Former United States national team manager Bruce Arena admitted his team “failed” when it did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but also noted the improvement of CONCACAF.
The Arena-led U.S. entered the final day of the region’s qualifying needing just a point against Trinidad and Tobago to guarantee a spot in the 2018 event in Russia, but a shock 2-1 defeat denied the Stars and Stripes entry to the summer tournament.
Arena, who had taken over for the fired Jurgen Klinsmann following a pair of U.S. losses to open the Hexagonal, opened his second tenure with the national team with a long unbeaten streak during the summer which included a victory in the 2017 Gold Cup.
However, results turned sour in the September and October qualifiers, as the U.S. managed just four points from the four games and failed to qualify for Russia.
And while Arena noted the difficulties entering the year following the rough start to the qualifying round, and the successes at times during, he did not mince words when describing the result in Trinidad.
“2017 was going to be a challenging year,” Arena said on Fox Sports 1 before the U.S. friendly at Portugal on Tuesday. “We knew qualification would likely go down to the last day and it did.
“We did some good things in the year — we had a 14-game unbeaten streak, we won the Gold Cup. Then it came down to games seven, eight, nine and 10 in the Hex. We got four points and went to Trinidad on the last day and we failed. And there’s no excuses.”
The U.S. was one of several high-profile nations to fail make the 2018 World Cup, including reigning South American champion Chile, the Netherlands, Italy and Ghana.
And Arena pointed to the Italy elimination as proof that no nation has a guaranteed spot in the World Cup every four years.
“As you look around the world, qualifying for the World Cup isn’t a given.,” Arena said. “You saw yesterday with Italy not qualifying as well.
“It’s challenging and CONCACAF has gotten a lot more difficult.”