By Michael Lewis
Even when the U.S. isn’t in the World Cup, we are reminded why the Americans aren’t in Russia this month.
The latest case in point:
England’s 6-1 trouncing of Panama in a Group G match Sunday.
The game was difficult to watch for so many reasons:
First, witnessing a World Cup group stage game that gets out of hand early on, no matter what countries are competing is well, unwatchable.
Second, the Panamanians have been outscored in their opening two matches, 9-1.
And the fact that Los Canaleros actually beat out the United States for a spot at Russia 2018.
“Hey #USMNT…watching this Panama performance should hurt,” FOX broadcaster Alexi Lalas said on Twitter. “It should hurt badly. It should cause a pain that doesn’t go away. Use it to remind you. Use it to fuel you. Use it to make sure you are never in this position again. #WorldCup”
It should be noted that Panama is making its first appearance at a World Cup and many of its players who are part of a golden generation that are on the other side of 30. While it is OK to use players over that magic number, too many of them might not necessarily be the best tonic in a competition that demands youth and speed.
One part of me was happy for Panama because over the past few years I had interviewed many players from that squad, including Blas Perez (37), Luis Tejada (36) and Gabriel Gomez (34) for several publications and websites about the Central American team’s quest for the World Cup.
But on the flip side, watching Panama Sunday stirred emotions in me, emotions that go back to Oct. 10, 2017.
Any American soccer fan worth his or her salt remembers what transpired in Couva, Trinidad that night — an embarrassing 2-1 loss to a Trinidad & Tobago side that was essentially a B team. That result eliminated the U.S. from contention in its quest to reach Russia as it finished fifth in the CONCACAF hexagonal.
(In case you were wondering the U.S. played Panama to a 1-1 draw in Panama City and rolled to a 4-0 home win over its foes Oct. 6, four days before Doomsday.
In the eighth months since that tragic day, I must admit my emotions still are pretty fresh from that epic failure.
Anger (yeah, I know I mentioned that already, but I guess I still am really peeved about the underachievers.
The blame can be shared by many individuals, from U.S. Soccer itself, former president Sunil Gulati, the system that is in place, former national team coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena, and of course, the players.
Hopefully, many of those underachieving players will never be allowed to don a USA uniform again as we try to rise from the ashes.
Like it or not, the U.S. World Cup fiasco will haunt us for years in so many ways.
I just hope it serves as a reminder and a wake-up call for the U.S. Soccer nation to make sure history will be repeated in the team’s quest for Qatar 2022 or any other World Cup in the future, for that matter.
Failure is not only an option, it should not be tolerated.
When Panama meets Tunisia in its final World Cup Group G encounter at Mordovia Arena in Saransk, we will be reminded again that the U.S. is not in Russia.
It is a sick feeling that still lies in the pit of my stomach, as it should with many other American soccer fans.