The pressure is squarely on the US, but Jurgen Klinsmann’s confidence hasn’t wavered. Not publicly, at least.
"No, we won't [lose],'' Klinsmann said Monday. ''Don't worry.''
Don’t worry? It’s already too late for that in some circles, and observers are beginning to question a few of the decisions that put the US in the delicate position they find themselves in ahead of tonight’s crucial World Cup qualifier vs. Jamaica at Crew Stadium in Columbus (8 pm ET, ESPN2, Live chat at MLSsoccer.com).
Proclamations from Klinsmann aside, now all that remains is to see how the US national team responds to its most desperate situation since 2001, as Hexagonal and World Cup qualification hangs in the balance while star forward Clint Dempsey calls the team “a work in progress.”
No, Tuesday’s match against the Reggae Boyz in Columbus isn’t must-win by the traditional definition. With a draw or loss, the US will still mathematically be alive in the race to finish in the group's top two spots, but failing to take all three points would be a critical blow to the expectation of CONCACAF dominance build over the last decade.
And, make no mistake, the Jamaicans are feeling confident after their first-ever victory against the US on Friday. They’re also chasing the services of young Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, as if the Reggae Boyz needed more world-class speedsters.
Of course, there is still plenty of faith in the favored Americans. Former US goalkeeping legend Tony Meola is one of those who believes tonight will go as US fans plan: "Is the US capable? Absolutely, 100 percent. I'm convinced that this will be a completely different scenario."
To repay Meola’s faith, the USMNT will have to overcome the absences of Landon Donovan, who returned to Reserve League action on Monday, and Michael Bradley – both of whom were sorely missed on Friday in a 2-1 Jamaica victory in Kingston.
With Clarence Goodson out, Klinsmann tipped his hand by naming Carlos Bocanegra captain and hinted that Steve Cherundolo will line up on the right side of the defense. No matter who makes up the lineup card, it seems certain there will be some tactical shifts designed to open up what was a stingy Reggae Boyz defense on Friday.
Speaking of tactics, check out Matt Doyle’s all-encompassing essay on the topic as it relates to the US over at Howler. While you’re at it, head over to The Shin Guardian for a statistical breakdown.
While the US attempt to claw their way back to the top of its group, Canada are in Panama preparing to protect their narrow group lead (8 pm ET, Sportsnet One) with the locals determined to keep them from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson is on site, and documented La Extrema Roja as they took to the streets around the Canadian’s hotel to make a racket and generally show support for Los Canaleros. Follow his Twitter feed for the play-by-play.
Word is the Panamanians are looking for revenge after a 1-0 loss in Toronto, especially since they weren’t happy with Canada’s fluky goal or the time-wasting tactics employed by the home side in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, Stephen Hart will be without Will Johnson and Olivier Occean, absences which the Canada manager said would “change things a lot.” No matter who Hart puts on the field, it seems clear the visitors would be more than happy with a draw.
One thing they won’t have to deal with is a field better fit for a pasture than an international playing surface. Word from the Canada camp is that the Estadio Rommel Fernández pitch is “fantastic.”
While the rest of the country waits in anticipation for tonight’s game, one columnist wonders what it all means at the grassroots level in Canada.
And although international soccer dominates the headlines, one move did go through in MLS on Monday, as Wells Thompson was shipped from Colorado to Chicago. The winger’s main goal? Get more playing time.
MLSsoccer.com’s #24under24 also got off to a flying start on Monday, as Nos. 20-24 were revealed. Check out the first batch here.
Seattle rookie Andy Rose made the cut as a revelation for the Sounders this season. Much of that has to do with the decision to leave Bristol City as an 18-year-old for the sunny confines of Los Angeles.
Back in LA the reigning MLS Cup champion Galaxy figure prominently in the Top 25 list of MLS jersey sales? The fourth Galaxy player on the list may surprise you.
Lastly, the launch of EA Sports FIFA 2013 nears and MLS Reserves has the interview that will explain to you exactly what's different in this year’s new edition. You’ll have to read to find out.
MLS on Campus: North Carolina still reigning supreme
Vote now for AT&T Goal of the Week: Week 27