The USA’s bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup could be over tonight if they fail beat Guatemala in Columbus.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side is in this situation after Friday night’s shock 2-0 loss in Guatemala. The defeat left the USA in third place in Group C with four points from three matches, having won, drawn and lost once so far.
Trinidad and Tobago top the group with seven points from their three matches with Guatemala in second place on six points. Meanwhile St. Vincent and Grenadines are bottom having lost all three of their matches – conceding 13 times in the process.
Tonight’s match is a must-win because a defeat would all but eliminate the American’s from World Cup qualification. With Trinidad and Tobago likely to win at home against St. Vincent and Grenadines tonight, another loss to Guatemala would leave the USA five points adrift of second place with two games left. And Guatemala’s last match is at home to St. Vincent and Grenadines, a fixture they would expect to win.
The USA’s remaining matches are at St. Vincent on September 2 and home to Trinidad and Tobago four days later.
Klinsmann has came under heavy pressure after his strange tactics in Guatemala. While he played many of his established players, he played several of them out of position. Geoff Cameron started at right-back instead of central defense, while DeAndre Yedlin was deployed in midfield as opposed to at full-back. In addition, Michael Orozco started in central defense despite having not played this year for Tijuana.
History suggests that the Americans will win tonight. The USA was in a similar position four years ago, when they had three points after three matches and were coming off a loss away to Jamaica. With Klinsmann under-scrutiny the USA team responded with a 1-0 home win over the Reggae Boyz and eventually qualified for the 2014 World Cup where they reached the last-16.
At home, the Americans are unbeaten in 28 consecutive qualifiers (winning 26 and drawing two) since a 3-2 defeat by Honduras in September 2001 at Washington. Tuesday’s match at Columbus too is a happy-hunting ground for them, having never lost in 10 previous games.
The USA has been in a funk for the better part of the last 12 months. The Gold Cup was a disaster as was the CONCACAF Gold Cup play-in match against Mexico. Klinsmann has a big contract but not qualifying for the World Cup is unthinkable for US soccer. To not even reach the final stage of qualifying would surely have to mean the end of the Klinsmann era?