For the U.S. Men’s National Team, the task of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is already accomplished. But they still have two more qualifying matches left to play — Friday against Jamaica and Tuesday against Panama — and it’s important that they continue to play well and finish the qualifying process strong.
The U.S. has made so much forward progress in the past year under Jurgen Klinsmann, and it would be foolish to take their foot off the gas pedal. The Americans have bought into Klinsmann’s demands and style of play, and at the same time, Klinsmann has gained a great understanding of the personnel and how best to utilize it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of work left to do before next summer’s World Cup, and they need to take advantage of opportunity they have to play together, especially competitive matches like World Cup qualifiers.
Moreover, the Americans would love to solidify first place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, and the only way to ensure that is to win final two matches, as Costa Rica trails the U.S. by a single point in the standings. Winning the group is the only way for the Americans to have an outside shot at being a seeded team during the World Cup Draw in December, and being a seeded team would increase their chances of advancing out of the group stage in the World Cup. Symbolically, finishing first would allow the Americans to further assert their dominance over the rest of CONCACAF, especially after blowing away the rest of the region during the 2013 Gold Cup.
Fortunately for the Americans, Klinsmann understands the importance of finishing the qualifying process on a high and securing first place in the group. Outside of injuries to Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Fabian Johnson, he has named his best players to the roster for the final two qualifiers. Klinsmann is going all out with the hope of winning both matches, even after their qualification has already been secured, and that attitude is likely to rub off on the players.
After all that U.S. soccer has accomplished and all the progress they’ve made over the past year, it’d be foolish to take it easy, despite already securing their spot in next year’s World Cup. The U.S. needs to approach its final two qualifying matches the same way they’ve approached every other match they’ve played during their historic run of 13 wins in their last 14 matches. In order to keep up all the momentum they’ve built up over that time and begin their preparations for the World Cup, they need to finish the qualifying process as strong as possible.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.