CONCACAF Qualifying: C’mon, People, Worry With Me!

I don’t like this particular line of thinking from Greg Lalas’ look ahead to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s (aka, Yanquis) 2008:

“All of that [ed. – “what’s ‘that’ you’re asking? Well, read his article and find out.”] will pay massive dividends come ’09, when the U.S. heads to South Africa for the Confederations Cup and World Cup 2010 qualifying opponents are not pinpricks on the map. Clichés exist for a reason. Because they’re true. Sophomore slumps also exist for a reason. Because you’re preparing for what comes next.”

Well, yeah. But what if “what comes next” never comes because you didn’t sweat the necessary stuff that comes before it?

The whole tone of that article, along with the idea that we’re entering something of a “nothing” year with 2008, irks me a little. The list of probable 2008 opposition on our way to the 2010 World Cup does have a kind of “who’s that?” feel. We start in June with either Barbados or Dominica, whichever of them makes it past their upcoming home-and-home ties in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament’s first round (are these things being televised, by the way; if not, why not? I’m seeing a shitstack of “FA Cup Films” out of Fox Soccer Channel and, no, I don’t stick around to watch them). Sure, we should beat either team, and handily, but…well, what if? I know two things about this: 1) my world would, personally, end; 2) am I alone in detecting some shaky moments in our defense, specifically our central defense? And what happens when we go down a freak goal at home and need to score – as we did against Guatemala in last year’s Gold Cup – and we just….can’t….do….it? Shit…I lost a few more hairs just thinking about it.

Speaking of Guatemala, they’re one of our likely opponents in the round-robin semifinal Hexagonal that will round out our qualifying schedule for 2008, them along with Trinidad & Tobago and Cuba (you can piece together pretty easily from this page). Going by the tentative Yanquis’ schedule Du Nord slapped on the ol’ left-hand sidebar, we’ll be five games into the six required to wrap up the penultimate Hexagonal by the end of this year – and this is a time when Lalas recommends we “afford some of the players some necessary rest?” Now, this could just be the anxiety talking, but am I alone in thinking all three of those teams are entirely capable of forcing ties with the U.S. team? We know Guatemala is a pain in the ass, that the Cubans get up for games against the Yanquis like no one else (half of them, no doubt, by way of putting on a pre-defection audition), and Trinidad had it’s moments in the 2006 World Cup (does Tobago get pissed when people leave them out?). For all that the odds favor the Yanquis, accidents happen…sometimes several of them in a row.

The point is, the Canadians look like they’re approaching qualifying with due and healthy anxiety (and, provided they play in 2008 like they played this summer, they can definitely survive a group comprised of (again, this is likely) Mexico, Jamaica, and Honduras; and, for the record, I’m glad that’s the Canadians’ group and not ours. So count me happy we’re not in that (highly comparative) Group of Death, but I don’t like so much as the possibility that Lalas’ positively sanguine mood lurks in more hearts than his. We’re the better team – and by far; I have absolutely no doubt of that – but this is about guaranteeing success, as opposed to expecting it.

I mean, how painful would it be to fly to the Confederations’ Cup in 2009 with no South Africa 2010 to follow?

5 Responses

  1. CONCACAF group of death? You could put the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica in a group and I’d have a hard time in giving it that mantle.

  2. Yeah, I know. But it’s what we have to work with…there’s just not a lot there.

    Still, I’m a big fan of preparing…mentally as well as physically.

  3. Jimmy Chowda’s comment inspired a correction. When I say “highly comparative” Group of Death, I mean that facing Jamaica, Mexico, and Honduras is about as close as a penultimate Hexagonal group can get to being hard.

  4. […] It’s not just that he starts with a second to yesterday’s somewhat over-alarmed post about United States’ World Cup qualifying campaign (OK, it’s subtle; just squint) and […]

  5. […] of it grows from my late (over-wrought) anxiety about the Yanquis stumbling at the first Caribbean hurdle. Intellectually, I understand that just […]

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