We’d barely got our feet under the desk at HQ Team USA before we secured the nation’s slot at Italy 2030. There were jubilant scenes across the US as fans took to the streets of soccer hotbeds Atlanta, Miami and New York to express their excitement at their boys reaching the World Soccer Super Bowl.
Even the big guy in the White House is chuffed with our efforts, just listen to how happy Donald Trump is with the achievement!!
Finishing off qualification
After securing our place at the World Cup in Italy next summer we had two more qualification games remaining. Both were at home against Dominican Republic – joint 100th in the FIFA rankings – and Panama – ranked 71st – so I’m hoping for a few home runs to hit the net.
First up was Dominican Republic, and I thought the boys in the FA were having a laugh when they’d arranged the match at some field in East Hartford. I had to Google where on earth that was, let alone how to get there from Valencia, but soon worked it’s in Connecticut – which Google then told me is near New York. Why didn’t we just play it in New York lads?
Anyway, Dominican Republic probably had the same issues but they also made it to what turned out to be the interesting looking Rentschler Field. Beautiful, good call boys.
We went with the same 11 that had won our first two games, with the exception of Southend-born Essex lad and definitely-not-American centre back Cameron Carter-Vickers returning from injury.
We started very nicely as big Joshy Sargent powered home a header from Efrain Alvarez’s corner in the first minute. And if only Timothy Weah could shoot we would have been three-up in the first 10 minutes. Another Alvarez corner led to centre back Eddie Segura doubling the lead then we won a penalty in the final minute of the half, which someone allowed Weah to take… and surprisingly he scored it. We’d had 26 shots of which 17 were on target, and Weah had 9 of them!
Weah doubled his tally 10 minutes after the break and somehow managed to injure marker in doing so. And we somehow only won 4-0 despite having 45 shots, of which Weah – who now plays for West Ham – had an incredible 15.
Panama came to town next, and this time we’d all flown down south to the town of Frisco, Texas in the superbly named Toyota Stadium.
Christian Pulisic gave us a great start with a wonderful solo goal on 5 minutes and doubled his tally 8 minutes later. Despite 28 shots – with 8 from Pulisic, 7 from Weah and 6 from Sargent – we were only 2-0 up at half-time.
Segura, who looks like our most clinical finisher, bagged again an Sargent added a fourth after 61 minutes. But for some reason the boys decided to settle for 4-0 again. Only the 8 shots for Weah this time and Sargent had 10 – so that’s a pretty dreadful return.
But we have to be very happy with our qualification efforts as we won every game, scored 20 and only conceded 1 – which was before my time. And, as a result, we moved up one place to 17th in the FIFA World Rankings. USA, USA, USA!!
After qualification we had a couple more friendlies to round out 2020. The first was at Estadio Monumental – which I definitely know how to get to as I’ve been there – to play Peru. The second was five days later in Albania, which could be a little more tricky to find and, for that matter, get to from Lima.
We played really well in Peru but didn’t put our chances away in the first half. A cracker of a second half saw Weah score a penalty, centre back James Sands score his first goal for the USA and Sargent bang his 40th for his country.
Old shooty Weah then decided to kick an opponent and got a straight red card, which saw the Peruvians score 2 late goals to undeservedly come back into it. First goals conceded, but another win as USA boss.
The long journey to Tirane from Lima didn’t affect the plucky Yanks as we put in an excellent performance against Albania. Carter-Vickers celebrated his 100th cap for the USA with a goal on 3 minutes then 22-year-old winger Emanuel Soares – who strangely I signed in my final year as Sporting manager, and is still there – scored his first goal for his country.
A solid 2-0 win brought the USA’s 2029 to an end with a World Cup to come next year! And we’re in excellent form going into it with six straight victories and 21 goals scored.
In other news, Josh Sargent has also broken the US record for most goals in a season with 8 in 2029. He’s now scored 40 goals in 96 caps, which is pretty impressive at any level.
World Cup draw
The draw for World Cup 2030 took place in December, and this is the first time I’ve ever been involved in the new strange format of the competition.
USA was in the second group of seeds, despite some really bad teams being in the first seeds. We got drawn alongside Cape Verde and Belgium, which gives us a decent chance of making into the first knockout round.
Join us next time as we build up to the World Cup through the remainder of the 2029/30 campaign!