On a night of Darkness, Rog writes: Few things in Football are harder to watch than the Men In Blazers Show. Tonight was one of the few… After the euphoria of Friday night’s Panamanian beatdown. This.
The USA were CONCACAF’ED.
And to experience it felt like suffering every agony I have experienced as an Everton fan compressed into the space of 90 minutes. I type with tears in my eyes. My throat constricted. And a half empty bottle of Talisker by my side.
On a massive night, with so much at stake. So many legacies on the line. So many futures depending on it, the United States were diabolically poor. Heavy-legged. Tactically incoherent. Eerily unmotivated. We did not lose tonight, we self-destructed.
As the goals flew in from all points CONCACAF, the mood changed from Wedding to Funeral. The fact that the United States were flat from the first whistle was bad. The truth that Bruce Arena clearly could not do a single thing to change it was inexcusable. The US’s performance, against a team which had won just once in the Hex, was akin to watching England play NFL football. Bruce Arena’s forthcoming tell-all, entitled “What Happened” is going to be Lit.
As soon as our fate fell into the hands of others, it felt like we were doomed. Impotent. Dusted. Watching was agony. Our fate stunningly inevitable. That the goals Honduras and Panama scored were dictionary definition CONCACAF, either failing to cross the goal line or doing so via the head of the opposition keeper, a wicked twisted dagger.
We began the night mourning the prospect of a World Cup without Lionel Messi. We will now witness one without Christian Pulisic. When the final whistle blew in Trinidad, it was not just a football match that ended… the impact of this loss will be simply devastating to the Game in the United States and all those who care about its Future.
It is important for me to type: This is not the end of the world.
Even though, right now, it does feel like that to me. Davo has just texted me to remind me this is just a football game. No team qualifies forever. Just ask Chile and Netherlands. As two men who were born in England we have lived thought the experience of our national team failing to qualify for the World Cup in 1978 and 1994. It is OK… those World Cups were still magnificent athletic spectacles of human theater.
Yet, as a gent who was born in England and fell in love with this United States team because of their collective tenacity, swagger, and never say die attitude, tonight feels like the end of an era. An end to our naivety where we believed qualification from CONCACAF was our birthright and our only challenge was to catch up with global football’s big dogs. There will be repercussions at every level of US Soccer. There will be American internationals who have served this country with honor who will never take the field again. There will be crucial national debates about governance, coaching, and youth development. Let tonight be a wake up call for an honest, thoughtful, strategic conversation about the game we love in the nation we love.