U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez apologized to fans after the Americans were shockingly eliminated from World Cup qualification with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago, saying his opening own goal "will haunt him forever."
The 29-year-old center back opened the scoring in the 17th minute when his mishit clearance looped over goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the back of the net.
Alvin Jones' spectacular long-range strike doubled the lead in the 37th minute before Christian Pulisic gave the U.S. life with a goal just after halftime. But the Americans were unable to find the equalizer, dropping to fifth place in CONCACAF with the loss and missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
"It's one of the most unlucky goals ever, I think, for myself," Gonzalez said. "It's one that will haunt me forever."
Back-to-back losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to kick off the final round led to Jurgen Klinsmann's dismissal in November. Although new coach Bruce Arena seemed to put the U.S. back on track, earning two wins and two draws from his first four qualifiers while also claiming the Gold Cup title in July, a 1-2-1 skid to close qualification proved fatal.
"We dropped points on too many days," U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. "We put ourselves at a disadvantage from the beginning when we lost the first two games. When you drop points on too many days your margin for error goes away, and you know you're at the mercy of a night like this, where everything possible goes against you."
The loss has snapped a streak of seven straight appearances in the World Cup for the Americans, who now must wait until the 2019 Gold Cup before playing their next competitive match.
"I just want to say sorry to the fans," Gonzalez said. "We let down an entire nation today."