By RONALD BLUM – Associated Press Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica ( Associated Press) – American football’s terrifying memory of the loss in Trinidad 4 1/2 years ago remains ubiquitous, if not more mournful.
If a place in the 2018 World Cup was denied by a 2-1 defeat against an opponent who has already been eliminated, American players try not to think that they will qualify for this year’s tournament, as long as they not lost to Costa Rica by six. goals or more in Thursday night’s qualifying final.
“The guys told us, who had been here and through this road before, that we thought we had qualified for last World Cup,” midfielder Tyler Adams said on Wednesday. “The fans thought we did too. But we did not when we realized our game was over and we lost.”
Only four players are left of the American roster that left tears on the field at Couva: Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola.
“I know this and Christian also better than anyone: It is not over before it is over. We can not be too complacent. We can not be too relaxed. We still have work to do, ”said Yedlin. “Of course we are in a good situation and we know it. but I think when we enter the Trinidad game, we also thought we were in a good situation. “
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Canada (28 points) has clinched one of the three automatic sleepers of North and Central America and the Caribbean, the US (25) is second ahead of Mexico on goal difference and Costa Rica (22) is fourth. Because the Americans have a plus-13 goal difference and Costa Rica is at plus-three, the US can only be denied by a defeat of at least six goals.
“The media has classified us as the golden generation and the generation that will qualify for the next World Cup,” said 22-year-old winger Tim Weah. We carry a lot of that weight on our shoulders, and to qualify for the World Cup, it’s not just for us, it’s for the group before, it’s for the Clints (Dempsey), it’s for DeAndres, for Jozy (Altidore). all the guys who could not do it again. ”
The last time the USA lost a competitive game with six goals was in 1957.
“We do not take anything for granted,” said coach Gregg Berhalter. “We come here to be aggressive in the match and to win the football match. That is our intention. We are not going to be careful. We are not going to sit back. We are not going for a tie.”
The USA has nine defeats and one draw in qualifying matches in Costa Rica, and one win, two defeats and three draws in the qualifying matches in this cycle. Using one of the latest rosters in international football, the Americans started last September with a 0-0 draw against El Salvador and a 1-1 draw at home against Canada, and then gained strength over the five qualifying windows.
“It was really a lack of experience,” Berhalter said. “We were kicked in the teeth that first round, and that’s what it was. We were possibly overinsured, did not understand what qualification was about, and we learned that lesson quickly. ”
Pulisic has five of the Americans’ 21 goals, including his first international hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-1 home game in Panama.
“When he grew up as the kind of golden child in the American football generation, people set expectations on him. “To be honest with you, he treated them better than anyone would really handle them,” Adams said. “In every situation he is expected to do things that people like (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo are supposed to do.”
Reggie Cannon rejoined the team after recovering from COVID-19. Gio Reyna is not ready for 90 minutes yet, while he is among 30 players and staff recovering from a stomach ache that started among the group in Mexico last week. Berhalter also revealed that the thigh muscle injury that set Reyna apart from September to February included nerve problems that had been resolved.
If the U.S. qualifies, Berhalter has little time to prepare for Friday’s draw, where the Americans would be in pot two. The match ends around 21:00 local time, and he and staff have plans to catch a flight at 23:54 to New York and a connection to Doha, Qatar. Coaches and players usually try not to think before a game, but Berhalter was forced to.
“I came across it weeks ago because I know it’s a vital evil of what we’re trying to achieve,” Berhalter said. “They want us there at the draw, so it’s going to be important that if we qualify, we’re there. So we have to make these arrangements.”
Twenty-seven of the 44 players on U.S. qualifying rosters are with the team. and Berhalter planned to contact those who are not in Costa Rica to congratulate them.
Players prepared in at least one respect to celebrate in the National Stadium. They have a new JBL Boombox 2, a waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker purchased by team administrator Sam Zapatka. Weah is the DJ.
“Ever since I joined the national team, we’ve had this little Bose speaker, and every camp we talk about we need to get a new speaker, we need to get new speakers,” Yedlin said. I do not know why it took eight years or how long it took, but in the end we got a nice speaker that we can play, so we’m pretty excited about it. ”
Notes: Costa Rica is guaranteed no worse than a June playoff game against the Oceania champions, likely New Zealand, and nine Ticos carry yellow cards: Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Joel Campbell, Francisco Calvo, Bryan Oviedo, Johan Venegas , Keysher Fuller, Jewison Bennette and Alonso Martínez. Coach Luis Fernando Suárez said on Sunday that he could not run the risk of some of them being suspended for a play-off round.
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