As the USMNT enter their final match of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle on Wednesday against Costa Rica, players are reminded of what happened only five years prior.
During the haunting 2017 World Cup qualifying cycle, the USMNT reached the last round with a 93 percent chance of clinching a spot in the international tournament. The American side needed at least a draw against an already eliminated Trinidad & Tobago in the final match to qualify, but ultimately fell 2-1.
Inter Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin formed part of the US Men’s National Team that failed to qualify, standing as a cautionary tale for the rest.
“It's one of the things you have to keep out of balance, because I think that's also in the past. So obviously, you want to learn from it; a lot of those guys weren't there,” Yedlin said.
“I've obviously tried to share with the group and also with Gregg Berhalter kind of what I think went wrong, and where I think we went wrong in that situation. But it's also about this group now. It's not about the last group. So it's about having that balance and knowing that we’ve got to focus on ourselves and focus on the job at hand.”
Like last time, the USMNT are one match away from clinching their spot in Qatar. The American side must avoid a defeat by six goals or more to qualify directly into the tournament, but can secure the fourth-place spot should Costa Rica manage the immense victory. If they lose, the US would then face New Zealand or the Solomon Islands for one last shot at the World Cup.
While the probabilities may look great for the United States, the job is not over.
“I know this, and Christian too, better than anyone: It's not over ‘til it's over,” said Yedlin, who looks likely to start at right-back after serving a yellow-card-accumulation suspension against Panama on Sunday. “So that's really been the main approach going into this last game, is we can't be too complacent. We can't be too relaxed,” Yedlin added.
“We're in a good situation, and we know that. But going into the Trinidad game, we thought we were in a good situation as well. So it's just about, again, focusing on what we need to do to make sure when you guys write that headline, it says the US is going to the World Cup. And we're not going to be satisfied until that happens.”
Beyond qualifying, the objective remains winning.
“At this point, I wouldn't say it's the ultimate goal. I think the ultimate goal is obviously to win a World Cup. But there's steps you have to take to get there," Yedlin said. "One of the huge steps is qualifying for World Cup. So hopefully, again, we can do that tomorrow night and take a big step forward in our ultimate goal.”