The U.S. national team was supposed to have qualification to the Hexagonal pretty much wrapped up at this point. Instead, Jurgen Klinsmann's team will have to fight it out to the finish.
“We have our backs against the wall," the head coach said to U.S. Soccer's official website. "We want to win both games."
After four of six matches in Group A of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is in a three-way tie for first place with Guatemala and Jamaica, all of whom are on seven points. Antigua & Barbuda sits in last with just one point.
With only the top two advancing, the final two games of the round will prove decisive. The Stars and Stripes will travel to Antigua & Barbuda for a match on Oct. 12, before finishing the round in Kansas City against Guatemala on Oct. 16.
"We want to win both games, so we have to go into Antigua and, from the first second on, go for goals and get those three points," Kilnsmann said. "Guatemala is a very difficult team to play. You have to beat them, and we’ll have the home crowd behind us."
The U.S. defeated A&B in its first qualifying match, but conceded a late equalizer in Guatemala to draw 1-1 in its next game - one of the reasons the team finds itself in such a precarious position.
"We unnecessarily lost some points in Guatemala with a free kick eight minutes before the end of the game," Kiinsmann said. "We were leading when Clint Dempsey scored and it was all looking good. If you come away with three points it’s a big difference than with a tie."
The U.S. Federation confirmed it will release the roster for the two matches on Monday.
“It is really crucial when it gets down to World Cup qualifiers when you put your roster together that you look at their individual schedule; who is in full swing, who is struggling getting games in, who is spending too much time on the bench," Klinsmann said.
"Going into these two decisive games we need to make sure they are all at 100 percent. The coaching staff closely monitors our players in Europe and here in North America, and we are in constant contact with club coaches so we have a clear picture of where each player stands."
The U.S. will have a clear picture of where it stands after its next two-match series, and if it isn't in the Hexagonal, Klinsmann and his staff will have some serious questions to answer.
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- Jurgen Klinsmann