The United States men’s national team missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, as a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, coupled with two other results, knocked the USMNT out on the final day of CONCACAF qualifying. Four days after a resounding win over Panama, the USMNT were undone by two first half goals, one an own goal from Omar Gonzalez, the other a long range effort from Alvin Jones.
An early second half goal from Christian Pulisic gave the U.S. some hope, as both Honduras and Panama were not winning their games at the half. However, Honduras took the lead against Mexico midway through the second half, and a late Panamanian goal confirmed that the U.S. will not get a place at Russia 2018.
The loss ends the U.S. appearance streak at the men’s World Cup at seven. They qualified for the first time in 40 years in 1989 with a win over Trinidad and Tobago, but could not replicate that luck on Tuesday night.
Trinidad & Tobago’s first goal came out of nowhere, as Gonzalez misplayed a cross into the box from Alvin Jones. Gonzalez’s attempt to clear the ball ended in a mis-hit, looping backwards over Tim Howard and in.
19 minutes later, the night got worse for the US, as no one seemed particularly bothered with closing down Alvin Jones on the flank. Given the space, Jones smashed a shot from 35 yards out, and Howard was slow to react, unable to keep the ball out as T&T took a two goal lead into the half.
There was some life for the U.S. though right after the break, as Pulisic scored within moments. Collecting the ball near the top of the box, Pulisic took aim, and found the back of the net despite a slight deflection on the way in. At that point, the USMNT was still going through, thanks to the results in the other games.
The Americans came close twice to equalizing, which is all they would have needed to qualify. Clint Dempsey had a shot from distance hit the post after its bounce appeared to fool T&T goalkeeper Adrian Foncette. And with just a couple of minutes left, Benny Feilhaber, another substitute, sent a brave header goalward from a cross by Pulisic, but he was denied by a great save from Foncette.
Both Mexico and Costa Rica led at halftime, results which would have covered for what was on the balance a woeful U.S. showing. However, Honduras scored twice in a span of six minutes to take the lead in the 60th minute, an edge they never relinquished. That result, combined with a Panama loss, would have meant that the US would have finished fourth in the Hex table, ensuring a playoff against Australia next month to earn a spot at the World Cup.
It wasn’t to be. Gabriel Torres had equalized in the 53rd minute for Panama, setting the stage for Roman Torres to become a national hero, scoring in the 88th minute to put Los Canaleros through to the World Cup. The goal meant that Panama qualified for the men’s World Cup for the first time in the nation’s history. Honduras finished fourth in the group, sending them into a two-legged playoff against Australia for another spot in Russia.