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Perfect Storm of Hex Results Eliminates USA from 2018 World Cup Contention After 2-1 Loss in Trinidad & Tobago

COUVA, Trinidad & Tobago (Oct. 10, 2017) – With an unlikely combination of results in the final Matchday of CONCACAF Qualifying, the U.S. Men’s National Team was eliminated from contention for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

After falling 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago, the doomsday combination of a Honduras victory against Mexico (3-2) and a Panama win over Costa Rica (2-1) dropped the U.S. from third to fifth place in the Hexagonal. Panama qualified directly with its third place finish, while Honduras will face off against Australia in the intercontinental playoff.

A pair of improbable goals from the Socca Warriors in the first half gave the hosts a 2-0 lead and put the USA in the difficult position of needing to break down an opponent that kept 10 men behind the ball in the second half.

Christian Pulisic cut the deficit in half just minutes into the second stanza when his strike from the top of the box in the 47th minute found the back of the net. The U.S. continued to push forward and created numerous quality chances, but Trinidad goalkeeper Adrian Foncette was up to the task as he pulled off impressive saves to keep the lead.

Pulisic, Omar Gonzalez, Bobby Wood, and Darlington Nagbe all saw chances denied at the last moment by Foncette, while half-time substitute Clint Dempsey saw one of his two great chances hit the post flush and bounce out as time wound down.

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Goal Scoring Rundown:
TRI – Omar Gonzalez (own goal), 17th minute:
A Trinidad & Tobago attack down the USA’s left flank resulted in a fluke own goal when Alvin Jones centered a ball for Shahdon Winchester that was beyond his reach but ricocheted off Omar Gonzalez’s outstretched foot, looping into the top right corner of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s net for the shock lead.
USA 0, TRI 1 [WATCH]

TRI – Alvin Jones (Nathan Lewis), 36th minute: Receiving a pass from Nathan Lewis, Jones took a touch before unleashing a speculative drive nearly 30 yards out from goal. The shot from the right side of the field swerved wildly away from the center of goal, finding the left side netting. USA 0, TRI 2 [WATCH]

USA – Christian Pulisic (Darlington Nagbe), 47th minute: Nagbe won the ball just outside the Socca Warriors’ box and played a quick pass to Pulisic, whose first touch set him up to rip a shot through traffic from just outside the top of the penalty arc across the face of goal into the top left corner. USA 1, TRI 2 [WATCH] FINAL

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
USA – Tim Howard, 44th minute: Having found his luck with one long-distance strike already, Jones sent a free kick from 40 yards out near the right sideline blistering toward the U.S. goal. The shot dipped just inside the six-yard box and took a nasty bounce off the choppy turf, nearly wrong-footing Howard, who held up just enough to get his shoulder to the ball and keep it out. His job not done, Howard tracked the rebound as it rolled to the left of the goal, knocking it away from Winchester with a well-executed sliding tackle.

USA – DeAndre Yedlin, 49th minute: A Trinidad attack up the right wing worked its way into the USA box but was snuffed out at the last minute by a sliding block from Yedlin to deny Nathan Lewis at the left post from four yards out with Howard down.

USA – DeAndre Yedlin, 58th minute: It was a great recovery by Yedlin to chase down Nathan Lewis and get in a last-minute sliding tackle to deny a point blank shot on goal after the speedy Socca Warriors’ attacker had gotten free down the U.S. left flank.

USA – Tim Howard 63rd minute: As the game opened up with the U.S. pushing forward for an equalizer, the ball was lifted into the U.S. box for a shot from the middle of the penalty area that Howard got down well to kick away.

TRI – Adrian Foncette, 69th minute: A well-executed set play by the USA saw Michael Bradley play the ball toward the top of the Soca Warriors’ box. Dempsey met the pass and sent a chipped shot toward the top left corner but Foncette just got a hand to tip it over the bar.

TRI – Adrian Foncette, 77th minute: As the U.S. carved out another attack, Foncette was finally beaten by a low effort from the top of the box by Dempsey. As it was headed for the lower left corner, a sprawling Foncette made a fingernail save down to his left to deflect the shot onto the post.

TRI – Adrian Foncette, 88th minute: With its last best chance to knot the score at 2-2, Bobby Wood evaded his marker and met Pulisic’s cross to send a downward header bouncing toward the right side of goal, but Foncette got down quick to push the point blank header around the post.

NOTES:

  • The U.S. MNT moved to 18-3-4 all-time vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 13-2-3 in World Cup Qualifying and 4-2-2 in away qualifiers.
  • Altidore and Michael Bradley appeared in 15 of the team’s 16 CONCACAF qualifiers for Russia 2018.
  • The Toronto FC pair also joined left back Jorge Villafaña in making their team-leading 14th appearances of 2017.
  • While he recorded five goals and four assists in qualifying matches this year, in one way or another, Christian Pulisic has been involved in 12 of the 17 goals scored by the U.S. during the Final Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
  • In order to get the gameday roster down to 23 players, defender Michael Orozco and midfielder Juan Agudelo did not dress for tonight’s match.

- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Date: Oct. 10, 2017
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – Final Round
Venue: Ato Boldon Stadium; Couva, Trinidad
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET 
Attendance: 1,500
Weather: 80 degrees; mostly clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                          0 1 1
TRI                           2 0 2

TRI – Own Goal (Omar Gonzalez)      17th minute
TRI – Alvin Jones (Nathan Lewis)       37
USA – Christian Pulisic                        47

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 15-Jorge Villafaña (23-Kellyn Acosta, 72), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 21-Paul Arriola (8-Clint Dempsey, 46), 10-Christian Pulisic, 6-Darlington Nagbe (16-Benny Feilhaber, 84), 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Tim Ream, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Geoff Cameron
Head coach: Bruce Arena

TRI: 22-Adrian Foncette, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 7-Nathan Lewis, 8-Khaleem Hyland (capt.), 9-Shahdon Winchester (20-Trevin Caesar, 78), 13-Curtis Gonzales, 16-Levi Garcia (3-Joevin Jones, 72), 17-Alvin Jones, 18-Triston Hodge (4-Kevon Villaroel, 81), 19-Kevan George, 23-Leston Paul
Subs not used: 1-Glenroy Samuel, 21-Gregory Ranjitsingh, 2-Kareem Moses, 6-Josiah Trimmingham, 10-Karl Duane Muckette, 11-Neil Benjamin, 12-Kathon St. Hillaire, 14-Akeem Roach, 15-Jared London
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 6 / 5
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2
Fouls: 18 / 11
Offside: 3 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
TRI – Triston Hodge (caution)               68th minute
USA – Omar Gonzalez (caution)           90+1
TRI – Joevin Jones (caution)                 90+3
USA – Matt Besler (caution)                  90+5

Officials:
Referee: Juan Carlos Guerra (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Ronaldo de la Cruz (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: David Moran (SLV)
Fourth Official: Fernando Guerrero (MEX)

Budweiser Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic

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MNT Oct 10, 2017

- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad & Tobago 
Date: Oct. 10, 2017 
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – Final Round 
Venue: Ato Boldon Stadium; Couva, Trinidad
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET 
Attendance: 1,500
Weather: 80 degrees; mostly clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F 
USA                          0 1 1
TRI                           2 0 2

TRI – Own Goal (Omar Gonzalez)      17th minute
TRI – Alvin Jones (Nathan Lewis)       37
USA – Christian Pulisic                        47

Lineups: 
USA: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 15-Jorge Villafaña (23-Kellyn Acosta, 72), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 21-Paul Arriola (8-Clint Dempsey, 46), 10-Christian Pulisic, 6-Darlington Nagbe (16-Benny Feilhaber, 84), 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Tim Ream, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Geoff Cameron
Head coach: Bruce Arena

TRI: 22-Adrian Foncette, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 7-Nathan Lewis, 8-Khaleem Hyland (capt.), 9-Shahdon Winchester (20-Trevin Caesar, 78), 13-Curtis Gonzales, 16-Levi Garcia (3-Joevin Jones, 72), 17-Alvin Jones, 18-Triston Hodge (4-Kevon Villaroel, 81), 19-Kevan George, 23-Leston Paul
Subs not used: 1-Glenroy Samuel, 21-Gregory Ranjitsingh, 2-Kareem Moses, 6-Josiah Trimmingham, 10-Karl Duane Muckette, 11-Neil Benjamin, 12-Kathon St. Hillaire, 14-Akeem Roach, 15-Jared London
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI 
Shots: 15 / 11 
Shots on Goal: 6 / 5 
Saves: 3 / 5 
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2 
Fouls: 18 / 11 
Offside: 3 / 3

Misconduct Summary: 
TRI – Triston Hodge (caution)               68th minute
USA – Omar Gonzalez (caution)           90+1
TRI – Joevin Jones (caution)                 90+3
USA – Matt Besler (caution)                  90+5

Officials: 
Referee: Juan Carlos Guerra (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Ronaldo de la Cruz (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: David Moran (SLV)
Fourth Official: Fernando Guerrero (MEX)

Budweiser Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic

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Perfect Storm of Hex Results Eliminates USA from 2018 World Cup Contention After 2-1 Loss in Trinidad & Tobago

COUVA, Trinidad & Tobago (Oct. 10, 2017) – With an unlikely combination of results in the final Matchday of CONCACAF Qualifying, the U.S. Men’s National Team was eliminated from contention for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After falling 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago, the doomsday combination of a Honduras victory against Mexico (3-2) and a Panama win over Costa Rica (2-1) dropped the Read more
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LINEUP NOTES: U.S. MNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying

Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Oct. 10, 2017 Ato Boldon Stadium; Couva, Trinidad Live Broadcast: 8 p.m. ET on beIN Sports, UNIVERSO, telemundodeportes.com, FuboTV (FREE 7-Day Trial) WCQ TV Rights Explained Tonight’s U.S. MNT Starting XI at Trinidad & Tobago: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 4-Michael Bradley, 5-Matt Besler, 6-Darlingto Read more
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BTC: USA World Cup Berth on the Line at Trinidad & Tobago

In this episode of Behind the Crest, presented by Bud Light Chelada, U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena, midfielder Paul Arriola and defender Omar Gonzalez preview the MNT's decisive Matchday 10 Qualifier at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, Oct. 10 (8 p.m. ET; beIN Sports, UNIVERSO). A win or draw against the Soca Warriors would see the USA book a ticket to its eighth consecutive FIFA World Cup. Read more
MNT Oct 10, 2017

PREVIEW: MNT Can Book World Cup Place with Result in Trinidad & Tobago | 8pm ET | beIN SPORTS, UNIVERSO

CHICAGO (Oct. 9, 2017) – The U.S. Men’s National Team will look to punch a ticket to its eighth-straight FIFA World Cup when it visits Trinidad & Tobago on the last day of Final Round Qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Tuesday. Thanks to huge advantages in goal difference over Panama and Honduras, a draw against the Soca Warriors would likely be enough for the Read more
MNT Oct 9, 2017

WAY BACK: DaMarcus Beasley Remembers First World Cup Qualifier From 2001 in Trinidad & Tobago

When the U.S. Men’s National stepped onto the vaunted Estadio Azteca pitch during June’s World Cup Qualifying clash a little history was made. MNT and Liga MX veteran DaMarcus Beasley was slotted in at left back for the difficult tie, making his first appearance of the USA’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign and in turn, becoming the first MNT player to appear in five different qualifying cycles.

That feat was all made possible because of his inclusion in a Final Round qualifier played at Trinidad & Tobago in November 2001. Just a month earlier, the USA had memorably defeated Jamaica 2-1 and had each of the other two results go its way to secure its place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. That triumph, combined with Trinidad & Tobago’s early elimination allowed Bruce Arena to try a few different looks with his lineup, one of which was handing Beasley, who had been capped just twice before, his qualifying debut at the tender age of 19.

“We had already qualified and obviously the pressure was off, so being a young kid, you go out there and just play,” the 35-year-old remembered about the experience.

Lining up on the left side of midfield alongside Earnie Stewart, John O’Brien and Jovan Kirovski, Beasley was active early on, but would eventually be hampered by an elbow to the head from Soca Warriors’ attacker Nigel Pierre in the 17th minute. Beasley stayed down on the Hasely Crawford pitch for a long period of time before walking off moments later.

“My debut didn’t last too long because I got a concussion in the first half and came off at halftime."

At a time where concussion awareness wasn’t as heightened as the present day, Beasley was cleared to re-enter the game before being replaced by Cobi Jones at the break.

“I kind of still remember the play,” he said, “but I don’t remember too much of the game.”

Those that didn’t have concussions would have a hard time remembering it as well. Played on a steamy afternoon in Port of Spain, both teams saw multiple shots go high and wide throughout the match, though Beasley’s Chicago Fire teammate and fellow qualifying debutant Zach Thornton did make a nice diving save on Stern John’s hit from distance in the 52nd minute.  

Eventually the final whistle blew as the team’s shared a point in the 0-0 draw.

Still hanging around with the National Team 16 years later, Beasley said he looked forward to returning to Trinidad & Tobago, this time with a different setting -- the smaller Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva -- but still with plenty more on the line than his qualifying debut.

“This is what all players want, a chance to qualify for the World Cup, but to be part of the game that actually does it. People take it for granted and say that you should just qualify. People don’t understand how big qualifying for the World Cup is, how much blood, sweat and hard work goes into a qualifier. Hopefully we get a good result on Tuesday and we can celebrate a little bit when we do it. It’ll be a great end to a long qualifying campaign.”

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MNT Oct 9, 2017

ARENA: "Trinidad & Tobago will have aggressive mentality."

After the U.S. Men’s National Team took care of its business with a 4-0 shutout against Panama on Friday night, attention in camp was focused on San Jose, Costa Rica the following night. There, the hosts took on Central American rival Honduras in a match that had huge implications for both teams as well as the two sides who met the previous night in Orlando.

A Costa Rica side that needed only a draw to qualify for the World Cup looked sluggish at times, more than willing to absorb and keep things scoreless for 90 minutes. Needing as many points as it can get, Honduras was on the front foot most of the match and found the go-ahead goal when Eddie Hernández rose to head home Rommel Quioto’s cross in the 77th minute.

The goal pulled Costa Rica out of its shell, but most of its attacks were stifled. Just as Honduras looked like it would pull off one of the big results of the Hex, Ticos captain Kendall Waston similarly rose in a crowd to power in the equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time, sending the stadium into pandemonium. Not long after, the referee blew the full time whistle and Costa Rica had booked its ticket and helped out both the USA and Panama in the process.

Having watched the game with his coaching staff in the hotel restaurant, MNT head coach Bruce Arena said Sunday, “I think we’re in a pretty good position. I believe unless something completely bizarre occurs, one point secures us third place in the group.”

Though both rivals for that third and final automatic World Cup berth could equal the USA on points with wins in their final games, the MNT’s huge edge in goal differential above Panama (7 goals) and Honduras (12 goals), mean a draw in the Matchday 10 qualifier at Trinidad & Tobago almost certainly punches a ticket to Russia for Arena’s side.

Though one point is all it will take, after watching Costa Rica nearly lose playing that way – and knowing that a loss could bring the U.S. team down to fifth place -- Arena didn’t mince words when it came to the desired result Tuesday night.

“We need to get on the field Tuesday and win the game,” he said. “In the closing minutes, if we have a point wrapped up, we just need to be smart, but certainly our mentality is going to be to go to Trinidad and win.”

With the home side out of World Cup contention following September’s matches, head coach Dennis Lawrence elected to summon a younger, less-tested squad as he looks to build the national team for the future. Without much in the way of expectations, the greener group of Soca Warriors showed well in their visit to Mexico on Friday, leading 1-0 before surrendering two goals in the final two minutes and eventually succumbing 3-1.

Playing to prove a point, Arena expects the young side will be fearless at home and unlikely to care much that the U.S. holds a 13-1-3 edge in the qualifying series.

“They have no pressure on them,” he said. “They’ve been playing some new players and I think they’re going to be playing with a lot of freedom. They can be very aggressive – no one from Trinidad is going to be suspended for the first game of the World Cup, so they can have an aggressive mentality, they can have a loose spirit and they’re going to be a real difficult team to play against, so we have to be at our best.”

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MNT Oct 8, 2017

How Discipline Helped Avoid Discipline for MNT vs Panama

In the unforgiving rules of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF, a player who is issued two yellow cards through the course of 15 games spanning two years would receive a one-game suspension. Heading into the final two matches of the Hex that will determine whether the USA qualifies for its eighth consecutive World Cup or not, a total of nine MNT players were carrying a caution. 

Against a Panamanian team with a well-established reputation of being thuggish bordering on dirty, one mistake, one silly foul, or one act of retaliation could have meant suspension for the United States' most important World Cup Qualifier in 16 years.

Despite the constant fouling of Christian Pulisic, the violent off the ball strike to the head of Matt Besler by Felipe Baloy which required stitches, the absolute decking of Jozy Altidore by Román Torres and many other card-worthy incidents, the U.S. maintained discipline, composure and resolve.

As a result, the scoresheet contained a zero that was almost as important as the shutout – not a single yellow card issued to the United States, ensuring that the likes of team captain Michael Bradley, U.S. all-time leading scorer Clint Dempsey, World Cup veterans Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler and DeAndre Yedlin, and up-and-comers Kelly Acosta and Paul Arriola will all be available for selection in Tuesday night’s decisive showdown with Trinidad & Tobago.

Sometimes the best way to protect a teammate is to make sure you are on the field with him to help get a result in the games that really matter. Among the other big achievements against Panama, the U.S. MNT accomplished this critical task as well.

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MNT Oct 7, 2017
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