Win in Antigua is no sure thing for U.S 

October, 10, 2012

Jurgen Klinsmann's stunning decision to leave striker Jozy Altidore off the U.S. roster for crucial World Cup qualifiers at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday and against Guatemala on Oct. 16 turns out to be even more of a gamble now, after word came down Tuesday that Landon Donovan, the national team's all-time scoring leader, and imposing winger Brek Shea had withdrawn from the squad because of injuries.

If the United States fails to get at least four points from the next two games, if the unthinkable happens and they don't qualify for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying -- let alone the 2014 World Cup in Brazil -- the timing of Altidore's omission and the potentially distracting headlines resulting from it will be tough for Klinsmann to live down.

On paper, the Americans are still heavy favorites to advance. They are tied with Guatemala in their four-team group, just ahead of Jamaica. But Klinsmann's tenure has been full of surprises, not all of them good. And with the three teams even on seven points, one poor result could have dire consequences.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.

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