COUVA, TRINIDAD—The United States was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking loss at Trinidad ending the Americans’ streak of seven straight appearances at soccer’s showcase.
Twenty-eight years after a stunning victory here put the Americans back in the World Cup following a four-decade absence, their chances for next year’s tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago scored a pair of first-half goals, and the United States was eliminated with a 2-1 defeat — its first time missing the World Cup since 1986.
Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama’s game ended and then Costa Rica’s. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.
The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.
The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres’ 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year’s 32-nation tournament.
Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.
After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Bruce Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.
“No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point,” Arena said. “It’s a blemish for us.”
The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when defender Omar Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones’ cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.
Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard’s upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard’s chest and spilled into the penalty area.
Christian Pulisic, the Americans’ 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 Americans goals in the hexagonal.
One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester’s short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia’s follow-up attempt.
The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.
Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette’s leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic’s shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.
All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.
Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri’s famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.
Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.
Mo Farah aiming to challenge Kipchoge, Wanjiru in London Marathon
AFP — LONDON – British athletics great Mo Farah admitted Tuesday he faces an uphill battle to win Sunday’s London marathon with the likes of two-time winner Eliud Kipchoge in the field but says he will fight for a podium place.
The 35-year-old Somalia-born runner — who twice achieved the 5,000-10,000m Olympic double — said one bonus for his third attempt is that he no longer has to think about conserving energy for a track campaign.
Farah, who stopped at the halfway point in the 2013 race and finished eighth in 2014, retired from the track at the end of last season after just missing out on a third successive world championship 5km-10km double in London.
“It’s a great feeling not to have the same pressure as I do on the track,” Farah told a pre-race press conference.
“If the guys set off at world-record pace, I’ll go with them, why not? A win would be amazing for me. It’s going to be different but every race I go into I aim to fight for a podium place.”
Farah, whose decision to not train full-on for the 2014 London Marathon paid off as he went on to win European gold at 5km and 10km, said he had mapped out a strategy for the race.
“My aim is to stick to my own plan,” said Farah. “The team at the London Marathon have put together an amazing field with guys like Eliud Kipchoge and Daniel Wanjiru.
“I’m only ranked 27th, so I just have to stick to my plan and see what happens.”
Farah, now living in London after splitting from controversial US coach Alberto Salazar, said he had no regrets about switching to the road even though he cast an envious glance at the competitors in the distance events at the Commonwealth Games.
“I watched the Commonwealth Games and I wondered whether I could have done that double (5,000m and 10,000m),” he said. “Maybe. But as an athlete you have to set yourself new challenges. You have to enjoy what you do.”
Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M
CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.
“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.
Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.
Around 500 Somali youth participate in historic marathon
Somalia has hosted its first mini-marathon in three decades. The event is aimed at seeking international support for Somali youth; and was organised by the country’s ministry of sports. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow is in Mogadishu and filed this report.