As the dust settles on the U.S. national team's unthinkable elimination from 2018 World Cup qualification, much will be made of Jurgen Klinsmann's disastrous start to the Hexagonal. Others will dwell on Bruce Arena's inability to dig the Americans out of a manageable hole.
But on a dark day for U.S. Soccer, a finger must be pointed to the obvious constant in the Americans' World Cup qualifying struggles: a talented but underachieving generation of players.
They offer ability, of course. There's a reason the U.S. advanced to the 2016 Copa America Centenario semifinals and won the Gold Cup title this past summer. In fact, earlier in the Hex these same players recorded a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras and 4-0 dismantling of Panama — the two teams that edged the U.S. for CONCACAF's final slots.
Yet for the likes of Tim Howard, Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore, they simply fell short when it mattered most. As the U.S. fell to a devastating 2-1 defeat in Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, there were poor performances all around from players who know how to deliver on the biggest stages.
Here are Goal 's player ratings from the Americans' loss to Trinidad & Tobago:
GK TIM HOWARD, 3: There wasn't much he could do about the opening own goal, but he was caught flat-footed on Alvin Jones' wonder-goal and badly spilled another long-range effort.
D DEANDRE YEDLIN, 6: Created flashes of danger with his energy down the flank and did well to limit opportunities on his side.
D OMAR GONZALEZ, 2: His misplayed clearance resulted in a stunning own goal to put T&T on the board, and he was lucky not to be called for a penalty moments later. The decision to bench Geoff Cameron looms large.
D MATT BESLER, 5: Had a couple iffy moments and didn't offer much in distribution, but he managed to avoid any major miscues in the back.
D JORGE VILLAFANA, 3: Was seemingly targeted by T&T, struggling to defend one-on-one, and never got going in the attack.
M PAUL ARRIOLA, 3: Didn't find much of the ball during that sluggish first 45 minutes before exiting at halftime.
M MICHAEL BRADLEY, 4: Was limited in his ability to dictate the tempo on such a choppy field and didn't play with his usual defensive intensity.
M DARLINGTON NAGBE, 4: Didn't move the ball quickly enough in the first half, though he did bring some added urgency after halftime.
M CHRISTIAN PULISIC, 6: Drifted in and out of the game but created some half-chances in an otherwise dismal first half and brought the U.S. back into the game with a 47th-minute strike. A missed opportunity for the 19-year-old to star on the World Cup stage is heartbreaking.
F JOZY ALTIDORE, 3: Failed to capitalize on the opportunities that fell his way and lacked his usual sharpness in hold-up play.
F BOBBY WOOD, 4: Didn't bring much to the table up top, struggling to get on the ball or execute combination play. Did threaten with a late header that was denied by a stellar save.
F CLINT DEMPSEY, 6: Offered a much-needed threat after coming on at halftime, ringing the post with a bouncing effort. This likely marks the end of his legendary international career.
M KELLYN ACOSTA, 6: Covered a lot of ground and played with vigor after entering as a makeshift left back.
M BENNY FEILHABER, 5: Didn't have much of an opportunity to make an impact in his late cameo.