No matter how you view the USA's 0-0 tie at Trinidad & Tobago -- better than recent end-of-year results or many recent results on the road in World Cup qualifying but not as good as the results
for Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Guatemala, which all won on the road Tuesday in Concacaf play -- one thing is for sure. The result will unlikely force the ouster of U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as had been suggested if the USA didn't sweep its opening two qualifiers.
1. Scoreless draw is a mixed result.
In comparison to any number of road games in
World Cup qualifying over recent cycles, the 0-0 tie with Trinidad & Tobago was a good result. One can think of the 2-1 loss at Jamaica in the semifinal round in 2012 or the 1-0 loss to T&T in
the semifinal round in 2008 (albeit after the USA had clinched its berth in the Hexagonal). The result in the final game of 2015 was also in sharp contrast to the last game of 2014, a 4-1 loss to an
Ireland "B" team.
After struggling in the first half, the USA largely dominated the second half but will rue its missed chances to beat the Soca Warriors and join Mexico, Costa Rica,
Jamaica and Guatemala, which all won on the road Tuesday in Concacaf play. Both Gyasi Zardes and Jermaine Jones hit the
crossbar in the second half.
Mexico and Costa Rica are the reference points for the USA -- the two Concacaf teams that joined it in the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup -- and
accomplished much better results on Tuesday night. Mexico beat Honduras, 2-0, in San Pedro Sula, where it had not won in 50 years, and Costa Rica won, 2-1, at Panama, which was coming off a 2-0 win at
2. Positives from Johnson, Yedlin and Altidore, but ...
Fabian Johnson didn't last
long in Klinsmann's dog house. After being sent home after the 3-2 los to Mexico in the Concacaf Cup, the German-American was back with the USA for the opening World Cup matches but in a more advanced
role at left midfield. Indeed, Johnson remains the best U.S. option, as he has for the last two years, at right back, left back and left midfield.
Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin gave the USA attacking options on the wings it has not had consistently in a long time. You can add to that Jozy Altidore, who had
another strong game, setting up Zardes for his shot off the crossbar and providing attacking support all over the frontline.
Still, it wasn't enough to overcome deficiencies elsewhere,
particularly the lack of attacking options from the two outside backs. Few could predicted that the USA, for all its troubles at right back and left back, would finish the year with Michael Orozco and Tim Ream (center backs for much of their careers) starting on the outside.
3. Still waiting for the new generation.
For the talk of the need to start breaking in a new generation of players, the USA
remains quite an old team. The average age of the back five (goalkeeper and four defenders) and two central midfielders Klinsmann started against T&T was 30.4 years, and every one of them will be
at least 30 by the time World Cup qualifying ends in October 2017.
Tuesday's only starter who broke into the U.S. starting lineup this year is the 24-year-old Zardes. With his appearance
against T&T, he tied Claudio Reyna's record (set in 1994) for the most caps (19) in a player's debut year for the national team. Klinsmann praised Zardes as
a special talent earlier in the year, but after some good moments earlier in the year, he has been disappointing this fall. He struggled in the Concacaf Cup against Mexico and on Tuesday night against
T&T. To his credit, Zardes' versatility -- he started in midfield against St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Friday night and up front -- will keep him in the mix.