USA vs. St. Vincent & The Grenadines
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier
November 13 | 6:30 pm ET | Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMás, UDN
The road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup begins for the US national team on Friday against, as it happens, one of CONCACAF’s smallest federations: St. Vincent & the Grenadines, a tiny Caribbean country of 109,000 people that the US will be facing for the first time. The match is the opener of the four-team Group 3, which also includes Trinidad & Tobago (who the US will face Nov. 17) and Guatemala. The top two teams from the group will advance to the six-team final round of World Cup Qualifying, also known as the Hexagonal.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines, nicknamed 'Vincy Heat,' defeated Aruba 3-2 on aggregate in a two-leg playoff to advance to this point. They last reached the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying prior to the 2006 tournament, finishing third in their group behind Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago with a 2-4 record, ahead of St. Kitts & Nevis.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: First-timers Darlington Nagbe of the Portland Timbers and Matt Miazga of the New York Red Bulls enter the fray on a roster that features fellow recent newcomers to the first team in Miguel Ibarra, the former Minnesota United star who now plies is trade in Mexico with León, Stanford star Jordon Morris, Union Berlin’s Bobby Wood and the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes. Although mainstay Clint Dempsey was omitted, there are still a handful of veterans, including Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan and the New England Revolution's Jermaine Jones. But head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made clear in his first comments from the team’s camp in Miami that he expects youngsters to take the reins with an eye on 2018.
“Our younger players have to come out of their shell,” he said.
NO HARD FEELINGS: Klinsmann was extremely critical of Borussia Monchengladbach winger Fabian Johnson after the USMNT’s 3-2 extra-time loss to Mexico in last month’s CONCACAF Cup, a defeat that cost the Americans a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Johnson came off in the 111th minute of that match complaining of tightness in a leg muscle, and Klinsmann subsequently sent him home from that camp that also included a friendly against Costa Rica.
“It was a mistake in that moment,” Klinsmann said Monday. “We have to learn our mistakes so we avoid for the next time. I think it won't happen any more. Sometimes you have to say things publicly to get everyone on board.”
ST. VINCENT NORTH: The Americans may know little about St. Vincent & the Grenadines as a whole, but they won’t have to go far to learn about one of their top goalscorers. Oalex Anderson, who bagged a goal in the first leg of their third-round qualifying win over Aruba, plays his club soccer for Seattle Sounders 2 in the USL. In 2015, Anderson scored four goals in 16 appearances for Sounders 2 and has nine goals for his country since his first call-up in 2014. National teammate Myron Samuel also played in one game for Sounders 2, scoring two goals before breaking his leg in the same game, ending his season.
The US connection? Sounders 2 head coach Ezra Hendrickson, a former MLS standout, who is assisting the national team in their qualifying campaign.
FOUL POLE FIRST: The venue for the qualifier, Busch Stadium, is known for the Major League Baseball team that plays there, the St. Louis Cardinals. But in preparation for the USMNT’s match Friday, the stadium’s foul poles were removed for the first time since its construction in 2006 to allow for improved sight lines for the match.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Darlington Nagbe, USA: The Portland Timbers midfielder didn’t have to wait long to get thrown into the national-team mix after receiving his citizenship in September. But it was a long time coming for the 25-year-old, who was born in Liberia and raised in Ohio. Nagbe has been on the radar of USMNT supporters since demonstrating explosive capabilities after the Timbers made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft. He’s playing some of the best soccer of his career, scoring three goals in Portland’s final two regular-season matches.
Tevin Slater, St. Vincent & The Grenadines: The 21-year-old striker scored in both legs of SVG’s third-round playoff victory over Aruba, netted three goals in their second-round win over Guyana and has eight goals in just 12 appearances since 2014.