On Tuesday night the United States Men’s National Team lost to Trinidad & Tobago and was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup after Honduras and Panama jumped them in the CONCACAF qualifying table on the final day of Hex play.
There will be plenty of blame passed around in the coming days, weeks, months, and yes, years, until the USMNT has the chance to redeem themselves ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Some will blame manager Bruce Arena, others on the American players that came up short, especially Omar Gonzalez, whose own goal gave Trinidad & Tobago an early lead that they would never surrender.
While the American side did plenty on their own to ensure the demise of their World Cup aspirations, one goal in the Panama-Costa Rica game being played concurrently with the Americans’ contest will surely be examined closely over the next few days.
Panama needed a win against Costa Rica in order to leap past the USMNT in the table. Down 1-0 halfway through the game, Panama found their equaliser when a loose ball in the aftermath of a corner kick danced around the Costa Rican goal. While a goal was awarded to Gabriel Torres, replays would show that the ball never came close to crossing the line.
The “goal” would end up having huge consequences. After Panama added another goal to defeat Costa Rica, and the USMNT were unable to complete their comeback against Trinidad & Tobago, one could argue that it was this phantom goal that killed the Americans’ World Cup dreams.
But the USMNT had endless chances, both in their final game and throughout all 10 games of CONCACAF qualification. Beating Costa Rica at home would have gotten the Americans through, as would a win in either of their games against arch rival Mexico.
No matter where the final blame lands, the result is still the same — the United States men are missing their first World Cup since 1986.
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