In such an intense and fast period, it is easy to become a prisoner of the moment.
When it comes to the US men’s national team and their quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, that means, for those out there, watching a roller coaster of what-if, worst-case scenarios and reactions. Instinctive that may lack the context of the bigger picture or not be fully rooted in reality, at least not with the full complement of evidence required to reach such conclusions. For those on the inside, it means tuning in to all of that as much as possible and keeping one eye on the big picture and the other on what’s right in front of you.
“What I try to avoid, especially with the team, is putting pressure on them by external forces. We have enough internal pressure to want to play a certain way. We want to play well and we want to win games, ”US coach Gregg Berhalter said after Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica. But the whole qualification for the World Cup is difficult. All qualification for the World Cup is a challenge. And sometimes I feel like people forget that and people think it’s a piece of cake and we’re going to play the youngest team in US Soccer history in one game, and we’re just going to quickly go through these games. It is not realistic. “
The United States certainly didn’t pass this October window quickly, but on the surface, a six-point shot after home wins against Jamaica and Costa Rica and a lifeless road loss to Panama represents another satisfying effort in the grand scheme. .
Yet somewhat ironic, it was a series of individual moments that enabled the United States to come out of the October window in good shape. The victory over Costa Rica was defined by a series of moments that followed the path of the United States (after the calamity of the first minute, that is). There was a sequence of 13 passes that led to Sergiño Dest’s goal (and yes, the sequence almost broke after the first few passes, and it could be argued that Tim Weah should have made a first cross to Dest, but the play ended with a Dest’s goal, so all of that is moot.)
There was the PK potential that wasn’t in Chris Richards’ sliding challenge on Jonathan Moya (Berhalter may end up grateful after all that Concacaf doesn’t have VAR available in this competition). There was a terrible Miles Robinson draw and a heroic recovery tackle (he’s lucky it was Bryan Ruiz who made the robbery and not someone with the rhythm of, say, Alphonso davies). There was the injury to Costa Rica’s star goalkeeper Keylor Navas, which at least raises the idea that perhaps Weah’s shot that resulted in the winning own goal may have had a different fate. And there was a pregame injury to Paul Arriola that resulted in Weah’s start. It is unknown what Arriola could have done there, but Weah ended up as one of America’s best artists on the night. Often times, a complex picture boils down to the thin margins, and on Wednesday, the majority leaned in favor of the Americans.
So the United States moves forward as part of a trio of teams beginning to separate themselves from the rest. Concacaf’s Octagonal is not yet halfway there, but the three 2026 World Cup hosts (Mexico, US and Canada) are better positioned to secure the region’s three automatic spots for the 2022 exhibition. For the US, there is a five-point boundary between their current position and not reaching Qatar, although with away games in Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica yet to come, the hard part is yet to come.
Since this is the first final round of eight teams in the Concacaf standings, there is no prior data to rely on to determine what the target number of points the United States must achieve to secure a top three spot would be, but Through six games, the United States is likely and roughly half the glory, slightly less than half the game roster.
However, there is little time to rest on your laurels. Mexico’s home game is available below, and the full focus will be on Cincinnati, where the US can either match the points with El Tri at the top of the table or find themselves dragged into the center of the group, allowing the external doubts are turned off. sneak back before a trip to Jamaica.
Barring injuries, the US will have a full deck for the Mexico game. It was imperative that Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, the indispensable midfielders that they are, avoid picking up second yellow cards in Wednesday’s tie that would have left them suspended (Adams appeared to be close to receiving one for dissent after Costa Rica’s first goal, with the referee going to his pocket before finally not dealing one). If Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are fit to rejoin the team, and take a second to consider that the US has secured 11 points in six games by taking out just one game from Reyna, just over one and a half from Pulisic and one and a half of the towering central defender John Brooks, so Berhalter could have a full complement of top talent for the first time as America’s coach. Since November is a more traditional two-game window rather than a three-game window, squad rotation will also be a lesser requirement.
All eyes will also be on the US target. Zack Steffen received the exit in Columbus, and the fiasco of the first minute turned into a clinic of doubts. Berhalter need Make a change to the back and open up to the potential for criticism when Matt Turner had been so adamant? In the long run, it can show that getting Steffen that game has tremendous value, and while it’s good that on the one hand the US feels like it has two goalkeepers that it can turn to in important places and feel equally at peace. , it helps when there is consistency. In the back. Steffen lost the number one spot due to injury and COVID-19, so in a sense it’s unfair to permanently take it off, but Turner had performed well in the previous five games, reaching crucial moments that are likely to be will be overlooked. when qualifying ends and, unlike Steffen, he plays regularly for his club. The scrutiny on the decision on the goal does not seem to end soon.
But that’s a question that will be resolved in a few weeks. For now, the United States has emerged from another weeklong grind in a position of strength. He’s wedged into the table between Mexico and Canada, who remain the only undefeated teams left in the region. Elsewhere, Panama is still equally capable of putting down major enemies at home while fighting on the road. Costa Rica seems old and severely limited. Jamaica got the victory it needed to stay alive and will hope that players like Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey return next month to strengthen the team before it is too late. El Salvador remains a tough foe that has little to show for its efforts in the points column. Honduras is in last place and with a new coach, their hopes of qualifying for a third World Cup in four cycles diminish with the game.
At the end of the day, America remains right where it needs to be to achieve its ultimate goal, and after all the heartbreak, worry, and assumptions of the past few days, that’s a good place to reside.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.