Tomorrow marks the beginning of the United States Men’s National Team’s long, hard road to the 2018 World Cup. This part is pretty straightforward— finish in the top two of a four-team group and they move on to the Hex. Escape the Hex and they’re on a plane to Russia.
Simple, right? The US are in a group with Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What could go wrong?
A lot, it turns out. The fourth round in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualification tournament is arguably tougher than the Hex. And there have been a couple of occasions where the Yanks’ dream of World Cup glory ended at the hands of Caribbean teams— Antigua and Barbuda in 2012, or Barbados in 2000. A lot can go wrong at this stage in the tournament for the US.
And as it happens, the USMNT’s first opponents are a bit tricky.
This week, we’ll look back just a little bit into the recent past at the bonkers tie that sent St. Vincent and the Grenadines on through to the fourth round— and right into the flight path of the Stars and Stripes.
The first leg of Vincy Heat’s third round tie against Aruba was at home, awash in the sunlight at Arnos Vale Stadium in Kingstown. Things seemed to get off to a bright start for the home side when they won a penalty… only to see that shot saved. Later in the half, a Vincentian hit a free header on towards goal but it was deftly saved by Eric Abdul. Before halftime, Aruba dodged a bullet when a surefire goal ended up pinging off the post and out. Vincy finally broke the deadlock in the 51st minute thanks to Tevin Slater. They doubled the advantage in stoppage time when Oalex Anderson converted from the spot. Vincy Heat were going to take a 2-0 advantage into their away leg. Things were looking good.
Aruba, however, wasn’t going to go down quietly.
It didn’t take long for SVG to get into trouble. Erixon Danso— currently bumming around in Holland’s second division— got on the scoresheet in the fourth minute, cutting the aggregate deficit in half. (The goal itself is remarkable. Danso manages to chip the keeper before going down, but doesn’t get a lot of trajectory on it. Winslow Mcdowald ran to catch it and looked like he should’ve, but… didn’t. And his last-ditch effort to clear it out would’ve credited him with an own goal had the ball not already crossed the goalline.) Things would get much worse for Vincy Heat in the second half. On 51 minutes, David Abdul (I think?) was played through and made a charging run at goal. His shot beat Mcdowald but it hit the post. Mcdowald rolled over to collect the ball but couldn’t hold on to it, and in his frantic scramble to recover Danso ran up and tapped it in for an easy equalizer.
Needless to say, Mcdowald— and Vincy Heat— were having a bad night. It looked like things were at least heading for extra time, assuming the visitors could hang on to what they had. And then, as if this tie weren’t ridiculous enough, SVG found a late winner. It was Tevin Slater to the rescue once again with a chip over Eric Abdul in the 85th minute. The home crowd fell silent and the away side managed to hang on through nearly nine more minutes of football to seal a 3-2 aggregate win.
And that, my friends, is who the USMNT are up against tomorrow.
Do St. Vincent and the Grenadines have any more tricks up their sleeve? Find out tomorrow when they face off against the United States at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Kickoff is at 6:30pm EST on ESPN2.