The USMNT may be on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but players continue to reminisce on the daunting 2017 cycle that shattered hopes and dreams.
The United States entered the final round of matches with over a 90% chance of reaching the international tournament before suffering the 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago in Couva that served as the gut-wrenching wake up call needed to improve.
Midfielder Tyler Adams recalled his experience almost five years ago, admitting that the squad’s failure to qualify impacted him and the future of his career.
“I think about sitting on my couch watching the 2017 cycle, watching when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, and personally, the effect that that had on me, because I was in a good way at that time and at an important part of my development – who knows, if you continue to develop for another year, if you go to the World Cup as a young player?” he said.
Now, on the 27- player roster, Adams insists it’s on him to secure the coveted spot.
“So I think about the responsibility that I have and the responsibility that I have on some of my teammates: We have to qualify – there’s just no other option.
“Coming into qualifying in general, I think the group felt a great responsibility that qualifying for the World Cup, it’s the absolute minimum. We have to do that to continue to move the program forward, to give our players the best opportunity to continue to develop and get that international exposure, and grow the game in the US. So we’re doing that, but now it’s, again, step by step.”
The USMNT kick off this year’s final round of qualifiers on Thursday against North American rivals Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, before hosting Panama and confronting Costa Rica. The American side currently sit in second place on the Concacaf table with 21 points from 11 games, tied with Mexico.
The team has various ways of qualifying, but two victories would be the safest approach to the World Cup ticket.
Despite the challenges ahead, Adams insists there team are up for the fight.
“There’s no fear,” he stressed. “There’s no fear at all.
“The minimum is that every game that we go into, we’re leaving it out all out on the pitch so that we don’t have any regrets. And when we leave it all out on the pitch, we’re going to win games, that’s the bottom line. So we’re confident in the group and we’re confident in the mentality of the group.
“Every time you go into important games that have such value, you always feel the nerves. But when the whistle blows, everything becomes normal again, it’s another football match at the end of the day. You have to go and you have to rely and trust your instincts and trust the plan that the coaches are giving you, know what you have to do, know your role, and the rest will take care of itself.
“We’re confident in our style of play, confident in the chemistry of the group, and I think ultimately, that will dictate our results, always.”