wall
With the World Cup in Russia just around the corner, U.S. Soccer finds themselves with their backs against the wall. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) faces its final two hurdles at the close of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. The Hex, as it is known, can be very difficult to navigate. After eight of the 10 games played the Yanks find themselves in 4th position out of six teams. The top-three teams receive an automatic bid to next Summer’s World Cup, while the fourth place team will play a home-and-home with the winner of Australia/Syria.
It will start Friday with a battle against third place Panama on home soil at the home of Orlando City FC. These two teams fought to a 1-1 draw in March, where some fancy Pulisic footwork led to the easy goal for Clint Dempsey. Panama answered back a few minutes later and also dominated the shot total during the game, which is always a tough road test. Panama is coming off a 3-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago and is looking to qualify for their first ever World Cup. Back in 2013 they looked primed to make it to the World Cup, but it was in the final game where the US scored twice in stoppage time to knock them out of a qualifying spot.
The big question for the USMNT is their back four, which has yet to show any consistency in this calendar year. Injuries have given us all sorts of different combinations this year, and it has cost This game will be no different, as center back John Brooks is out to injury. On the plus side speedy right back DeAndre Yedlin makes his return, and hopefully will bring some stability to the back line. It will be interesting to see what lineup coach Bruce Arena goes with, especially on the left side where Christian Pulisic will be up top. My guess is DeMarcus Beasley who can be a liability on the speed side. But Bruce values his experience, and the options at that position continue to be limited.
When it comes down to it, the United States NEEDS three points from this first game. A win will put the US at 12 points heading into the final game at Trinidad & Tobago. Panama is not the only worry for the US as they sit tied with Honduras on points right now. Honduras will head to Costa Rica on Saturday, and then three days later will head home to battle Hex leaders Mexico. El Tri felt the pressure four years ago when they needed the Americans to even have a chance at the World Cup. This time around, our boys might be looking to Mexico to return the favor.
In the end, I feel the USMNT controls its own destiny and will qualify for the World Cup in Russia. I am nervous about this game, but I expect a 2-1 win on Friday. Look for Jozy to find the net as he seems to like playing in Orlando during the MLS season. I challenge you to go out and find your local American Outlaws chapter bar and cheer on our Yanks.
One nation, one team.