For US national team legends Cobi Jones and Marcelo Balboa, the USMNT's showing in a 2-1 away loss to Trinidad and Tobago which saw the US miss out on the 2018 World Cup, lacked the effort they were expecting for a high-stakes CONCACAF Hexagonal finale.
The two former MLS players, who both served as broadcasters for the match, were critical of the US players and the squad selection, making their opinions heard in the aftermath of a result which saw the US fail to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1986.
"I’m pissed. When it comes down to it, I look at the way that game went and there was a lack of effort throughout,” Jones said on beIN Sports after providing color commentary of the match. "Especially when I look at the last 10 or 15 minutes, when I know those players have an idea of what’s on the line, I didn’t see any type of change of pace, any type of energy brought into the game to try to raise the level and want to make something happen. That’s the most frustrating part.
"When you have five or six players that in this game that means so much are playing average to below-average level, you’re not going to win," continued Jones, who is the all-time caps leader in US history (164). "You can’t take any team in CONCACAF for granted. They knew it was difficult, but it seemed to be lacking from the players an idea of ‘OK we know it’s difficult, but I’m going to do something about it.’”
Balboa, who made 128 appearances for the USA, wasn't holding back either with his pointed comments that were reminiscent of the Alexi Lalas rant back in September.
"It's a cycle where the players were saying that it was the most talented team that they’d ever seen in US history. But this was a team that didn’t have heart," Balboa said in Spanish on Univision Deportes Network from Port of Spain. "They were fighting tonight for a place in the World Cup and there were players jogging on the field, there were guys not sliding and not giving 100 percent of themselves. That hurts me. What I saw in the field in the first half hurts me."
In addition to calling for his former teammate, US Under-20 head coach Tab Ramos, to take over the head coaching reins from Bruce Arena, Balboa was also outspoken with his opinion that 2-4 players "didn't play the way they needed to play today."
He appealed for the next generation of players "who want to play and who have that passion and heart and who understand the importance of a game like this."
Arena's decision to go with the same starting XI that beat Panama 4-0 on Friday was also a target of Balboa's criticism.
"You know what I don’t understand? When we go to Mexico, we change 10 players and we get the draw," he said. "When we go to Honduras on the road, we change 5-6 players and we tie. Today the same team started [as the one] against Panama and we lost. Why not change when it’s the biggest game? You you need one point and [Arena] didn’t change anyone on the team.
"The US team came out today and thought the game was going to be a lot easier than they thought," Balboa continued. "And another thing: 48 hours before the game, all they were talking about was the field and 'Is it going to be ready? Is it going to rain?' For me, the minds of the players and the federation wasn’t on the game, but it was more about whether the field was going to be ready to play the kind of style that they wanted to play."