ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Months and months of stumbles have put the United States in a precarious position. The Americans could miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Preparing for Friday’s crucial qualifier against Panama, the U.S. held a closed-doors scrimmage Wednesday against Orlando City’s B team. A victory Friday would put the U.S. on track to qualify for its eighth straight World Cup with a win or possibly a tie at Trinidad and Tobago next week. Less than a win could lead to either a playoff next month or elimination.
”There’s been a real sense of urgency,” captain Michael Bradley said. ”Obviously you get to the end and our margin for error is virtually gone.”
Mexico has 18 points and has clinched one of the three berths from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Costa Rica has 15 points heading into its game against visiting Honduras and is on the verge of clinching.
Panama is third with 10 points, and the U.S. has nine and leads Honduras on goal difference. Trinidad has three points and is all-but-eliminated.
The top three nations qualify, and fourth place has a home-and-home playoff next month against Australia or Syria – which plays its home games in Malaysia.
”People can come in and say it’s just another game, but the reality is it’s not just another game,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. ”We can be out. We could really, really complicate ourselves if we don’t get three points this next game against Panama.”