How could some of the mounting pressure on Jurgen Klinsmann be relieved without even playing a match? He could have turned a wandering eye to the World Cup qualification draw this morning.
In a time when CONCACAF despite all the peripherals is steadily improving, the US somehow came out with as easy of a draw as they’ve ever been handed. In the semifinal round, they will play Trinidad, the winner of the playoff between St. Vincent and Aruba and the winner of the playoff between Antigua and Guatemala. Now, while the US may have struggled against the latter two in qualifying during the last cycle, it could have been much worse.
The possibility of having to play Panama, Jamaica and Haiti existed for a brief moment on the stage in St. Petersburg, which would have made a bad set of days for US Soccer even worse. Instead, Klinsmann and his methods are spared their blushes with trips to three different Caribbean islands on offer – disaster averted.
Some will croon that playing in the supposed “Group of Death” Group B would have been better for the US since it will make them battle hardened for the Hex and the World Cup ahead, but for Klinsmann’s sake it is probably better the US is playing Aruba than Jamaica. The World Cup does not pit the world’s best 32 teams against each other. The 31 teams that have a winning combination of skill and luck plus the host earn the right to dance, and sometimes getting lucky is better than being put to task off the bat. The four team groups offer much smaller margins for error, and an easier group is certainly a relief to all involved.
The pressure on Klinsmann is ratcheting up minute by minute, and said pressure could be suffocating by the time the qualification matches begin in November. But with the qualifying group the US was handed, Klinsmann now can afford to experiment and bed in young players, much to the dismay of many, because the teams he will be matching wits with are so down on quality. Problems that may arise may well not be punished playing Aruba that would be against Jamaica. Will this make the US better by the Hex, and hopefully the World Cup? That’s what the next two years and beyond of qualifying will tell us.
If the US somehow doesn’t advance out of this semi-final group, no one should be safe. Not even Sunil Gulati.
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