USA soccer

USA soccer vs. Trinidad: World Cup qualifying scenarios, match details and pregame updates

Michael Bradley, right, and the U.S. national team are 90 minutes from booking a place in the 2018 World Cup. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — So here we are, 23 months after the U.S. World Cup campaign began, bearing witness to a match on an island off the Venezuelan coast that will decide whether the Americans book a ticket to Russia next year, make plans to visit Australia next month or — gasp! — sit out the 2018 tournament.

To recap:

  • With a victory over Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, the United States will join Mexico and Costa Rica as CONCACAF’s automatic qualifiers.
  • With a draw, Bruce Arena’s squad will advance, unless Panama or Honduras wins by an obscene number of goals (eight and 12, respectively)
  • With a defeat, the Americans better hope that Panama and Honduras fail to beat Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively. If one wins, the U.S. team is headed to the two-leg intercontinental playoff against the Socceroos. If both win, the Americans will land in fifth place and out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

To minimize shenanigans, CONCACAF has scheduled all three matches to kick off around 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The U.S. match is available on beIN Sports, Universo, fuboTV, go90, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo, BeIN Sports Connect and telemundodeportes.com.

[Hey, how come the huge U.S. World Cup qualifier isn’t on regular TV?]

FuboTV, beIN Sports Connect, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo and telemundodeportes.com will carry the other two matches. Telemundo’s TV channel has the Honduras-Mexico game.

Watergate fallout: Here’s a look at the Port-of-Spain newspapers the day after the United States encountered high-standing water around — and, in some places, on — the field at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Barring heavy storms and additional issues late today, the match is set to proceed as scheduled. The current forecast calls for almost no chance of rain, 80 degrees and 86 percent humidity. The sun will set at 5:52 p.m.

“We’ve been together now for 10 days or so,” Coach Bruce Arena said, “so we’re ready to play and we’ll deal with the conditions the way they are.”

[Solid result vs. Trinidad and Tobago separates U.S. from a World Cup berth. That, and a moat.]

Trinidadian officials insisted they informed the U.S. delegation of the flooding issues and offered a secondary location to train. The U.S. Soccer Federation, however, said that’s not true: “We were always scheduled to train at Ato Boldon, were never offered an alternate training site and were not aware of any issues regarding the field and water until we arrived at the stadium.”

Australia advances: Tim Cahill, the nation’s greatest scorer, nodded in the match-winner in extra time as the Aussies defeated Syria, 2-1, in Sydney for a 3-2 aggregate victory in Asia’s fifth-place playoff. Syria, a war-torn country that had overcome extraordinary odds to make it this far, hit the post in the dying moments. The Socceroos will now prepare for the United States, Panama or Honduras, Nov. 6-14. The CONCACAF team will host the first leg.

Pulisic injury: Christian Pulisic, who has been pummeled by opponents in these World Cup qualifiers, most notably by Panama on Friday, is questionable with a calf injury.

He will be reevaluated today and, at some point before the lineups are due an hour before kickoff, Arena will have to decide whether to start him, leave him on the bench for a possible second-half appearance or scratch him altogether. (Two of the 25 U.S. players will not be in uniform, per international guidelines for game-day rosters.)

On the issue of protecting Pulisic from malicious tackles, Arena said: “And how should I do that? Hold him in my arms, perhaps? I have no control over what happens out there. Between the lines, the referee’s supposed to be controlling the game. So I can’t protect him. We’re hopeful the referee does a good job of protecting all the players.”

As for instructing a player to retaliate against opponents who target the teenage star, the unforgiving yellow-card rule comes into play.

“We have to be smart,” Arena said. “We can’t lose Michael Bradley [to suspension] going in and whacking someone.”

[USMNT’s World Cup route again goes through Trinidad, 28 years after Caligiuri’s goal]

Yellow fever: The concern about yellow-card suspensions is largely over. A single card given tonight to a player already on warning from previous qualifiers will not carry over to the World Cup. However, a second overall yellow would result in suspension from the playoff against Australia.

Also, a red card (or two yellows) in the last qualifier will result in suspension in the World Cup opener.

The U.S. players carrying yellows are Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin.

“They have the stupidest card rules,” Arena said. “If you got a yellow card in Game 1 [of the semifinal round in November 2015] and picked one up [Friday against Panama], you’d be suspended [for the last qualifier tonight]. I don’t understand it. I’m just happy I haven’t been around this stuff for a lot of years. I’d lose my mind. And for the same reason, the referees aren’t handing out yellow cards because they realize the players will be suspended.”

Tonight’s referee: Marlon Mejia of El Salvador.

November plans: If the Americans do not end up in the playoff against Australia, they will play two friendlies during the FIFA window, Nov. 6-14. Opponents and locations are pending.

It would seem to be a good opportunity to play at least one match in Europe and take a close look at overseas players who weren’t involved in qualifying under Arena, such as Danny Williams, Lynden Gooch, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Weston McKennie, Timmy Chandler, Matt Miazga, Perry Kitchen and Ethan Horvath. Arena could also reevaluate Fabian Johnson (fitness) and John Brooks (injury).

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