Well, there wasn’t too much to be gained from the USA’s friendly against Venezuela on Saturday night and now that it’s been played, it’s safe to say that not much was gained from it, with the possible exception of going a full 90 minutes at high altitude (which will be critical for the upcoming trip to Mexico City). Now that the friendly is out of the way it’s time to get down to business as a pair of crucial World Cup Qualifiers loom. There’s the aforementioned trip down to Mexico but before that, the US has a home date against Trinidad & Tobago.
Many were surprised to see Bruce Arena send as strong of a lineup as he did against Venezuela and most believe that’s probably what we’ll see in at least the first qualifier, with the possible exception of John Brooks who went off injured against Venezuela. As a whole the performance of the US was mostly underwhelming as Venezuela took a 1-0 lead before 18 year old wunderkind Christian Pulisic scored the equalizer. Tim Howard was also good, making a number of fine saves in the first half to keep the score at 1-0. But other than those two nobody really stood out in a positive way or a negative way. The most important thing to come out of that friendly was the US getting a game under their belt to develop some form of cohesion to prepare for the World Cup Qualifiers.
Looking ahead to this pair of qualifiers, the US is in a much better spot right now than they were back before the March qualifiers. The US dropped their first two games of the Hex (2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 on the road at Costa Rica) before bouncing back with a resounding 6-0 win over Honduras at home and scrappy 1-1 draw down in Panama City. But being in a better position does not mean the US is out of the woods yet. Anything can happen in the Hex and the US needs to regain it’s dominant home form (November’s loss to Mexico in Columbus was the first home qualifying loss for the US since 2001). To do that the US is returning to a venue where they have had good success in previous World Cup Qualifiers, most famously the 2013 matchup against Costa Rica dubbed the Snow Clasico: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the Denver suburbs. In addition to being a good psychological boost for the team, it keeps them at high altitude in preparation for the lung-searing thin air in Mexico City.
While the venue is famous for the Snow Clasico, Trinidad & Tobago will almost certainly not have to deal with any cold weather when they take on the US. The Socca Warriors are in a bit of an interesting spot in the Hex right now. They currently sit in last, but with a win they could theoretically move up into third place. That’s how tight things are in this cycle’s qualification group. While they have made it to the Hex, the last ten months have not been spectacular for T&T by any stretch of the imagination. They only won two out of their last eight games to close out 2016 and started 2017 by failing to qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup by losing to Suriname and Haiti in the Caribbean Cup Fifth place playoff. They did manage to split their two qualifiers in March (a 1-0 home win over Panama followed by a 1-0 home loss to Mexico). The key man for them is 32 year old striker Kenwyne Jones of MLS expansion side Atlanta United, who has 23 goals to his name in 89 caps. Two other experienced players to keep an eye on are midfielder Kevin Molino of Minnesota United (the other MLS expansion side) who has the second most goals of any player on this roster with 17 and defender Joevin Jones of the Seattle Sounders who has amassed 60 caps for the Socca Warriors.
• The US has a short three day turnaround from the Trinidad & Tobago game and the Mexico game. Four years ago the US had a three day turnaround between the game in Denver and the game in Mexico City and they managed four out of a possible six points.
• Clint Dempsey remains just one goal behind Landon Donovan on the US all-time scoring chart.
• The complete Hex standings are as follows: Mexico (10 points), Costa Rica (7 points), Panama (5 points), USA (4 points), Honduras (4 points), Trinidad & Tobago (3 points). Reminder that the top three teams automatically qualify for Russia 2018 while the fourth place team would go into a playoff against the fifth place team from Asia.
When and where to watch the game on US TV
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
Kickoff time: 7:50pm ET
US TV: FOX Sports 1, UniMas, Univision Deportes
US Streaming: FOX Soccer 2GO, DIRECTV NOW, Sling Blue and fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
USA leads 17-2-4
USA 4-0 Trinidad & Tobago
Current FIFA Ranking
Trinidad & Tobago: 77
Sunday, June 11, 2017
World Cup Qualifying
USA vs. Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
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