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USMNT World Cup qualifying debacle and more: Freedom Kicks for 10/11/2017

The unfathomable happened, and we’re going to have to live with it

The thought I can’t shake is of how the USMNT started this qualifying cycle. Back in November 2015, they beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1, but the first thing that happened in that game was a somnolent United States, fielding a team of millionaires and coached by a World Cup winner, falling behind after 5 minutes. It’s the kind of thing you write off down the road, when time proves that it’s an aberration. Except this time, it wasn’t.

The mean edge USMNT sides of the past had, that “hard to play against” mentality that is never sexy but is always necessary, wasn’t there then. And it wasn’t there last night, in front of a far-from-hostile crowd, playing the worst team in the Hex (who were missing their best player and fielding numerous starters with little international experience).

Last night should have been about sealing the deal. Trinidad and Tobago entered with a 1W-0D-8L record in the Hex for a reason. The USMNT found every possible piece of the puzzle required to throw it all away: Bad tactics, a failure to rotate to avoid tired players, the soccer IQ and focus to figure out how to work around those tired legs, bad luck, and outright bad soccer. And that was just the work required to lose, not the twin thunderbolts that were wins by Panama and Honduras.

I don’t know where the USMNT lost that edge. Some changes in the locker room can start that rot, as did Jurgen Klinsmann’s tendency to chip away at the group’s mentality. Bruce Arena was clearly not able to put things back together, at least for more than 90 minutes at a time. Sometimes it’s individuals, and sometimes it’s just institutional drift.

So anyway, this pretty much sums up the mood:

Taylor Twellman’s USMNT rant on ‘SportsCenter’ is perfect | SB Nation
OK, maybe my mood is 50% despondent Sunil and 50% infuriated TT. Honestly thought Taylor Twellman was going to chuck his phone at one point during this.

USMNT lose, miss out on 2018 World Cup | Black and Red United
2017 has been tough for this site. The USMNT has been bad. D.C. United has been bad. The Washington Spirit were bad. The Richmond Kickers have been bad. Even the USWNT still comes with bizarre selection and formation choices, and their one game in this region this year was a 3-0 capitulation against France.

Thanks for continuing to come back despite our teams providing so much of a reason to turn off for a while and focus on something else. I mean that.

In a stunner, U.S. men’s soccer falls to Trinidad and Tobago and will not qualify for 2018 World Cup | Washington Post
U.S. World Cup hopes end after shambolic loss to Trinidad and Tobago | ESPNFC
USMNT misses 2018 World Cup after embarrassing loss to Trinidad and Tobago | SB Nation
More recap misery if you really need that sort of thing.

A slow-walking death: How the US crashed out of 2018 World Cup qualifying |
Charles Boehm expands on the same vibe that has me thinking about that Anderson goal. The USMNT has been throwing up red flag results for over 2 years now.

In NWSL news, the league’s Second XI was announced yesterday afternoon:

I had hoped the Washington Spirit’s Estelle Johnson might get acknowledged for a strong year at right back, but there’s certainly an argument for Steph Catley (one of the world’s best left backs) and Meghan Klingenberg (who had more assists than any other defender in the league) even though both players are left backs.

The NWSL final is Saturday. You should watch.

Tim Cahill double keeps Australia alive with extra-time win over Syria | The Guardian
Cool, good for Australia, great.

That’s all I have for you. Stay strong out there.