Situation: This is what Sir Alex Ferguson would term “squeaky bum time” in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying. Two of the six group matches remain. The result, for the Americans, is still in question. The top two teams advance. The standings are as follows Guatemala 7(+2), USA 7(+2), Jamaica 7(+1), Antigua and Barbuda 1(-5). The USMNT has the road game at Antigua and Barbuda (tonight) and a home match with Guatemala still to play. There’s little reason to think the U.S. won’t qualify, but the possibility is too real to be dismissed.
Jury Still Out: Klinsmann has not proven himself. His teams have stumbled to some high profile friendly wins (at Italy, at Mexico), but, particularly in competitive matches, have underwhelmed. He was hired after the USMNT hit a post-2010 funk. The funk has not lifted. Failure to qualify for 2014 would be a disaster. Failure to reach even the final round of qualifying would be unthinkable, especially given Klinsmann’s $2.5 million salary. The U.S. displayed signs of vitality in the second Jamaica match. They will hope to build on that with two strong wins in the softest part of their group slate.
Big Decision: Jozy Altidore was not called up to the 24-man squad. Klinsmann’s choice seems controversial, as Altidore is the current top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie. One could justify not starting Altidore, as he has struggled adapting to Klinsmann’s style, but leaving him off the squad entirely for a journeyman MLS striker having a good year was bold move U.S. fans hope will not back fire.
Minnows: Antigua and Barbuda has a population of 81,000. An estimated 12 percent of the population will fill the 10,000-seat stadium for this game. This is a game the U.S. should dominate on paper, though Antigua and Barbuda has been tough at home, allowing just one goal in two matches against Jamaica and Guatemala.
Salient Information: This game is on at 7pm ET on BeInSportUSA. It is available on DirecTV, Comcast and Dish. Don’t hassle the @ussoccer twitter account. They don’t distribute the rights for away qualifiers.
[Photo via Presswire]