October 10, 2017 is a day that still sends shivers through the American soccer ecosystem. It was that day that US Men’s National Team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago and, combined with an otherworldly confluence of events, the result left the United States eliminated from qualification for the 2018 world cup.
The aftermath was seismic. Bruce Arena resigned as US coach a few days later. US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati ultimately decided not to seek re-election. The result also ushered in a new generation of players, a group that eventually qualified for the 2022 edition of the World Cup in Qatar, with the United States reaching the round of 16.
But wounds, emotional or otherwise, leave a scar. Scars may heal, but they also never completely disappear. There is sensitivity to what happened and discomfort to the memory.
For some, those memories will be at the forefront Monday, when the United States faces Trinidad and Tobago in the second leg of the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals. While the match will mark the fifth time the two teams have met since that fateful night at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, including Thursday’s 3-0 first leg victory — will be the first time the United States will play in Trinidad and Tobago. This time, the match will be played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. If the US takes care of its business, not only will a berth to the CNL semi-finals be assured, but also qualification for next summer’s tournament. America Cupa vital tournament in terms of preparation for the 2026 World Cup.
It doesn’t take much for the memories to come flooding back. Parts of the pitch were literally underwater the day before the match, making the United States’ training session impossible. There was an early missed chance by Jozy Altidore, the American defender’s calamitous own goal. Omar Gonzalezand then the absolute dart unleashed by Alvin Jones that put T&T up 2-0.
Christian PulisicThe goal two minutes into the second half gave some hope, but as the minutes passed, the tension began to build and became unbearable. Clint Dempsey hit the post in the 77th minute. Results elsewhere in Concacaf began to tilt against the United States, including a ghost goal by Panama striker Gabriel Torres that never crossed the line and set the stage for Roman Torres’ final goal. Honduras‘gain Mexico sealed the fate of the Americans, and they were forced to leave the field after suffering the greatest embarrassment in the program’s history, eclipsing even the 40-year period from 1950 to 1990, when failing to qualify was the rule rather than the exception. .
“We woke up in the morning and thought, ‘Oh my God, we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,'” McKennie said before Thursday’s game. “We saw the goals and there were crazy goals. That shows that soccer can be any team’s game that day. And that was also shown during that game.”
With Pulisic currently injured and not with the US for the moment, defender Tim Ream It is the only vestige of that team that made the trip to Couva. He has been a professional for over 13 years and has therefore had to process many moments, both high and low.
So what are the moments that you remember most about a player: the highs and the lows?
“I think you remember both of them, because they’re both … learning experiences,” Ream said after Thursday’s game. “But for me I tend to focus on the positives and positives because I think over the course of a career there are a lot of moments, and when you focus on the negatives, they just accumulate and keep coming. So I tend to remember “The best moments more than the bad ones. But that doesn’t mean they’re not in the memory bank.”
Will they be there on Monday?
“No, absolutely not. I gave that up a long time ago,” he said. “For me, I’m obviously the only one here who was a part of that, but to be completely honest, that’s been so forgotten that I’m not even thinking about it.”
The topic of that American humiliation has come up at times during this camp to ensure the USMNT plays with the necessary intensity.
“I could feel the spark and feel the fuel of the team, the staff and how special this game is; the history behind it and what it did to American soccer that day,” the winger said. Kevin Paredes saying.
Not all of the emphasis has been negative on the current side, with the United States trying to put the spotlight on another famous incident that took place in Trinidad. That would be Paul Caligiuri’s “Shot Heard Around the World,” the goal that beat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in 1989 on the final day of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup. The victory placed the United States in the World Cup for the first time in 40 years and was a huge boost for the American men’s program.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter invited Caligiuri to speak with the team before Thursday’s game. The former U.S. international brings the prospect of not only scoring to put the United States in the World Cup, but also being one of the first pioneers of American players traveling abroad, having signed with then-mighty German side HSV. of Hamburg in 1987.
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“At some point in my life I wanted to show the world that Americans could play soccer,” he told reporters before Thursday’s game. “We’re past that stage. I mean, obviously we’re respected. I think America loves soccer. America loves our men’s national team, our women’s national team, and those who don’t love us fear us, and that’s a completely different level of the game we’re in today.”
Caligiuri now marvels at how much the sport has evolved in the years since his retirement. He feels this is the best US men’s team of all time and there isn’t a single area of the sport that hasn’t grown immensely. But his goal remains a huge turning point for the sport in this country.
“I think it resonates with a lot of people, and it was an important moment, not just for soccer in terms of the men’s national team. I think it’s global soccer,” Caligiuri said. “It has really brought football to the forefront in this country, it has allowed us to host World Cups, both men’s and women’s, and it has exposed this great sport to the rest of the country.”
Thanks to three goals in the final eight minutes of Thursday’s game, there doesn’t appear to be much drama in Port of Spain on Monday. But that doesn’t mean the United States takes anything for granted.
“We’re in a good position, but crazy things happen,” Berhalter said after Thursday’s game.
That night in Couva six years ago is a not-so-subtle reminder.
Arch Bell contributed reporting to this story.