Team USA

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.

Wood's late equalizer saves the day as USMNT leaves Honduras with 1-1 draw

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AP

Wood's late equalizer saves the day as USMNT leaves Honduras with 1-1 draw

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Bobby Wood scored off a scramble in the 85th minute, and the United States escaped from Honduras with a 1-1 tie Tuesday after nearly falling into a deep hole in World Cup qualifying.

Romell Quioto scored in the 27th minute after defender Omar Gonzalez failed to clear the ball with a slide tackle. Quioto was left with an open 11-yard shot that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan to the far post, causing exuberant fans to stomp and shake Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. The previously well-behaved fans threw horns and liquids at the Americans as they exited the field.

Christian Pulisic was fouled about 30 yards from the goal and Kellyn Acosta took the free kick. Goalkeeper Luis Lopez batted the ball with his left hand, and Matt Besler hooked it to Jordan Morris. He sent a backward header to Wood, a 73rd-minute substitute.

Wood chested the ball and scored his ninth international goal, avoiding a huge U.S. embarrassment and deflating fans who had been celebrating since the start.

Quakes' Urena scores brace to lead Costa Rica past USMNT in critical WC qualifier

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USATSI

Quakes' Urena scores brace to lead Costa Rica past USMNT in critical WC qualifier

BOX SCORE

HARRISON, N.J.  — The United States put its hopes of an eighth straight World Cup berth in peril, giving up a pair of goals to Marco Urena in a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Friday night that brought the Americans' resurgence under coach Bruce Arena to a crashing thud.

Urena spun around defender Tim Ream, then caught Tim Howard leaning and beat the goalkeeper to the far post in the 31st minute. Urena, the lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, doubled the lead in the 82nd with a shot from 18 yards after David Guzman intercepted a poor pass by Geoff Cameron.

"Clearly, walking away tonight without any points is disappointing, very disappointing," Arena said. "We obviously didn't play well tonight, didn't make any plays that mattered."

The Americans have lost two home games in a World Cup cycle for the first time since 1957 and likely will need points on the road to reach next year's tournament in Russia.

It was just their third home loss in qualifying since 1985 — and came 16 years to the day the U.S. and Arena lost 3-2 to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium.

With three games left in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, the United States was clinging to third place — the last automatic berth — and results later Friday could drop the U.S. down the standings.

The Americans play at Honduras on Tuesday night, then close the hexagonal next month at home against Panama and at Trinidad and Tobago. American forward Jozy Altidore is suspended for Tuesday's game after an 80th minute yellow card for pushing Johan Venegas.

"This group is strong and ready for this challenge," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' emerging 18-year-old star, had the best U.S. scoring chance in the 67th minute but was denied by goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who batted the ball with his right hand off his right foot, and it was cleared to safety. Navas then made a sliding stop on Jozy Altidore just before Urena's second goal.

Many Costa Rican fans were in the crowd of 26,500 at Red Bull Arena for the first World Cup qualifier in the New York area, avoided in the past by the U.S. Soccer Federation as it sought pro-American crowds.

Arena repeatedly hectored Panamanian referee John Pitti, who did not call penalty kicks when Altidore was pushed to the ground in the first half and Clint Dempsey was knocked down in the second.

Desperate for a goal, Arena finished the match with four forwards after inserting Dempsey in the 65th minute and Jordan Morris in the 84th.

Mexico and Costa Rica lead the standings with 14 points each, followed by the U.S. with eighth, Panama with seven, Honduras with five and Trinidad with three.

In later games, Honduras was at Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico hosted Panama.

"Right now Mexico and Costa Rica ... probably qualified," Area said. "It's going to be a battle amongst the remaining four teams."

While the top three teams qualify, the fourth-place finisher advanced to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team.

The U.S. opened the final round with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 rout at Costa Rica, causing the USSF to fire coach Jurgen Klinsmann and bring back Arena, the Americans' coach from 1998-2006. The U.S. had been 9-0-5 under Arena, winning home qualifiers against Honduras and Trinidad and gaining draws at Panama and Mexico.

Costa Rica went ahead after Howard cleared the ball to past midfield and the Ticos won possession. With Ream and Cameron split wide, Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz played a through pass to Urena.

Urena took several touches to get around Ream and from a wide angle, spotted Howard committing to his left to defend his near post. Urena slotted the ball to the far post, past the goalkeeper's outstretched right arm.

Ream, taking over from injured John Brooks, was paired with Cameron in central defense for the first time. Just before the goal, Arena slapped his arms in disgust when Ream, who played for New York at Red Bull Arena in 2010-11, played the ball back to Howard rather than advance it upfield.

Cameron's gaffe led to Urena's 13th goal in 56 international appearances.