US football looks forward a year after World Cup qualifying failure

The United States failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. (AFP pic)

TAMPA: One year after a humbling failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States are hoping a string of upcoming friendlies will show they’re on the path to redemption.

Wednesday marked the anniversary of the US’ shock loss to Trinidad and Tobago that ended their bid to reach this year’s World Cup. Midfielder Michael Bradley, back in the squad for the first time since then, said players are looking forward, not back.

“It doesn’t linger,” said Bradley, who was recalled to the US squad by interim coach Dave Sarachan for friendlies against Colombia on Thursday and Peru next week.

Sarachan said it had always been his plan to reintroduce a veteran element to complement the young players who have stepped forward in the past year, but Bradley admitted he was never 100% certain he would be back.

“I don’t think anybody ever knows that, so you enjoy every opportunity you have with the national team and you don’t ever take it for granted,” Bradley said.

“For me, the opportunity to be back now and start to get to know some of the younger guys that have been around the last nine or 10 months is great,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

US Soccer, aware that the wound from that night in Trinidad and Tobago is still raw for fans, marked the anniversary with a statement on their website.

“Today we look forward,” the statement said. “With the march towards 2022 underway and the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America as our guidepost, the US Men’s National Team has embarked on a new journey.”

“The hallmarks of the culture remain, with perseverance, grit and dogged determination fueled by the pride to represent the United States and each and every one of you.”

The federation played a key role in landing the 2026 World Cup for North America, along with Mexico and Canada.

There has been change at the top with the departure of Sunil Gulati and the election of former vice president Carlos Cordeiro as the new US Soccer president and the arrival of Earnie Stewart as general manager of the national team.

But the Americans are still searching for a permanent replacement for Bruce Arena, who stepped down as coach three days after the Trinidad debacle.

With Sarachan at the helm they split friendlies against Brazil and Mexico in September, and the caretaker coach said he’s seen a “progression” in the rebuilding team in the eight matches played to date under his guidance.

“It’s by no means a finished progression, but it’s moving along in a good direction,” he said.