2. History of the Hex: perfect at home, big results away.
All is not lost in the Hexagonal despite the two defeats. Trinidad & Tobago lost its first two games in the 2005 Hexagonal and qualified for the World Cup. As U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati pointed out after Tuesday's game, Mexico won only two of 10 games in the 2013 Hexagonal and also qualified after finishing fourth in the Hexagonal and winning a playoff against New Zealand. (What should be noted is that El Tri got a break as Panama won one game and Jamaica went winless.)
Hexagonal after 2 games:
2016: 0 points (1-2 vs. Mexico, 0-4 at Costa Rica)
2013: 3 points (1-2 at Honduras, 1-0 vs. Costa Rica)
2009: 4 points (2-0 vs. Mexico, 2-2 at El Salvador)
2005: 3 points (2-1 at Trinidad & Tobago, at 1-2 Mexico)
2001: 6 points (2-0 vs. Mexico, 2-1 at Honduras)
1997: 4 points (0-0 at Jamaica, 3-0 vs. Canada)
Indeed, the history of the Hexagonal has been that of the USA churning out results and other seemingly formidable Concacaf teams collapsing around it. As bad as the loss to Costa Rica was, Friday's 2-1 loss to Mexico -- its first defeat to El Tri at home in the Hex -- is the result that puts the USA behind the eight ball. The USA won 14 of 15 games at home in the last three Hexagonals. (The lone draw -- 2-2 against Costa Rica in 2009 -- came after the USA had already qualified.)
The USA has always managed to get big Hex wins on the road: 2-1 at Honduras in the second game in 2001, 2-1 at Trinidad & Tobago in the opening game in 2005, 3-2 at Honduras to clinch in 2009 and a late 2-1 win at Jamaica that started it on a run of three straight wins that broke open the Hex in 2013.
The USA will need a victory at Honduras on Matchday 8 to match Panama's 1-0 win in San Pedro Sula on Friday afternoon and probably have to take at least four of six points against the Canaleros, whose point on Tuesday night against Mexico was one more than the USA earned against El Tri. The opening results have reduced the USA's margin for error and eliminated its ability to depend on other teams to collapse.
3. All bets are off after back-to-back defeats.
All this speculation about what results the USA will need is getting ahead of the game. Will Klinsmann be around to coach the team?
Before Friday's game against Mexico, Gulati said he expected Klinsmann would remain in charge. U.S. Soccer has never changed coaches during the Hexagonal, Gulati noted, and the last time there was a coaching change during qualifying was in 1989 when Bob Gansler was appointed the full-time coach. Lothar Osiander, his part-time predecessor, worked at Graziano's, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Financial District. In 1969, Phil Woosnam stepped down for a two-game series against Haiti to take over as NASL commissioner and try to save the league -- which he did -- and was replaced by Englishman Gordon Jago.
All bets are off about Klinsmann's future after the opening two games of the Hexagonal -- even if they were against, as Gulati noted, against Concacaf's two best teams. It was bad enough that the USA lost at home to Mexico -- in a match that Klinsmann introduced and then quickly abandoned a new 3-5-2 formation and ended with yet again another game lost on a goal off a corner kick -- but he didn't get any reaction out of his team after the defeat.
In qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the USA responded after every defeat -- one in the semifinal round and two in the Hexagonal -- with a win in the next game. It did the same thing after losing to Guatemala, 2-0, in March. Four days later, the USA crushed the Chapines, 4-0.
Once before this year, Klinsmann's future seemed to hang in the balance. The USA opened the Copa Centenario with a 2-0 loss to Colombia and hours before the second game, Gulati told reporters that results mattered. The USA went out and beat Costa Rica, 4-0, and ended up finishing fourth at the Copa Centenario, the best performance by a Concacaf team.
The USA not only didn't get a result after the loss to Mexico but worse -- it collapsed in the second half against Costa Rica. Klinsmann said the loss was "a bitter pill to swallow" and "definitely the defeat that hurts the most in my five years," suggesting he understood the magnitude of the setback and the precarious nature of his position.