The United States has been eliminated from World Cup contention after a shocking 2-1 loss in Trinidad on Tuesday. Panama — with Torres scoring in the 88th minute against Costa Rica — and Honduras won matches to pass the U.S. team in the final round of qualifying.
Sounders defender Roman Torres on Tuesday night delivered a stunning, knockout blow to the United States in its now-failed attempt to reach next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Torres scored in the 88th minute for Panama to seal a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica, helping to drop the U.S. men down to fifth spot from third in the final round of World Cup qualifying — and eliminating them from contention after seven straight World Cup appearances.
The 28th-ranked U.S. team had gone in to Couva, Trinidad, for its final qualifier needing only a tie against Trinidad & Tobago, the world’s 99th-ranked team, to secure an automatic World Cup berth.
Watch: Roman Torres scores game-winning goal for Panama
— TVN Panamá (@tvnpanama) October 11, 2017
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But the United States fell behind 2-0 early — one of those an own goal — and couldn’t catch up, losing 2-1.
Meanwhile, both Honduras and Panama overcame halftime deficits at home to win their games and drop the United States two notches in the six-team standings for the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
The goal by Torres, playing up high as he often does when the MLS Sounders are pressing late, came when he got behind the defenders on a flicked header and put a high shot into the net.
He ripped off his shirt in celebration as he raced around the stadium, his goal eventually putting Panama into the World Cup for the first time.
For the United States, the elimination was a devastating setback for a national-team program that had been to every World Cup since 1990.
“We let down an entire nation today,” said U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, whose 17th-minute own goal attempting to clear a cross started the collapse.
Interestingly, the United States qualified for the 1990 World Cup by going in to Trinidad and beating its beloved national team “Strike Squad’’ 1-0 in the final qualifier of 1989. Trinidad & Tobago had been seeking to qualify for its first World Cup ever and seemingly the entire nation had been brought to a standstill watching the home side go down to defeat on television.
Members of that T & T team — which included Kelvin Jones, the father of Sounders left back Joevin Jones — are still celebrated as heroes in that country. On Tuesday, the T & T side got some revenge, beating the United States at home with Jones and his younger brother, Alvin, playing for the victorious home side.
T & T had lost its previous six qualifying matches.
The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico and Costa Rica left the United States little margin for error late in the 10-match final round of qualifying.
The United States entered the final match in third with 12 points, two more than Panama and Honduras. A victory is worth three points and a tie is worth one.
Torres’ goal gave Panama 13 points and Honduras got to 13 when it beat first-place Mexico 3-2. Panama got the third and final automatic World Cup berth based on superior goal difference.
No. 4 Honduras will be in the World Cup if it defeats Australia in a playoff.
Christian Pulisic, the U.S. team’s rising 19-year-old star, scored in the 47th minute.
Sounders standout Clint Dempsey, at 34 trying to make it to a fourth World Cup for the United States, entered at the start of the second half and was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette’s leaping save in the 69th minute and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic’s shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.
“It’s a blemish for us,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “We should not be staying home for this World Cup, and I take the responsibility for that.”