For U.S. Team, a Week to Forget and a Ticking Clock

by 24USATVSept. 9, 2021, 3 a.m. 21
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SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — For even the most assured players and talented teams, a maiden journey into the heightened drama of the World Cup qualifying tournament in North and Central America can feel like splash of cold water to the face.

Here, world rankings have a way of losing their meaning. Club pedigrees and players’ salaries can quickly be forgotten. It is a rude awakening, a rite of passage. And the United States men’s soccer team is experiencing it yet again.

Beginning last week, the Americans embarked on a three-game series of qualifying matches over seven days that they hoped would establish a baseline state of confidence for the long path to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The last week has, instead, left them looking frazzled and unsure.

After draws in their first two games — on the road against El Salvador and at home against Canada — the Americans’ game late Wednesday night against Honduras at the spartan Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano represented a final chance to salvage the week. A win would provide a kernel of positivity to cultivate in the weeks to come. A draw would prolong the slow boil of anxiety. A loss would send the team home in the beginnings of a tailspin.

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