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Scouting USMNT qualifier opponents

By: Mario Amaya

Qualifying to the World Cup is a long and arduous process that involves going to some of the most hostile environments on the planet. CONCACAF qualifying offers some of the most extreme environments and venues in the world.

Teams that go through World Cup qualifying in this part of the world, have to deal with the extreme weather conditions, such as playing in extreme heat of Central America and the Caribbean, or playing in below zero temperatures and in snow like the Snow Classico of 2013 between the USA vs Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colorado or hostile fan environments have been another major factor that makes the CONCACAF qualifiers a unique spectacle all in itself. Places like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, San Jose, Costa Rica, Mexico City and San Salvador, El Salvador were the stands and the field are only inches apart and fans can make their presence felt and play a major outcome in some of these games, especially in San Salvador where fans have been known to boo their opponents national anthem and throw objects at players.

The United States is certainly no stranger to this process and have qualified to the last seven World Cups, surviving all these conditions. The USMNT was placed in Group C with St. Vincent & Grenadines, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago. Here are some facts about the United States opponents in this round of World Cup qualifiers.

Trinidad & Tobago

Federation founded: 1908
Head Coach: Steven Hart
Nickname: Soca Warriors
# Of World Cup appearances: 1 (2006)
Key Players: Kenwyne Jones and Daniel Cyrus

Arguably one of the best teams in the Caribbean, the team lead by Canadian coach Steven Hart will be looking to qualify to its second World Cup after they qualified to the 2006 World Cup that was held in Germany. The Soca Warriors as they are known have proven to be one of the United States toughest opponents in World Cup qualifying and will be the second opponent they face on November 17th in Port of Spain. Most of their national team plays in MLS — such as their star defender Daniel Cyrus and midfielder Jovan Jones who both play for the Chicago Fire, along with Kevan George of the Columbus Crew and Cordell Cato of the San Jose Earthquakes. The biggest threat that Trinidad & Tobago possess is star forward and captain Kenwyne Jones, who plays for Cardiff City in the English Championship. The 6-foot-2 forward is not only capable of creating and scoring goals in the air, he is also a physical presence with an incredible burst of speed and that can create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Trinidad & Tobago are favored to finish second in the group, but they have been known to give a shocking result or two, an example of this was their 4-3 victory against Mexico in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, and will look to plead their case to be first place in Group C.

Guatemala

Federation founded: 1919
Head Coach: Ivan Franco Sopegno
# Of World Cup Appearances: 0
Nickname: Los Chapines or La Azul y Blanco
Key Players: Carlos Ruiz and Marco Pappa

The Guatemalan national team is still looking to qualify to the World Cup for the first time in their history, after being so close in 2005 where they finished in fifth place behind Trinidad & Tobago for a spot in the international playoff that year. The Guatemalan national team got to this stage by beating Antigua & Barbuda in a playoff with a 3-0 aggregate score and is looking to get back into the final round of qualifying since 2005. They will look for Argentinian head coach Ivan Franco Sopegno to lead them to the World Cup. Sopegno is one of Guatemala’s most successful coaches winning five titles with Guatemala’s most successful team, Comunicaciones, from 2008-2014. Sopegno has experienced some success so far as Guatemala’s head coach, finishing runners-up in the 2014 Central American Cup of Nations, but were not able to get past the group stages of the 2015 Gold Cup. Guatemala will also look for their most veteran player Carlos Ruiz to be the leader on the field. Ruiz, or El Pescadito (Little Fish) as he known, is not only Guatemala’s most capped player with 124 appearances, but he is Guatemala’s all-time leading goal scorer with 59 goals. Another important player that Guatemala will count on is their talisman, Seattle Sounders midfielder Marcos Pappa. Pappa will is responsible of holding down the midfield and with his playmaking ability will look to create goal scoring opportunities for his teammates and for himself. Guatemala will look to shock many obstacles in their way to qualifying out of group C and will create a path that will lead them to their first World Cup in Russia in 2018.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Federation founded: 1979
Head Coach: Cornelius Huggins
# Of World Cup appearances: 0
Nickname: Vincy Heat
Key Player: Tevin Salter

St. Vincent & the Grenadines has not had a lot of luck when it comes to qualifying to the World Cup. They have not made it past the group of World Cup qualifying, and out of the four teams have gone through more rounds of World Cup qualifying by eliminating both Guyana and Aruba respectively. The Vincy Heat as they are known by is led by former national team player Cornelius Huggins, who is one of St. Vincent most capped player playing for his country 96 times. He played for Malaysian side Kedah FC and will look to lead his group of young promising players such as Tevin Salter, who has scored two goals so far in the World Cup qualifiers, along with forwards Gavin James and Cornelius Stewart, who play in England and Finland respectively. St. Vincent has nothing to lose and will look to make a major impression and qualify to the final round of World Cup qualifying for the first time.

 

The United States kicks off its road to qualify for their eighth straight World Cup when they take on St. Vincent and the Grenadines Friday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO followed by a trip to the Caribbean on November 17th when they face Trinidad & Tobago at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the Trinidadian capital of Port of Spain.

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