Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Fans, chill about U.S. making the World Cup

U.S. soccer fans breathed a sigh of relief after the men's national team drilled Guatemala 4-0 on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. A 2-0 loss in Guatemala City on Friday had seemed to put the United States in peril of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

There were calls for the dismissal of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, questions about selection policy and general trepidation.

Even after the big win, the United States stands in second place in its qualifying group, only 1 point ahead of Guatemala. With only two teams to advance, is there still a real danger of elimination?

Was there ever?

And could there be signs of trouble ahead for the final qualifying round?

In a word, no.

Both the United States and Guatemala have two games remaining, in September. Each should score easy wins over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is 0-4 with a minus-16 goal differential.

The other games are against the group leader, Trinidad and Tobago, but the U.S. game is at home, in Jacksonville, while Guatemala must travel to Port of Spain. The United States also has a huge 7-1 edge in goal differential, the first tiebreaker.

Once the U.S. team advances to the final round, known as the hexagonal, it should be favored again. Its world ranking is 30th. Only Mexico, at 22nd, is higher among the teams from the United States' region.

The other likely participants range from Costa Rica at 33, down to the 80s. And with three or four qualifying spots available, there is quite a margin for error. Mexico was 2-3-5 in the hexagonal and still qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

Every four years, it seems, there comes a time when the United States hits a bad patch in qualifying and panic ensues.

At the same stage in qualifying for 2014, the U.S. team started 1-1-1 with a draw in Guatemala and a loss in Jamaica and was tied for second in the group. The Americans went on to win it. Four years earlier, the United States lost a game in the final qualifying round at Costa Rica after drawing at El Salvador. The U.S. team won the group; Costa Rica and El Salvador did not make the World Cup.

Notice that all of the key U.S. setbacks came on the road. Winning international games in Central America and the Caribbean can be tough; conditions are difficult and refereeing can be iffy.

When the hexagonal begins, expect the United States to lose an away game and the hand-wringing to begin again. And expect the U.S. team to qualify for the World Cup.

The United States has qualified for every Cup since 1990, when it sneaked past Trinidad in the final qualifying game. The U.S. team qualified automatically in 1994 as the host and since then has made the Cup five straight times, usually with some ease.

But all the news is not good for U.S. soccer.

While the women's team breezed into the Olympic Games, the men's team will not be going after losing 2-1 to Colombia in Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday night. The team of under-23 players had lost an earlier chance to qualify in October, falling to Honduras. The team also failed to make the 2012 Games.

But it is hard to prepare a makeshift team of youngsters in a short time. And the Olympic field of 16 is only half the size of the World Cup's.

Although it too will have its stumbles, Klinsmann's World Cup team is not likely to face a similar fate.

— New York Times

Comments
Inside the Raysí plan to prove the tanking truthers wrong

Inside the Raysí plan to prove the tanking truthers wrong

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays know tanking."We tanked in 2006 and '07, if you want to call it that," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "We were the original tankers. Or tankees. It seems to be all the fad now."In losing 101 and 96 games in the...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
That guy standing by Cash in the dugout? All part of Raysí plan

That guy standing by Cash in the dugout? All part of Raysí plan

Jonathan ErlichmanFor a moment Friday, it looked as if a young businessman, accountant or computer guy had won one of those charity auctions to spend a game in uniform in the Rays dugout.Actually, it was Rays analytics director Jonathan Erlichman, a ...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Practice makes perfect for Gasparilla 5K champions

Practice makes perfect for Gasparilla 5K champions

TAMPA — The only other time Taylor McDowell ran the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K, he came in 10th place. So as this year's event neared, the Tampa resident created a training plan, and he stuck to it.McDowell, who competed in cross cou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

TAMPA — Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Ondrej Palat skating, likely mid-March return

Ondrej Palat skating, likely mid-March return

It is an encouraging sign for the Lightning that wing Ondrej Palat is back on the ice, even if it's just light skating.Palat is arguably the team's best two-way forward, someone who plays in all situations, so Tampa Bay has missed him big-time.But Pa...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pregnant mother Paige Howard wins womenís Gasparilla 15K

Pregnant mother Paige Howard wins womenís Gasparilla 15K

TAMPA — Initially, Tampa's Paige Howard was a little reticent about joining the pre-dawn throng at the starting line of Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K.On a morning when temperatures began in the mid-60s and climbed, Howard's ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

UPDATE, 11:36: Manager Kevin Cash said the plan is to play Duffy on back to back days a couple times early in spring, believing the short bursts of activity will best help him build up after missing all of 2017. … Matt Andriese will come out of...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be very good this year.We already knew that.They have gutted a team that won 80 games last season. Among those sent packing: Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and team MVP Steven Souza Jr.Yeah, this thi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays Saturday scheduleAt Red Sox1:05, JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort MyersPitchers: Rays – RH Jake Faria, RH Matt Andriese, RH Dustin McGowan, LH Ryan Yarbrough, RF Chaz Roe, LH Jose Alvarado, RH Evan Scribner, RH Jose Mujica; Red...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Marlins treat Stoneman Douglas players to an afternoon of baseball

Marlins treat Stoneman Douglas players to an afternoon of baseball

BY CLARK SPENCERMiami HeraldJUPITER – A player for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball team politely asked Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison if he would mind giving him a bat as a souvenir."Not only will I give you one of my bats,...
Updated: 11 hours ago