The United States men’s national team has not always been good at beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. We all remember the semifinal loss to Jamaica in last year’s Gold Cup and the calamitous away defeat in Guatemala back in March. They managed to lose to Ukraine in a 2014 World Cup warm-up game, and, who could forget, they needed a 90th-minute Eddie Johnson header to beat Antigua and Barbuda in World Cup qualifying back in 2012.
So you could forgive someone for being a little tentative when pondering the US’s qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago, even if there wasn’t an obvious reason to be. The US went into the match having all but secured a spot in the next round of 2018 qualification — only drastic measures could see Guatemala leapfrog them — and arrived in Jacksonville confident following a 6-0 shellacking of St. Vincent, a team that brought back memories of Antigua. But given their history in these kinds of games, I don’t think I was the only one worrying about a disaster.
A disaster, by the way, would mean a draw or a loss, not an unrealistic 12-goal swing that would move Guatemala up a place in the standings. Dropped points against Trinidad would be severely disappointing despite their secure spot in the Hexagonal, especially considering Jurgen Klinsmann’s statements saying he would play his best lineup. It would have been a severe humiliation.
Observers had reason to believe an embarrassment was possible. CONCACAF referees are known to be quite slimy and have a tendency to give out red cards and/or PKs at the drop of a hat, often drastically changing game outcomes. Trinidad could have come out firing and run away with it early as revenge for Fox Sports 1’s showing of the 1989 World Cup qualifier that saw the US eliminate T&T in Port of Spain. Klinsmann could have played Sacha Kljestan at left back or Jozy Altidore in defensive midfield or something.
Plenty of things could have gone wrong, like they have in the past. But the US erased all doubts and cruised to a convincing 4-0 victory, with Kljestan dominating from the No. 10 position and Altidore recording a brace as a center forward.
Montero turned out to be a fine and capable official. Already-qualified Trinidad looked asleep for long periods of time. Klinsmann put out his best lineup in forever. It honestly turned out alright.
We can now afford to be semi-confident about things going forward, if only because the US don’t play a competitive match for another couple of months. You all can worry about another soccer team for the time being, because our national team is actually looking okay right now.
Because I said that, Michael Bradley probably won’t get called up two months from now or something ridiculous like that, but for now, we can afford to be satisfied, even if history tells us not to be.