U.S. legend Landon Donovan is disturbed by the "lack of urgency" in a 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday that ousted the Americans from World Cup qualification.
Thanks to a substantial advantage on goal differential, the U.S. national team only needed a draw against an already-eliminated T&T side to secure a World Cup slot over Panama and Honduras. Even with a loss, the Americans could have secured a ticket to Russia or a spot in a playoff against Australia with help in other matches.
But a nightmare scenario came to fruition for the U.S., as Bruce Arena's side fell to T&T while Panama earned a 2-1 win over Costa Rica — partially thanks to a controversial "ghost goal" — and Honduras recorded a 3-2 victory against Mexico.
"The most disturbing part for me was the lack of urgency displayed," Donovan said on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday. "We all know sports — anything can happen.
"You can lose games, that's all part of it. But the lack of urgency to really understand what was at stake was really disheartening. Candidly, it was really hard to watch."
Donovan, who remains tied with Clint Dempsey as the Americans' all-time leading scorer with 57 goals, also pointed to home losses to Mexico and Costa Rica earlier in qualifying as crippling factors. Although the U.S. hadn't lost a home qualifier since 2001 entering this cycle, the Americans dropped two of five matches at home during the Hexagonal.
"It should never come down to having to score one goal in Trinidad to get to the World Cup, although we in our history have had to do that," Donovan said. "I think we're past those days where that should happen.
"The reality is we've lost two games at home in qualifying — I'm not a statistician, but I don't know the last time that happened. And we lost a game in Trinidad against a team that had nothing to play for.
"That's sort of the reality of the situation, and it's unacceptable in every way and it's disappointing. We got what we deserved."
Amid calls for the exit of U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and systematic changes to the federation's development program, Donovan floated out the possibility that the U.S. could ultimately benefit from the reality check presented by Tuesday's stunning result.
"If you look at the big picture, you have to say we're not doing something right if we're coming down to the last game in Trinidad where we have to get a point to qualify or you have to get a goal to qualify," Donovan said.
"So are we worse off? Yeah, probably. Sometimes in situations like this — not today, but in the long run — maybe this is the best thing that can happen so we can all take a step back and re-evaluate and re-assess and make sure this never happens again."