SOCCER

What does USA need to do to qualify for the 2022 World Cup?

The third round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying matches for Qatar 2022 has started shakily for the USMNT, but soccer is always a game of two halves.

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What does USA need to do to qualify for the 2022 World Cup?
Jay LaPrete AP

Five games into a fourteen game draw, Team USA has seen a shaky start to their Qatar 2022 campaign. Losing for the first time ever in Panama, they currently sit in second place on the standings, just behind Mexico.

The conventional wisdom says that you should win at home and draw on the road to see your best shot at qualifying and this away loss is only part of an overall larger complication, having drawn to Canada at home. Away victories in Honduras and Costa Rica, in addition to a home win against Jamaica place them in good stead to top the table if they can deal with Mexico on November 13th.

Fitness is definitely a key factor to long-term success for this squad. With Christian Pulisic still out with a lingering ankle injury, and Gio Reyna out with a hamstring injury, the attacking duties in midfield have been spread around. Three players have been utilized in the form of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Brenden Aaronson. The real question mark is around finishing. The US have traditionally been a midfield-minded team who has, since the retirement of Landon Donovan, not had a true striker to rally around. Pepi and Aaronson have been solid, but the final element in the USMNT’s arsenal is to find that finishing ability.

With Mexico next on the agenda, the US should have all of their main competition faced early on, perhaps giving them a chance, no matter what the outcome of that match is, to take some much needed points on the return visits of Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. An away win against Canada would certainly help their cause before having to face both Panama and Costa Rica again.

With the first three automatically advancing, the US should be in good shape if they can manage to hold their form. But even finishing fourth could see them get a berth, as this would send them into the Inter-confederation playoff against the winner of the AFC, the winner of the OFC and the fifth place team from CONMEBOL.

Having cleared a hurdle from old foes Costa Rica, the US faltered in Panama. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. The US just need to make sure that they don’t give away too much. One stumble is permissible, but two begins to look like a habit.