The United States men’s soccer team may be all but mathematically through to the final round of World Cup qualifying, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann insists his players will be going all out to beat Trinidad and Tobago in Jacksonville on Tuesday. The U.S. goes into its final game of the penultimate group stage in second place, three points ahead of Guatemala. It would take a U.S. defeat combined with a Guatemala win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a 12-goal reversal in goal differential for the U.S. to miss out on the Hexagonal.
But the Americans also have their sight set on claiming first place in their group, which they would do with a win on Tuesday. Finishing top would mean beginning the Hexagonal with a home meeting with great rivals Mexico in November.
“The situation is very clear. We badly want to win this game,” Klinsmann said in his press conference ahead of the match at Everbank Field. “We want to finish first in our group in order to get straight into a big one in the Hexagonal.
“We are not through yet and this is what we clearly tell the players so for not even one second do they underestimate the situation. Trinidad and Tobago are through so congratulations to them. We are fully prepared to go 100 percent full speed, all determination all aggressiveness that it takes to win this game.”
The U.S. beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 on the road on Friday to put itself on the verge of securing progress. But there will be at least three changes from that lineup. Matt Besler has left the squad to be with his new daughter, who was born just hours before he scored his first international goal on Friday and fellow defender DeAndre Yedlin is suspended.
In goal, Tim Howard is set to take over from Brad Guzan and in doing so become the United States’ all-time record appearance holder in World Cup qualifiers with 32. Captain Michael Bradley and defender Michael Orozco have also joined the squad and could feature,
Klinsmann, though, has hinted there will not be widespread changes for the match, insisting that now is not the time for experimentation. He has also suggested that Christian Pulisic could again have to settle for a place on the substitute’s bench. Pulisic came on for the final 23 minutes in St. Vincent and continued to add to his burgeoning reputation, scoring twice and adding an assist. Still, Klinsmann has called for patience with the 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder.
Trinidad and Tobago secured its qualification for the Hexagonal with a 2-2 draw at home to Guatemala on Friday. Coach Stephen Hart has said that some changes will be made to the lineup in Jacksonville in addition to the necessity of replacing suspended defender Sheldon Bateau.
Yet Hart also wants to use the game with he U.S. to iron out some of the errors he observed in allowing Guatemala to come back and secure a draw last week.
“We know in the Hex now but we also know that we have to be a little more efficient in the things we do especially off the ball,” he said. “We had a long team meeting about it and we would like to start implementing it and look at this match as the first match of preparation for the Hex.”
Prediction: The two teams played out a drab goalless draw in Trinidad last November, but there should be at least slightly more entertainment on show on Tuesday. While a draw will be enough for the U.S., Klinsmann and co will want to get a win on home soil and should get it against a Trinidad and Tobago team that is likely to feature several changes.
Predicted Score: USA 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago