The United States is not going to the World Cup. In a rather remarkable turn of events, the USMNT went from looking comfortable to at least get into a playoff against Australia to completely out thanks to their 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago combined with Panama and Honduras both scoring upsets on the final day of qualifying.
Even after the USA went down 2-0 on an own goal and an amazing long-distance strike, qualification seemed reasonably secure. That’s because Honduras and Panama both went into halftime trailing their games. The USA’s hopes were further boosted when Christian Pulisic scored in the 47th minute to cut the deficit in half. A tie would have all but assured the USA a spot in Russia.
The equalizer nearly came from Clint Dempsey. After being inserted in the second half, Dempsey made an instant impact. His best attempt was a left-footed shot that hit off the post.
Despite his best efforts — and some quality looks from players like Bobby Wood — the equalizer did not come.
Meanwhile, Honduras and Panama both stormed ahead. Honduras’ equalizer came off a shot that deflected off the crossbar and then into the goal off the goalkeeper’s head, while Panama equalized on a shot that never appeared to cross the goal-line. The winners both came on breakaways, including Panama’s that was from none other than Roman Torres.
What exactly this means for U.S. Soccer is unclear, but it can’t be good. Bruce Arena will almost certainly be done as head coach and other big changes are probably soon to follow. Dempsey’s time with the national team could well be over as well, and it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that he’s played in his final competitive international match. It stands to reason that U.S. Soccer will at least give him a couple more chances to pass Landon Donovan on the all-time goals list, but he doesn’t have much left to play for beyond that.
There will also be some cost for MLS, although the league is probably at a point now where this isn’t THAT big of a blow. Still, MLS has seen nice boosts after the last few World Cups and this will be the first time in its existence the tournament will be played without the United States involved. At the very least, it’s a huge missed opportunity.