There are many developing stories surrounding the USMNT, but nothing bigger than the fact that World Cup Qualifying for Russia 2018 begins this Friday November 13th.
Yes, Friday the 13th and just 13 days after Halloween! Are you spooked? You might be a little worried if you remember the dismal exit from Gold Cup 2015 and an even more painful loss to El Tri in the Rose Bowl Oct, 10th. A bit of a witch hunt for the problem has taken place. Who's to blame? Is our current form a temporary curse? Some say the answers can be found in the answer to Halloween; let the kids play! We do have some exciting young players called up for the next two games. When the young Jordan Morris dresses up in the men's national team kit and starts knocking on the opponents door, will we see 'tricks' or 'treats' in his bag after the smoke clears?
Are We In Danger?
What we do know: the US is in group C of what is actually round 4 of World Cup Qualifying for Concacaf. The Yanks received a bye from the first three rounds due to ranking 3rd in Concacaf, 18th by FIFA. The top two teams in each group, A through C, will advance to the final round of qualifying known as the 'Hex'. Two teams in our group had to fight their way from round two into the current 4th round; Guatemala and St. Vincent and The Grenadines. The other team in our group, Trinidad and Tobago, had a bye into the fourth round. Trinidad and Tobago (6th ranked in Concacaf, 80th by FIFA) had a great run in the Gold Cup this year with a 3-1 win against Guatemala, a 2-0 win against Cuba, and the refs gifted a late goal to force a 4-4 tie with the eventual cup thieves; Mexico. T&T was only stopped from advancing through pk's with Panama after a 1-1 draw in regulation. They actually qualified for the 2006 World Cup by placing fourth place in the final round of qualifying and beating Bahrain in a two game playoff. There is no doubt in my mind that T&T led by Kenwyne Jones of Cardiff City will be a tough match for the US team November 17th.
One Foot In Front Of The Other
Our first match will be against St, Vincent and The Grenadines on Nov, 13th at 3:30pm. It may not seem fair to face a country with two names but with a population of 102k, roughly half the population of Modesto, this would be an embarrassment to walk away with anything less than 3 points. St. Vincent and The Grenadines (is this a Catholic reggae band?) is coming off a win against Antigua and Barbuda (what's with these double named island nations?). Even coming off 3 losses, the US will be confident to get a win to open up qualifying.
Concacaf teams are improving very rapidly. I have no reservation in saying we will be one of the 6 teams in the final round. It is in the 'Hex' round that I feel it is imperative that we enter with good form. Playing well together in round 4 will translate to only good things in the final round when we could be facing the likes of Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Jamaica, T&T. I look forward to traveling and attending as many qualifiers with my fellow Modesto Outlaws as possible.
Come down and support your team both Friday (3:30pm) and Tuesday (TBD) for the first two World Cup qualifying games!
Cheers and see you at the Pub!