The final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia from the CONCACAF region consists of six teams competing in a double round robin tournament known as the Hexagonal. The top three teams advance to Moscow, while the fourth-place teams faces Asia’s fifth-place team in a playoff.
The US (#24 world rank) has won the last three Hexagonals but has just lost the first two games of a Hexagonal for the first time ever. In fact, with 8 games still to go they have already lost more games than in 2006 and 2014 and have given up as many goals as in all of 2006. They still likely will qualify, but alarm bells are ringing in USA Soccer as discussed more below.
Nov. 11 – Mexico at USA
|Mexico||#17||Mapfre Stadium (Columbus)||19-13-36||3-1-3|| 2-3
Mexico scored in the 89th minute for a 2-1 win and the lead in the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
The loss was big for several reasons:
- The loss was their first home qualifying loss to Mexico in 44 years.
- It was their first loss to Mexico in Columbus where the US had been 4-0 and outscored Mexico 8-1.
- It broke a 30-match home undefeated streak in World Cup qualifiers.
Nov. 16 – USA at Costa Rica
|Costa Rica||#18|| National Stadium
Costa Rica scored once just before halftime and then poured on three goals in the second half to match and avenge the US’ 4-0 win during Copa America. In addition to being the first time the US has lost the first games of a Hexagonal, this was the most goals conceded in a qualifying match since 1980.
Costa Rica now leads the Hexagonal 2-0-0 with 6 points.
Upcoming Matches and Coach Klinsmann
The next four Hexagonal games will be in March and June, mostly against teams the US has dominated with the exception of Mexico.
|Series Record||Last Match|
|Honduras||Mar-24||#86||1-0-1 (3)||16-4-3|| 2-1
|@Panama||Mar-28||#63||1-0-1 (4)||12-3-2|| 1-1 (2-3)
|Trinidad||Jun-9||#65||0-0-2 (0)||18-4-3|| 4-0
|@Mexico||Jun-13||#17||1-1-0 (4)||19-13-37|| 1-2
The losses have put coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the hot seat. Klinsmann has the second most games and wins of any US coach with a 55-15-28 record. He came under fire last year after losing to Guatemala for the first time in 21 matches, but the USMNT’s poor start in the Hexagonal has prominent critics calling for his dismissal.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has called for his firing.
Many other major soccer commentators are also calling for his dismissal. See also Fox’s 13 awful USMNT milestones set under Jurgen Klinsmann.
After the Mexico loss, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to be the manager through the end of World Cup qualifying.
We have not had a coach in 27 years that has started World Cup qualifying and not finished World Cup qualifying. . . . We’ve never changed coaches in the [middle of the final round]. No one has started the process and not finished it since 1989 and I expect that to be the case here.
After the Costa Rica blowout, however, Gulati said he will talk to Klinsmann who currently is in Germany as part of President Obama’s state visit.