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Still building a field advantage, US stumbles in the road

Walker Zimmerman marveled at the crowd at Estadio Rommel Fernández, almost all dressed in the Panamanian team’s red color, a mass that throbbed in unison and buzzed like a hornet’s nest after the hosts took the head.

“It was a great environment. You always want to play in environments like this, where there is intensity, there is energy among the crowd,” said the USA defender. “No different from what we experienced in Salvador and Honduras.”


The United States ‘1-0 loss to Panama on Sunday night in a World Cup qualifier once again highlighted the Americans’ disadvantage on the road in Central America, where it doesn’t take much. something to destabilize them: heat, humidity, sub-surfaces, dilapidated stadiums and dressing and showering in the hotel as in high school. The flight alone is tiring: Panama City is further south than Caracas and Barranquilla.

Three nights after being so good in a 2-0 home win over Jamaica, the United States failed to generate a single shot on target. The Americans’ five shots tied their low under coach Gregg Berhalter and their expected 0.22 goals were less than half the previous nadir.

To qualify for a World Cup, a team usually has to win home games and perhaps accumulate sporadic points on the road.

Two aspects of America’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup intersect on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio, where the Americans face Costa Rica in the new Field, the first second-generation stadium. football specific to Major League Soccer.

The Americans had played 32 straight home games unbeaten in World Cup qualifying, winning 30 of them, before a 2-0 loss to Mexico at the former Mapfre Stadium in Columbus in November 2016. Ten months the Americans later lost 2-0 to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, a loss that proved costly when they lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago the following month and ended at a point to travel to Russia.

Prior to the last round, the United States had not been beaten in a home qualifying game since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at RFK Stadium in Washington in September 2001. The then coach, Bruce Arena, criticized the American Football Federation’s decision to be where opposing fans outnumber the United States

“Only in America, I guess, are we fighting for a field advantage,” Arena said.

Since then, the USSF has struggled to find pro-American environments, aided by the construction of MLS sites, although it has occasionally slipped in cases such as the 2017 defeat in New Jersey.

Crowds of 43,028 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville and 20,500 at the new Q2 Stadium in Austin, TX overwhelmingly supported the United States in the first two qualifying games of this round, led by the American Outlaws, a group of supporters who have grown in numbers and even go to road games in limited numbers.

Dressed in red, white and blue, the American fans cheered in rhythm, but they didn’t intimidate their opponents like the Central American fans piss off the United States.

Part of the American problems can be attributed to Berhalter’s decision to change seven starters. The American roster, which Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna already lacked due to injuries, were without Weston McKennie (injured), Antonee Robinson (UK COVID-19 restrictions), Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams (rest due to short delay).


“Now that obviously doesn’t seem like the best choice, but I think we have to wait until Thursday,” said Berhalter, keen to assess the three-game week as a whole. “If we had played the same players from the last game – first of all, two of them weren’t even there, so that would have been impossible – but if we had played the same players in this game, I ‘I am not sure we would position ourselves in the best way to win again on wednesday. Again, the conditions we are facing here, with the trip, with the weather, made things complicated. And we had to do i guess a bit risky decision. And the good thing is we’re still in second place. “

Mexico leads with 11 points after five of 14 games and the United States has eight, ahead of Panama on goal difference. Canada follows with seven, Costa Rica six, El Salvador five, Honduras three and Jamaica two. Five remaining home games are a 15-point opportunity, quite possibly for one of the three guaranteed spots.

“We have to be prepared to win our home games,” Zimmerman said.

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