U.S. in Precarious Position at CONCACAF Futsal Tourney
By Tim Sheldon
The U.S. is still alive in the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, but its situation is clearly precarious.
The U.S. put itself in a bind when it lost its first game, 5-2, to Panama and then defeated Canada, 3-2, in its second match, good for third place in Group A behind Guatemala and Panama.
The U.S. has a chance to advance to the semifinals if they win big over Guatemala tonight, but that will not be very likely in the Domo Polideportivo before Guatemala's home fans.
The top four teams will advance to the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 in Thailand, and it does not appear that the U.S. will be one of them.
The U.S. is primarily a selection from the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), and has very little actual Futsal experience. The MISL plays the six-a-side indoor game using dasherboards, and the tactics and required reflexes of the game are much different than Futsal, which uses side and end lines and requires much more precise ball control.
This system of bringing in MISL-type players has had some success in the past, but it has become increasingly less effective as rival CONCACAF countries develop their Futsal programs.
The U.S. has had some good individual moments. Kraig Chiles scored his fifth career tournament goal against Panama and his sixth against Canada, and Patrick Healey had an assist in each game. But for the most part, the U.S. has not brought its "game" to this tournament. They looked very tentative against Panama, giving up two late goals when they turned their goalkeeper into a field player, and they barely escaped with a 3-2 win over lightly-regarded Canada.
While the U.S. is still mathematically alive, the odds are they will finish out of the running for the first time in the history of the CONCACAF Futsal Championship.