1. Save 40-80% on great soccer jerseys. Shop today at BigSoccer Shop!

Breezing through Qualifying!

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by Dr. Gamera, May 29, 2012.

Moderators: dark knight
  1. Dr. Gamera

    Dr. Gamera BigSoccer Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Location:
    Wheaton, Maryland
    At least half of BigSoccer readers can pretty much ignore this thread. If you've followed the USMNT long enough, you don't need me to tell you the history.

    For recent fans of the team, though, the following line of thinking may be tempting: this team beat Spain, drew England, and recently embarrassed Scotland; surely it should run roughshod over CONCACAF!

    My warnings are twofold:
    1. The USMNT has never, ever breezed through both the semifinal stage and final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in the same cycle.
    2. There hasn't been a lot of correlation between ease of qualifying and success in the World Cup.

    Let's dispense with ancient history quickly. No qualification was necessary for 1930. The USA trailed Mexico 1-0 in their sole, single-elimination qualifying game for 1934, but came back to win 4-2. For 1950, already-qualified Mexico defeated Cuba in the last qualification game, allowing the USA to back into the tournament with a record of 1 win, 1 draw, and 2 losses.

    For 1990, Jamaica was drawing the USA 1-1 in the 67th minute of the final match of the semifinal stage, a result that would have eliminated the USA. But with a late flurry, the USA went on to win 5-1 and advance to the final stage. In the final stage, of course, Caligiuri's famous strike in the last match gave the USA the 1-0 victory, and thus the World Cup berth. In some sense, it also qualified the USA for the 1994 World Cup, as it silenced the opposition to the USA's scheduled hosting of the 1994 World Cup, and allowed the USA to claim the host's automatic berth for that tournament.

    For 1998, the USA actually did almost breeze through the semifinal stage. Three wins in the first three matches gave the USA an eight-point cushion for advancement, and a loss in Costa Rica in the fourth match was the only blemish of consequence. The USA mathematically advanced with a match to spare. In the final stage, the USA was in deep trouble after earning 6 points in the first 5 matches, but finished with win-draw-draw in Azteca-win-win, qualifying with a match to spare. Then the USA lost all three games at the World Cup.

    For 2002, the USA started the semifinal stage horrifically, earning 1 point in the first two matches. Things looked better after a 7-0 stomping of Barbados (who had already defeated Costa Rica), followed by McBride scoring the game's only goal to give the USA the win over visiting Guatemala in the fourth match. But then the USA struggled to a scoreless draw over visiting Guatemala, and then was facing elimination in Barbados in the 62nd minute of the last match, with the score still 0-0. Mathis then scored to open the floodgates in an eventual 4-0 victory, and the USA was relieved to advance. In the final stage, the USA stood in fourth place with two matches to play, out of a qualifying spot. But a win in the USA's ninth match combined with helpful results in that day's other matches qualified the USA with a match to spare. Then the USA advanced all the way to the World Cup quarterfinals.

    For 2006, the USA needed late goals just to escape with draws in both its first match and its third match of the semifinal stage. But a win in El Salvador, followed by a 6-0 stomping of visiting Panama, advanced the USA with a match to spare. Then the USA did indeed breeze through the final stage, winning six of its first seven matches (marred only by a loss at Azteca) to qualify with three matches to spare. Unfortunately, this run culminated in a last-place, 1-point finish in Group E of the 2006 World Cup.

    For 2010, the USA breezed through the semifinal stage for once, winning its first four matches to advance with two matches to spare. The final stage was much more of a struggle. In the penultimate match, the USA eventually got the unlikely win in Honduras it needed to advance with a match to spare. Then the USA ended up winning its group in the World Cup.

    For 2014, it would be a significant accomplishment for the USA to breeze through both the semifinal stage and the final stage. I hope that it can be done, but I'm not expecting such domination. As long as the USA qualifies, the character of the road to qualification may not foretell all that much about the World Cup.
     


  2. Matrim55

    Matrim55 Member+

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2000
    Location:
    Berkeley
    Club:
    Connecticut
    Country:
    United States
    I don't consider the 2009 win in Honduras to be "unlikely." The US were the better team, and had a better history in Honduras than in other Central American nations.

    Your overall point is well taken, though. I personally consider McBride's goal at home against Guatemala in 2000 - the US were down a man at the time, by the way - to be the most underrated in US history.
     
  3. ImaPuppy

    ImaPuppy Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Location:
    Using too many parentheses
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Country:
    American Samoa
    Candidate for POTY.
     
    Real Corona repped this.
  4. Marko72

    Marko72 Member+

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Location:
    New York
    One thing that we've seen over and over again in our history is that CONCACAF qualifying is simply its own animal and is best treated as such. And the exact team that gets you through qualifying isn't necessarily your best team or tactic, and vice versa. Think of the extremely important role that Frankie Hejduk played last Hex, for example, almost single-handedly saving a point for us down in El Salvador.
     


  5. tomwilhelm

    tomwilhelm Member+

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Boston, MA, USA
    Club:
    Fulham FC
    Country:
    United States
    No kidding. "No one will respect you for qualifying out of concacaf" and "qualifying is always a pain in the arse" are the "death and taxes" of life in Concacaf. That said...

    <contrarian mode>
    I think this is the cycle we do just that... Our semifinal group is the easiest and this team is likely to be one of our strongest in awhile, while a lot of the second tier teams are in a down cycle.
    </contrarian mode>
     
    Konut repped this.
  6. Hattrix

    Hattrix Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago
    The aspect of qualifying that Marko72 just highlighted is one of the coolest parts of following the team between World Cups. The US team has a lot of fans come world cup time, but far fewer in between. We get to see who is not likely to make the tournament, but whose specific skill set is needed for one or two games. Those wind up being very nice farewells to past contributors.

    I remember my heart sinking in the middle of the night in 2002 when Frankie Heyduk showed up on the screen. But he was ON that game, and from that moment on, I've been a fan of his.

    I remember the goal in the Gold Cup against South Korea that landed Beasley his spot on that 2002 team. Wasn't a qualifier, but it was a critical game in some ways.

    And the warmup games against Italy and Holland that year, where Regis lost his starting spot...
     
  7. ImaPuppy

    ImaPuppy Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Location:
    Using too many parentheses
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Country:
    American Samoa
    I know you're mostly playing devil's advocate...but I still think that one of these times Canada are going to play to the sum of their parts (I know, I know, we've been saying this for a while now).

    On paper, they are no joke.
     
  8. LongDuckDong

    LongDuckDong Member+

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2011
    Club:
    FC Schalke 04
    Country:
    United States
    Not to mention that despite an improvement in overall continental depth, I think the second tier teams (Costa Rica, Honduras) are just slightly weaker than they were last cycle.
     
  9. tomwilhelm

    tomwilhelm Member+

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Boston, MA, USA
    Club:
    Fulham FC
    Country:
    United States
    Canada have been underperforming since... always.
    Frankly, I give them no better than even odds to advance out of their (vicious) semi-final group.

    And while I'm going out on limbs with unlikely predictions:
    4th place/play-in team: Panama
     
  10. ImaPuppy

    ImaPuppy Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Location:
    Using too many parentheses
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Country:
    American Samoa
    Golden generation there, they have a chance no doubt, but I'll use my going out on a limb on them not advancing to the hex (in lieu of Honduras finishing first, and Canada second).

    If we're going to breeze through qualifying (I very sincerely doubt we will), this WOULD be the time to do it.

    We'll be able to avoid two of Mex, ES, Hon, CR, Can and Panama.

    All of those teams have some quality. I'll be happy to see two of them eliminated early.
     
  11. Campbell95

    Campbell95 Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    The fact of the matter is that this team that Klinsmann has going into qualifiers is better than any of those past teams from top to bottom. Frankly, I feel more confident about the US winning CONCACAF this cycle than I ever have before. However, like others have said, it is easier said than done. It's still very exciting to me to see where this team is headed.
     
  12. babieca

    babieca Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Club:
    DC United
    Country:
    United States
    For me, It will always be about the night that Conor Casey went down to Honduras and like a one-man wrecking crew punched our ticket to South Africa in a game that only the most die-hard USMNT fans were watching in bars or on grainy internet streams.
     
    VioletCrown, Marko72 and raza_rebel repped this.
  13. El Chuma

    El Chuma BigSoccer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Location:
    San Diego
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Country:
    United States
    It will never be a breeze in the CONCACAF, to many factors involved. Have you folks seen the ref in out federation? Plus the CONCACAF has many good teams.
     
  14. um_chili

    um_chili Member+

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Location:
    Losanjealous
    Club:
    DC United
    Country:
    United States
    All fair points, but has any team ever breezed through CONCACAF qualifying? Costa Rica WCQ 2002 was pretty dominant (7-2-1, I think a hex record), but their semi group was tricky (we were in it with them and Guat, right?). Mexico has certainly had their struggles, at least in WCQ for 2002 and 2010 if I recall correctly. Just goes to illustrate the point that CONCACAF is far tougher to qualify from than the rankings and reps of the teams would seem to suggest.

    But as a slight counterpoint, let's not forget that the US has never once needed a result on the last day of WCQ to qualify, at least not since the miraculous Caligiuri goal from WCQ 1990. Sure, some of those hexes saw us struggle, but the consistency with which we've gotten the job done with room to spare is damned impressive. No other CONCACAF team can boast that fact.
     
  15. Real Corona

    Real Corona Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Location:
    ----> Wisconsin <------
    Club:
    FC Metalist Kharkiv
    Country:
    Montserrat
    Neither Guatemala nor Jamaica are pushovers this round especially at home. I take nothing for granted.
     
    FlipsLikeAPancake repped this.
  16. Eleven Bravo

    Eleven Bravo Member+

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    Club:
    Atlanta Silverbacks
    Country:
    United States
    Overall predictions of Qualifying:

    Semi-Finals
    Group A
    1-USA, 2-Guatemala, 3-Jamaica, 4-Antigua and Barbuda

    *USA should win their group easily or Klinsy dropped the ball. I'm not saying we are going to crush all three opponents both home and away, but we need to prove that we can win every single one of these games. Right now, the away match against Guatemala should be our most difficult but we cannot fall asleep against them or even Jamaica at home. We should destroy Antigua. Regardless, the standard for us is 18 points.

    Between Jamaica and Guatemala, that's tough. Jamaica looks better on paper but Guatemala is one tough nut to crack. As of now, i'm putting my money on Guatemala due to being the tougher away venue.

    Group B
    1-Mexico, 2-El Salvador, 3-Costa Rica, 4-Guyana

    *Mexico are the clear favorites to win this group, and i believe they'll win it without dropping a point. Nothing is stopping them at this point. I am giving an edge to El Salvador at the moment over Costa Rica as the main upset of the semi-final stage.

    Group C
    1-Honduras, 2-Panama, 3-Canada, 4-Cuba

    *This is Honduras group to win. Panama and Canada should duke it out for the 2nd spot, but i will give the edge to Panama due to the fact that i believe Canada will struggle during their away matches more than Panama.


    Hex
    1. Mexico
    2. United States
    3. Honduras
    4. El Salvador
    5. Panama
    6. Guatemala

    *As a good American, i have to believe that US will find a way to win the Hex. However, this is the best Mexican side i can remember. And i just don't see how we can stop them right now given all of our failures at the youth levels. The rest of the teams will play spoilers for US & Mexico, and will be a dogfight for the last spot. I believe Honduras will clinch 3rd. El Salvador will pull out a 4th place and lose badly to any South American side.

    Regardless, US will struggle against all of these teams if they are complacent. However, the US should be favored to beat all of these teams both home and away besides Mexico. If we can get over this slump that we were in for 2011 and get lucky with the health (Holden) and status (Chandler) of some players, we may have the talent to finally beat Mexico in Azteca. Unfortunately, Mexico looks better on paper this cycle too.
     
  17. Suyuntuy

    Suyuntuy Member+

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Qualifying "with a match to spare" is, literally, breezing through it.

    I wouldn't consider stuff from the previous century, the USA has advanced a lot since then. So, this millennium, the USA has been qualifying almost each turn with a match to spare. Who else can say that? Germany? Brazil?

    For most nations, the qualification happens in the last minute of their last game. And that includes powerhouses like Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, England.
     
  18. schrutebuck

    schrutebuck Member+

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    Hopefully, whatever starting XI Klinsmann prefers can perform and hold up in the semis like the 08 squad. Mastro was the only major injury loss, missing the final 3; Howard was injured 1 match, Cherundolo suspended 1 match, Beasley* benched 1 match, and that's it. This trio started 4 of 5, while 7 started all 5. This stability didn't last in the hex though.

    *Eddie Lewis's reward - receive a cheap shot from Gustavo Cabrera.

    My expectation - certainly I think the US should be able to run the table until qualified for the hex like in 2008. Away draws against Guatemala and Jamaica, and the full 3 points in all other matches until advancement is assured would be adequate.
     
  19. almango

    almango Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2004
    Location:
    Bulli, Australia
    Club:
    Sydney FC
    Country:
    Australia
    What do you define as breezing through? Since 1990, based on what you've posted here, you have always qualified with at least one match to spare. The onloy time it came down to a last match was a semi final round (not sure how many teams or matches in this round) against Barbados which you won 4-0. If you don't definme this as breezing through, you must at least concede that there has rarely been a squeaky bum time in qualifying for the USA in the last 20 years.

    On point 2 I agree with you. Performance at the World Cup has mainly been based on the draw and form at the time (and maybe a bit of luck here and there as well). You could get a tough group like 2006 or an easy one like 2010 (I speak only in relative terms here, no group is really easy for mid ranked teams).
     
  20. cleansheetbsc

    cleansheetbsc Member+

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2004
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    Club:
    --other--
    This brings up a good point. The mental toughness of the past squads, to overcome adversity that will be faced. Hedjuk. Most of the regular starters last cycle who sat on a yellow for multiple games without picking up that second yellow which would have led to suspension. Besides Frankie, other role players who come up big in the moment - Connor Casey, Cobi Jones, Brian Ching have saved an important point or three.

    And for the OP, the last cycle was a tough one, mainly due to all the competition raising their level of play (no pushovers). Honduras was much improved. El Salvador made life miserable for other teams and even T&T had a couple of moments.
     
  21. tubby_butter

    tubby_butter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2002
    Location:
    Providence
    Did Wigan breeze through the EPL this year? They didn't need any points on the last day.

    And, the point of the original post wasn't to compare our qualifying record to other regions, it was to point out that our region is difficult despite the gap in rankings between us and the teams we need to beat out for qualifying spots. As it was so clearly pointed out, in nearly every cycle (in both the semifinal and final stages) we find ourselves outside the qualifying spots at some point or another. That is not breezing through.
     
  22. orcrist

    orcrist Member+

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2005
    Location:
    California, USA
    Country:
    United States
    Literally? Really?
    [​IMG]

    Just trying to imagine what literally breezing through would look like... The U.S. team gets vaporized by a nuclear strike?

    Please, save the word "literally"!
     
    Gorky, WrmBrnr, Pragidealist and 2 others repped this.
  23. um_chili

    um_chili Member+

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Location:
    Losanjealous
    Club:
    DC United
    Country:
    United States
    You can't literally breeze through qualifying. It's a metaphor. To literally breeze through qualifying would literally mean that the stadiums were all affected by strong winds or something.

    But does it mean you had an easy time if you qualify with game(s) to spare? Yes and no. Compare 2002 and 2006 WCQ. In 02, we started out unbelievably dominant, then hit about as rough a patch as you can imagine (three consecutive losses, including at home to Honduras), but thanks to scraping a win v Jamaica and Honduras blowing it against T&T, we managed to qualify kinda miraculously on the next to last day of the hex. In 2006, we blew through the hex with six wins in our first seven games, all of which were by pretty comfortable margins, to clinch with three games left.

    Both 02 and 06 saw us clinch with at least a game to spare. In 06, I'd say we breezed through the hex, in the sense that at no point were we in real trouble of missing out. In 02, those of you who remember it will agree that after the Hondo/CR back to back losses there was a very grim sense that the team was choking. It just wasn't the results but that we had tons of injuries and just looked awful in those games. So I wouldn't say the 02 team breezed through WCQ even though they made it with a game to spare.

    But then we all remember which of those teams did better in the WC, right? Although the correlation between hex performance and WC results is, I suppose, a topic for another thread.
     
    orcrist repped this.
  24. TrueCrew

    TrueCrew Member+

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Country:
    United States
    I've always been in the "it's always tough" category, and the help in 2002 mentioned in the OP's post, I believe, was T&T beating Costa Rica (who were leading the group at the time) in the 9th match. CR played Mexico last, and the fact that we leapfrogged them got us in. Without that result, the last match would have been much more interesting. Thank you, Stern John.

    Nor do I necessarily buy that this is the best team, top to bottom, we've ever had. I think we have more depth throughout the pool, down to player 30-40, but I'm not sure players 1-15 are our best. That 2002 squad: Friedel, Keller, Meola, Sanneh, Pope, Reyna, O'Brien, McBride, Mathis, Donovan, Beasley, Lewis, Berhalter, Hejduk, Stewart, Mastroeni, Moore, etc was pretty nasty at the top.
     
  25. TrueCrew

    TrueCrew Member+

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Country:
    United States
    Oh, one more thing, a likely Hex of:

    1) Mexico
    2) USA
    3) Panama
    4) Honduras
    5) Costa Rica
    6) Jamaica/Guatemala

    With Canada (for Honduras or Panama) and El Salvador (for Costa Rica) still possibilities. Either way, it isn't going to be easy. Canada at their best can give us problems (2007 Gold Cup Semis), and away matches in Central America are always tricky, to say the least. Not to mention Azteca.

    And while our recent run of form has been good, Mexico has to be considered the favorites to win the Hex. Until we beat them in a match that matters, they have the belt.
     
Moderators: dark knight

Share This Page