As the 32 teams taking part in this year's FIFA World Cup announce their rosters and begin final preparations for Russia, many US national team players and fans find themselves feeling the pain of last fall's stunning qualifying failure all over again.
This week FC Yahoo American soccer reporter Doug McIntyre revisited the fiasco of the USMNT's 2018 Hexagonal campaign, speaking with former coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena, as well as USMNT veteran Alejandro Bedoya.
The Philadelphia Union midfielder played in several of the Hex qualifiers but was left on the bench during the disastrous upset loss at Trinidad & Tobago on the final matchday, where Arena played the exact same starting lineup that had routed Panama 4-0 a few days before.
“Jurgen was always challenging you,” Bedoya said. “He pushed and tested you, and maybe some people can’t handle that as well as others. I think that was a problem.
“When Bruce came in, I thought he was very straightforward with everybody, telling everybody what he expects out of them,” Bedoya added. “But until that last qualifier, the lineup was changed from the first game to the second game. Maybe that was a bad coaching move, but I think maybe some players also weren’t being honest and saying they were 100 percent when maybe they were a little bit sore. There was a lot put into that game against Panama.”
Bedoya featured as a sub against Panama, but didn’t play in Trinidad, a reality that clearly doesn't sit well.
“That’s something today that still haunts me, to think of what could have been if we’d just changed a few players,” Bedoya said. “I feel that I could have made a difference. I’m sure other guys feel the same way.”
It wasn't just the lineup choices that Bedoya identified as the issue, as he also highlighted the contributions of veteran players for the USMNT's failure to qualify.
“Bruce gave us a game plan in that last game and we didn’t execute,” he said. “We had guys not getting stuck in. We were counting on an 18-year-old [Christian Pulisic] to carry the load for us. Other guys, the veteran guys, let us down I think. As a team, we just didn’t get it done together.”