Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the situations across Concacaf leading into the final matchday. Canada is at the top of the Octagonal table with 28 points and a +17 goal differential. They’re also the only team to officially qualify. The United States is in 2nd-place tied with 3rd-place Mexico on 25 points but ahead on the tiebreaker +13 to +7. Costa Rica is in 4th at 22 points and +3. No one lower down the table can move into 4th-place.
Canada is at Panama, a long trip for a game that doesn’t exactly matter for either team. That goal differential all but assures that Canada will finish top of the table regardless of what happens on Wednesday. While the USMNT scenario is clear, Mexico is in a different situation. +7 to +3 over Costa Rica, they play El Salvador at home.
That leaves Jamaica hosting Honduras in a game that’s a consolation prize. Jamaica has one win in the Octagonal, out of contention for this window and using an under-strengthed squad. Honduras hasn’t won a game in this cycle, entering the final matchday with four draws and nine losses. There’s no saving face here for a team that seemed much tougher over the summer.
It would take something special for either of them to turn the finale into a renewed statement of purpose. Both are in situations where it’s difficult to judge how much plain bad luck factored into their Octagonal performances.
With that, Concacaf shuts the door on a quickly revamped qualifying scenario necessary to address the pandemic issues. There weren’t enough matchdays for an earlier round and getting the Octagonal in required several three-game windows. The push/pull of games coming quickly and squad issues created a scenario that saw the emergence of Canada. They may be the only team with more answers than questions, something that all involved will need to work out as the road to the 2022 World Cup continues.
It’s an odd time for world soccer in general, revamping for a November/December World Cup and quickly shifting from club soccer to the highest level of the national team game. That’s likely to create a similar scenario to what we saw during the Octagonal. The teams that can make the adjustments will find their rewards, but realistic expectations have to remain in play.
MLSsoccer’s Charles Boehm looks at USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s decisions. SI’s Brian Straus with Christian Pulisic claiming his role with the USA. The Washington Post’s Steven Goff also puts the focus on Pulisic.
WEDNESDAY’S SOCCER TV
Concacaf World Cup qualifying on Univision: Mexico vs El Salvador at 9pm and CBS Sports Network: Costa Rica vs United States also at 9pm ET.
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