Russia-bound? USA will go for win at T&T though a tie should suffice

After the most tumultuous qualifying run in its modern history, which included the first coaching change in the middle of the Hexagonal, the USA will conclude its campaign at a water-logged field in Trinidad & Tobago.

By the end of Tuesday night at Ato Boldon Stadium, the USA will know its fate. It could finish third, fourth or fifth in the Hexagonal.

Third place will send the USA directly to Russia. It will still be alive, headed to a playoff, if it finishes fourth. It will only be eliminated if it drops to fifth place, which will only happen if it loses to T&T and Panama and Honduras both win at home.

What will happen?
Win: The USA will qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Tie:  It will also qualify unless, as head coach Bruce Arena said, "something completely bizarre occurs."
Loss: It will still qualify if it gets help from Costa Rica and Mexico and they beat or tie Panama and Honduras, respectively.

Arena admitted the prospect of only needing to tie adds another complexion to the T&T game, especially coming off the 4-0 win over Panama, a must-win game for the USA.

"Every game is different," he said. "The challenges are different. It is never easy going to play for a tie. We're going to play to win."

Here are three key questions entering the game ...

1. How will the field conditions affect the game?

The field conditions in Couva were so bad on Monday that the USA could only jog on the field and work out behind the goal.

"It definitely changes the way the game is going to look," Arena said. "It’s going to be a slow game, probably a little bit sloppy, and a little bit different than we’ve seen in any of the qualifying games. We’ll have to adapt to the conditions on the field."

Arena didn't want to dwell on the conditions or what caused them. He said he wasn't smart enough to do that.

"Whatever conditions are, it will be same of both teams," he said. "I don't think there's any politics surrounding this. I don't think a couple of years ago in Denver the U.S. had control of the climate, and I don't think Trinidad is making it rain. It is what it is, and we're going to play the game."

2. What will Christian Pulisic's availability be for the game?

Kicked in the calf by Panamanian defender Michael Murillo and forced to leave Friday's game early in the second half, Christian Pulisic was limping noticeably as he left Orlando City Stadium, making him a question mark for Tuesday night.

“The conditions on the field today were such that we weren’t really able to train," said Arena, "so I wasn’t able to see whether he could run out and all that. So we’re going to make a judgment based on how he is feeling tomorrow. But he felt good today.”

3. How many U.S. lineup changes will be made?

How important has Pulisic been? Captain Michael Bradley and he are the only U.S. players who have started all nine games in the Hexagonal.

For the last two road games -- at Mexico in June and Honduras in September -- Arena made seven lineup changes from the previous home game days earlier. It would be a surprise if he made that many changes on Tuesday, especially given how well the USA played against Panama.

He has demonstrated he is willing is change up the U.S. formation and, most critically, where Pulisic lines up from game to game.

Arena's pledge to go out and win the game -- which would be the USA's first on the road in the current Hex -- would indicate he'll stick to something resembling a 4-4-2. But he has gone with three in the back and two central midfielders, a more conservative option, in all to parts of the last two away games.

Hexagonal Schedule:
Tuesday, October 10

Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA, 8 pm ET, beIN Sports, Universo
Panama vs. Costa Rica, 8 pm ET, Telemundo Deportes
Honduras vs. Mexico, 8 pm ET Telemundo

Hexagonal Standings:
21 *Mexico 6-3-0 14/4
16 *Costa Rica 4-4-1 13/6
12 USA 3-3-3 16/11
10 Panama 2-4-3 7/9
10 Honduras 2-4-3 10/17
3 Trin. & Tobago 1-0-8 5/18
*Qualifies for World Cup 2018.

Hexagonal Leading Scorers:
4 Clint Dempsey (USA)
4 Christian Pulisic (USA)
3 Bobby Wood (USA)
3 Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
3 Romell Quioto (Honduras)
3 Marco Urena (Costa Rica)

6 comments about "Russia-bound? USA will go for win at T&T though a tie should suffice".
  1. Gus Keri, October 10, 2017 at 9:11 a.m.

    I hope Arena will stick to the same successful starting 11 for one more game. There is no need to experiment.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 10, 2017 at 10:08 a.m.

    I agree.  I don't think there will be too many changes.  

  3. Bob Ashpole, October 10, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.

    The field conditions are very significant and will impact how the game is played. If the field is really bad, it makes it very difficult for defenses to adjust and less difficult for the attack who gets to control the game.

  4. Stephen Stephens, October 10, 2017 at 10:05 p.m.

    I am gutted! Time to clean house starting with Gulati!  Come on Eric Wynaldo you need to take the reigns of the USA.  

  5. Larry Lascody, October 10, 2017 at 10:18 p.m.

    Embarrassing. Arena - gone. Everybody except Polisic needs to go too. We need a fresh start. No hunger or urgency like all of our opponents have. This squad set USA soccer back 30 years.

  6. J todd Cramer, October 10, 2017 at 10:25 p.m.

    Sunil Gulati had better resign. Congratulations to those  that qualified but I am gutted that we FAILED to be apart of the biggest sporting event on the planet to represent this great nation in the most beautiful sport known to man. I refuse to listen to conspiracies as to why we lost or aren’t going to the World Cup. All I want to see is the game to take over as the #1 sport in this country and to focus on rebuilding. Livid!! 

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