Judgment day for Jurgen Klinsmann and the US national team is upon us. Klinsmann knows it, his players know it and the US fanbase knows it.
And, per usual, the US manager isn't dodging any questions: “We have to win these two final games.”
Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it hasn’t been. With a rash of injuries, controversial squad omissions and increasing pressure from fans and the media, more pressure has been heaped on Klinsmann and the boys ahead of Friday night’s showdown with Antigua and Barbuda. (7p m ET, beIN Sport, live chat on MLSsoccer.com)
Three points is the only outcome the US wants against the Benna Boys but with Landon Donovan, Brek Shea, Edgar Castillo and Fabian Johnson all out, the task just got that little bit harder.
The match is also being played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, the national cricket stadium. For any of you non-cricket buffs out there, expect a hard and dry surface to hamper the USA’s ability to employ a fluid passing style.
With a win on Friday in the Caribbean and another positive result in next week’s match with Guatemala, the US will reach the Hex and the next stage of qualifying. But what if that didn’t happened? Well, the US could be out of World Cup qualifying in five days time if results don’t go their way. Brian Straus looks at every USMNT fans nightmare, here.
But with qualification still up in the air, Klinsmann has been criticized of late. The Guardian looks back on his career as the USA’s head coach and reflects on Bob Bradley’s era.
On a more positive note, take a look at three of the biggest wins in US history in the Caribbean, in this week’s Three for Thursday. Paul Caligiuri, take a bow.
And with memories flooding back of veteran Caligiuri smashing home from distance to seal the USA’s path to Italia '90, which present days US veterans could still do a job for the Nats? MLSsoccer.com’s very own Jonah Freedman suggests that, actually, quite a few can.
One “veteran” is in the current US squad. His age of 31 makes him a veteran voice in the locker room, but San Jose’s Alan Gordon hasn’t got a single US cap to his name. Not yet anyway. Gordon’s hoping he can grab that elusive first cap over the next few games, with Klinsmann preferring him to the likes of Jozy Altidore up front.
Meanwhile, Gordon's coach in San Jose, Frank Yallop, is puzzled by his striker partner's omission from the roster: "You would have thought that you would bring in the top goalscorer in the league by a mile."
Eddie Johnson is another option up top, and he credits faith from his teammates for helping him reach the US soccer summitt again after a few years in the wilderness.
The lads from ExtraTime Radio discussed just who will start for the US on Friday and also spoke to Houston defender, and Canadian international, André Hainault on his sides matchup with Cuba and the Dynamo’s aim to go one step further this season, by lifting the MLS Cup.
While the US aims to sneak into the Hex, it’s a huge week for the Canada as well. First up is Cuba at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet One) and then a tricky test way to Honduras awaits.
Of course, Dwayne De Rosario’s absence has left a huge hole in Canada’s attack. Stephen Hart is staying confident ahead of a huge five days for his charges and underlines just how big of an achievement it would be to reach the Hex.
“Canada, we’re such a small country really. People talk about we have a million players. We don’t have a million players, we have a million people that play soccer, but in reality our numbers are small in every respect.”
One thing that isn’t small: the impact MLS is making at the Leaders in Football Conference at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge Stadium. This week not only has Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis urged teams around the world to follow Major League Soccer’s model of development, but league commissioner Don Garber also created waves of interest by discussing the possibility of Frank Lampard and Clint Dempsey playing for MLS teams in the not so distant future.
Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls won’t be benefiting from Hans Backe’s presence in MLS for much longer. On Thursday, the Swede suggested there is a strong possibility he won’t be New York’s coach next season.
With Backe potentially out at the end of the season, another key man for the Red Bulls is planning to move on, too. But only on loan, as Rafa Márquez seeks to regain his fitness to benefit both RBNY and the Mexican national team: “I could get playing, get in a good rhythm and return to the team at the start of the season on the right track."
With talk around the league dominated by the news of an MLS franchise possibly coming to Queens, N.Y., as soon as 2016, another US city believes the financial rewards of having a franchise could be huge. The people of Orlando look like they will benefit enormously, if it happens.
The LA Galaxy can clinch their first piece of silverware on Friday morning … when they host Vancouver for the Reserve League Western Division title. Pop on down to the Home Depot Center if you can for the 10 am PT kickoff. If LA win, it will be their first-ever Reserve League title.
Sporting Kansas City will keep the name of their stadium as Livestrong Sporting Park, despite all the allegations swirling about Lance Armstrong after the USADA released its evidence during the week. That’s according to chief executive Robb Heineman.
Sporting also announced last week they’re heading to Florida for their preseason in 2013. But four teams announced yesterday that they’re heading to Tuscon, Ariz., to prepare for the next MLS campaign. Find out who, here.
“Being Liverpool” has been a big hit in the US, and now its taking off in the UK, as Fox Soccer’s fly-on-the-wall documentary is aired in the same format on Channel 5 in the UK. However one thing caused embarrassment for Reds legend Jamie Carragher: subtitles. Pepe Reina and Lucas Leiva didn’t need them, but Carragher’s thick Scouse accent is at times indecipherable. Even for the British public. The Sun takes up the story.
Another Scouser’s voice will be heard bellowing instructions for England on Friday, as striker Wayne Rooney has been handed the captain’s armband for the Three Lions. With Steven Gerard suspended, Rooney will skipper Roy Hodgson’s men against minnows San Marino (3 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
Something to bear in mind for Friday’s World Cup qualifier, the sellout crowd of 90,000 at Wembley is almost three times the population of San Marino. Staggering.
Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!
Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.