Earthquakes

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

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Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

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.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

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 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.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when 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 American 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.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

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.

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

The San Jose Earthquakes are hoping they've caught lighting in a bottle twice. 

Last season, Nick Lima emerged as one of the game's best young defenders. And on Day 1 of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, San Jose went to the fullback well with the selection of Paul Marie from Florida International University with the 12th pick in the first round. 

"Paul has the profile we were looking for from the very beginning heading into the combine and the draft," said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "We were looking for a fullback. We see in him an offensive-minded outside back that has technical qualities and the ability to read the game."

Experts pegged Marie, 22, as a late-first, early-second-round selection. But a pair of solid days during the MLS Combine boosted the Frenchman's stock -- especially on San Jose's board. According to Fioranelli, Marie was No. 4 on their draft board -- having him there at No. 12 must have felt like a steal for Fioranelli and staff. 

"We especially liked that he has character and in the interview that we had with him, he convinced us," Fioranelli said. "The entire coaching staff are really excited about having him part of the club."

San Jose not only lucked out that their fourth-best footballer was there at 12, but with American parents, he does not take up an international slot for San Jose -- the team is still three players over their allotment.

In an interview after his selection with Jason Davis of Sirius XM radio, Marie told San Jose fans what they can expect from the defender. 

"They can expect Paul Marie to give it all for San Jose," he said. 

The Quakes were in need of defensive depth going in to Day 1 of the SuperDraft. In Marie, they have a fullback who can stretch the pitch from the right side and be a backup to Lima. 

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Not too long ago, former UNLV standout Danny Musovski was the darling of the mock draft. 

And rightfully so -- with 47 career goals in 88 appearances with the Runnin' Rebels, Musovski possesses a knack and nose for the goal that no MLS team can have enough of and thus an early selection in the MLS SuperDraft was expected. 

So when you examine the San Jose Earthquakes' first day of the 2018 SuperDraft, their selection of Musovski can be viewed one of two ways: it's either the steal/ best value of Day 1 at No. 30 or you're skeptical of why the 22-year-old who many experts had going in the top 10 fell all the way down the Quakes in the second round. 

Judging by the way those who know Musovski talk about him, it sounds like Earthquakes fans can lean toward the former. 

"Danny is a striker that we actually saw as one of the biggest prospects considering that over four years he had scored around 50 goals," said San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "He is a player that we already knew because he was inside of our ecosystem. We are excited to have him at the club."

Fioranelli is talking about Musovski's time with San Jose Premier Developement League affiliate, Burlingame Dragons FC, in 2016 where the forward made a huge impact on a squad that made the PDL postseason fresh off his 12-goal year with UNLV. 

"Quakes got a steal by drafting Danny at No. 30," said his former Dragons FC head coach Eric Bucchere -- who spent last season as an assistant with San Jose affiliate Reno 1868 and founded Path2Pro Soccer thereafter. 

"He's an MLS-ready player with pace, a good soccer brain and knack for scoring goals," Bucchere said, adding that yes, perhaps Musovski's work during the combine wasn't steller, but those two days shouldn't overshadow the striker's upside. "Sometimes it's obvious why a player is good at scoring goals and sometimes you have to watch a player during the course of an entire season to really appreciate what makes him so good." 

There are some experts who point to Chris Wondolowski as a comporable skillset and physical build to Musovski -- a player who no-doubt can find the back of the net but won't blow you away with his athleticism. 

"The last point is that Danny showed more enthusiasm than any other player to join the organization, which was a determining factor for him to join us," Fioranelli said. 

Musovski was a four-year starter and two-time All-America selection for UNLV and the first Rebel to be selected in the Super Draft since Bradley Kamdem in 2016. During his senior season in 2017, he scored 15 goals (good for fourth in the nation) and added six assists in 16 appearances, earning Third Team All-America, First Team All-West Region, First Team All-Western Athletic Conference and Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Time, and training camp, will tell if Musovski will make an immediate impact with the main club. But he'll definitely have a spot with Reno 1868, the Quakes United Soccer League affiliate known for scoring goals in (record-setting) bunches.