With the U.S. missing out on the 2018 World Cup, Goal takes a look at the players who we have likely seen the last of with the national team
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago — Morning has arrived in this Caribbean capital, and along with it the realization that the U.S. national team’s unbelievable nightmare was reality, and not a bad dream.
The United States will miss the 2018 World Cup, and that failure means the end of the road for a long list of players who have likely seen their international careers come to an end sooner than they or anyone could have imagined.
The next competitive game the U.S. will play is nearly two years away, in the 2019 Gold Cup, and the next World Cup is five years away — meaning many of the players who had a hand in Tuesday’s stunning loss to Trinidad & Tobago will never wear a U.S. uniform in a meaningful match again.
Here is a look at the U.S. players who we have likely seen for the last time in a major competition:
The 38-year-old goalkeeper stretched his national team career as far as he could, but fell short in his bid to make four World Cup teams. He will always be remembered for his heroics at the 2014 World Cup, but it will take a while to forget his form in his last days with the national team.
Howard will go down as one of the best players in U.S. history, and he has a case to be considered the best goalkeeper. But after he held down the No. 1 spot for the past decade, his departure signals the end of an era at a position that has long been a strength for the national team.
After scoring goals in three straight World Cups, Dempsey had his sight sets on making it a fourth, and the 34-year-old looked like he was well on his way before Tuesday’s nightmare outcome. Now, not only will he miss out on joining DaMarcus Beasley as Americans to play in four World Cups, his career goal total with the national team remains tied with Landon Donovan’s for most in USMNT history.
Could we see Dempsey come back for some friendlies to make a run at that goals record? It’s possible, but he will be 36 when the 2019 Gold Cup rolls around and by then it will be time for a new generation of goal-scorers to step up.
The U.S. captain isn’t likely to retire from the national team anytime soon, but he will be 35 when the next World Cup is played, an age at which very few midfielders are still contributing meaningfully for their national teams.
Bradley has been a solid fixture in the U.S. midfield for a decade, and the next coach is a good bet to keep calling him in, so it isn’t a stretch to think Bradley can play some sort of role in the next World Cup qualifying cycle. He’s 30, and still playing at a good level, so the 2019 Gold Cup and potentially a 2020 Copa America might not be out of reach for him.
As we are left to ponder what might have happened if Bruce Arena had started him instead Omar Gonzalez, Cameron will need to make a decision about how much longer he wants to go. The next World Cup is a long shot — he’ll be 37 when it’s played — but Cameron still plays at a very high level and it can be argued he’s the best center back in the pool.
A new coach might decide it’s time to look elsewhere for help in central defense, what with some promising young options in the pipeline, like Matt Miazga, Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
DaMarcus Beasley. The dream of a fifth World Cup died Tuesday night for Beasley, but the reality is his national team career carried on too long. Perhaps Arena figured this out when he chose to play Kellyn Acosta out of position at left back rather than Beasley in Tuesday’s decisive match.
Jermaine Jones. The hard-nosed German-American midfielder was excellent at the 2014 World Cup, but his body began breaking down over the past year, already making him a real doubt for 2018.
Fabian Johnson. Why Arena really left him out of the October qualifiers remains a mystery, but the 29-year-old had already started talking about retiring after the 2018 World Cup, so it’s likely we’ve seen the last of the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder.
Omar Gonzalez. He will go down as one of the players most responsible for the missed World Cup, and at 29, redemption will be hard to come by. It won’t come at a World Cup.
Brad Guzan. The 33-year-old goalkeeper never fully unseated Howard as the top-choice starter, and this was likely his last chance.
Matt Besler. The 30-year-old clearly lost a step from his best form in 2013 and 2014.
Tim Ream. The 30-year-old Fulham defender has an unfortunate track record of major mistakes with the national team and isn’t likely to feature in another tournament again.
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Graham Zusi. The right back experiment has helped Zusi find a new role on the club level, but the 31-year-old should be done with the USMNT.
Alejandro Bedoya. The 30-year-old managed to play in the 2014 World Cup, and was probably a long shot for 2018, making his departure now a formality.
Chris Wondolowski. The redemption story never happened for the 2014 World Cup goat, who stuck around the national team several years longer than he needed to.