Brenden Aaronson works out during a training session Wednesday. (Amanda Rossmann-USA TODAY NETWORK)
By Michael Lewis
CINCINNATI – OK, one more time in 2021.
It’s time for one last World Cup qualifying mathematics lesson this year.
The U.S. men’s national team has two games remaining before it continues its quest to reach Qatar in 2022.
The second-place Americans (3-1-2, 11 points) will tussle with leaders Mexico (4-0-2, 14) in a Concacaf qualifier here on Friday, then will visit the sixth-place Reggae Boyz (1-3-2, 5) in Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday.
With the USA having to play Mexico (March 24) and Costa Rica (March 30) within a week on the road next year, it must record as many points as it can now, not unlike squirrels saving acorns for the winter.
Saying that, here are the six possibilities of outcomes during the November window. They range from excellent to an absolute disaster.
Six points (excellent)
That means a sweep of both games. This is the dream scenario and would boost the USA’s chances greatly and most likely give it a cushion heading into 2022 (because other teams will be dropping points in their encounters).
Given the opponents and venue of one of the matches, it is probably a longshot. But as they say, the ball is round, and many times unpredictable. Sometimes we get surprised.
It’s not easy winning on the road at The Office in Kingston. And well, Mexico is Mexico and a tough cookie home or away.
It will be intriguing if the USMNT can return to its winning ways with another three WCQ points in Ohio. A dos a cero result isn’t needed. A win would suffice, thank you.
Four points (good)
The second-best scenario, but a more probable outcome than the aforementioned one.
All things being equal in the soccer universe, in this writer’s humble opinion and gut feeling, the Americans putting four points in their back pockets will be the result. That would be a win (three points) and a draw (one point).
We can argue where the USA would pick up the win – at home against the Mexicans or in the Caribbean against the Jamaicans.
In World Cup qualifying, you don’t argue where you accrue your points, you just say thank you very much and start planning for the next match or WCQ window.
Three points (fair)
That would mean a win and a loss. That would not necessarily be the end of the world. While accruing four or six points would allow the U.S. to stay above the pack, three probably would keep the status quo. It could be up to the other results.
Two points (unacceptable)
The first three scenarios went from excellent to acceptable. The USA has to hope and pray to the soccer gods that it doesn’t settle for one of the bottom three possibilities, which would make WCQ life unbearable and dramatic.
While the Americans would pick up a point in each match, they would see four fly out the window. Two draws could put them back in the middle of the pack, something they would want to avoid because of the heavy road action down south next March.
One point (almost bottom)
Ugh. Horrible, just horrible. One point? One point out of a possible six? That will either help El Tri pad its lead atop the Octagonal or it could give Jamaica a sliver of hope.
As bad as that sounds – and it is bad – there is one worse outcome: the no-win scenario.
No points (total failure)
AKA the nightmare scenario in these parts. This would be devastating for so many reasons and give many associated with American soccer – U.S. Soccer, coaches, players, fans and media – actual nightmares and bring back memories of 2016 (when the USA dropped back-to-back matches to Mexico and Costa Rica early in the Hexagonal).
Quite frankly, yours truly can’t see this happening, but stranger things have occurred in the beautiful game. Except these results would be quite ugly.