The 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament kicks off Thursday. In a span of one month, 32 international soccer teams will compete to determine a world champion. The United States won't be one of them. The U.S. men’s national soccer team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986.
The team needed a win or draw Oct. 10, the final day of the Concacaf Hexagonal qualifying round, to qualify for the World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago defeated the U.S. by a score of 2-1 and sent the Yanks packing.
FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, a Plano native, came off the bench during the second half of the away game at Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago. He says the loss was shocking and disappointing for the team.
“I wanted to play at the World Cup, compete in it, but obviously having that taken away was just shocking and devastating,” Acosta says.
The U.S. was down 2-0 in halftime. Christian Pulisic gave the team hope as he scored and made it 2-1. The U.S. had various chances to tie the game, but the ball wouldn’t go into the net.
“It was just kind of one of those games that things weren’t pulling for us,” Acosta says. “We created some options, but obviously we couldn’t bury it, and yeah, [Trinidad and Tobago] managed the game well.”
Acosta says the team must re-evaluate itself. The national team will need to give young players such as Weston Mckennie and Josh Sargent a chance to gain experience from the national team and prepare for the next World Cup qualifier.
The Concacaf qualifiers are considered one of the easiest regional tournaments for North American and Central American teams to qualify for the World Cup. The U.S. and Mexico teams are always favorites to earn automatic berths. But teams such as Panama and Costa Rica, which qualified this year, are getting stronger.
“We have to do better to step up to qualify, but we can’t downplay the play of the other Concacaf teams,” Acosta says. “They were tough to play, especially away at Panama, Mexico, Trinidad as well. The teams are getting a lot stronger. A lot of those guys play here, in the MLS. I’ve seen some familiar faces, and they gave us a run for our money.”
After the loss, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena was fired. The U.S. Soccer Federation hired an interim coach and will soon announce a new coach. Acosta will continue to work hard and hopes to get the opportunity to impress the new coach and earn more national call-ups.
“It’s all about opportunity,” Acosta says. “For me, it starts in the club level. So I just need to impress, do well, continue what I’m doing and just keep chugging away. And hopefully that brings attraction to whoever the next coach will be.”
Despite not qualifying, Acosta says he will tune in to watch as many World Cup games as he can.
“Of course, it’s the biggest tournament of the world,” Acosta says.
Acosta knows that the national team let its fans down but says that the team will qualify for the next World Cup.
“We sincerely apologize for our play,” Acosta says. “It is unacceptable. We should definitely be in the World Cup. But in the future, we will definitely make it.”