By Michael Lewis
OK, boy and girls, it’s time for another lesson in World Cup qualifying mathematics.
With the U.S. men’s national team kicking off its second window of three games in a week, let’s figure out just what the Americans need to do to stay afloat in the Concacaf Octagonal.
We’ll be based our facts and argument on that long-held theory in WCQ – you’ve got to win your home games – or else.
As the USMNT puts its finishing touches on preparing for Thursday night’s match against Jamaica in Austin, Texas, the team finds itself in third place in the standings behind Canada (both teams are 1-0-2, 5 points). The Canadians get the nod because it has scored more away goals than the USA (one to zero) on strength of their 1-1 draw in Nashville last month.
That home tie with Canada was negated by the 4-1 win in Honduras. The USMNT drew in its other road contest, a scoreless deadlock in El Salvador, taking points away from the Central American side.
So, what does the USA need to accomplish in its three games in the next week?
Well, first of all, win at home.
I can’t emphasize that enough.
Since 1985, the U.S. has lost four home qualifiers and twice the team failed to reach soccer’s promised land.
In the final semifinal match of Mexico 1986 qualifying, the USA lost to Costa Rica in Torrance, Calif., 1-0.
In 2001, the USMNT dropped a wild 3-2 decision to Honduras, which had a Saturday morning kickoff in Washington, D.C.
And we all know what transpired during the qualifying tournament for the 2018 World Cup; the Americans lost to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, breaking its dos a cero streak in 2016, and then a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Which brings us to the present.
Quite simply, the USA must win against Jamaica Thursday night and then against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio Oct. 13. Nothing else will be considered successful, given that the Americans will play twice at home in this cycle.
A draw in Panama Sunday, would be nice because seven out of nine points could boost the team into the lead.
So, this the USA’s possible report card.
Six points would be a passing grade.
Seven points would be fine.
And sweeping all nine points would be a dream.
I realize a lot of newbie soccer supporters have felt the USMNT should win every World Cup game. Well, that doesn’t happy. Even Mexico, masters of Concacaf, went 2-0-1 in its opening three matches last month.
With away games against Mexico and Costa Rica in 2022, the USA needs to accrue as many points as possible now.
Anything less than six points will be considered a disaster.