With a win over Panama and a Costa Rica loss or tie at El Salvador, the U.S. would clinch one of the top three spots in the final round of Concacaf’s eight-team qualifying competition and, with it, a trip to the Qatar World Cup. A draw would be enough if Costa Rica falls in San Salvador (that match will end as U.S.-Panama kicks off). A tie in Orlando, regardless of the Costa Rica result, would ensure the Americans finish at least fourth. That would mean, at worst, a one-game playoff against a team from Oceania in June. Other combinations of results have more varied implications.
World Cup qualifying in Concacaf is an unpredictable, occasionally infuriating gauntlet of ups, downs and attrition. And now that Octagonal’s finish line is in sight, the depleted but motivated Americans (6-2-4) have no choice but to summon the focus and resolve required to power through. The three unfortunate right backs aren’t the only men absent, and most of those present and preparing for Sunday evening’s showdown with Panama (5-4-3) are still recovering from their high-altitude effort at the Azteca.metasports
ORLANDO, Fla. — They’ve been ruled out for just about all the reasons an athlete can be ruled out: injury, illness and suspension.
Sergiño Dest hurt his hamstring while playing recently for Barcelona. Reggie Cannon tested positive for COVID-19 in Mexico. And DeAndre Yedlin was cautioned during the first half of Thursday’s 0-0 draw at the Estadio Azteca. As a result, the most experienced player on this U.S. men’s national team roster now faces a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation (just two in Yedlin’s eight World Cup qualifiers, but that’s the terrible rule).
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter named three right backs to his roster for this climatic qualifying window on March 17. Nine days and 90 minutes of action later, they’re all unavailable.