Monday, March 20, 2017

Hexed! CONCACAF Happy Trails #113

It's time for World Cup Qualifiers to enter their home stretch. Within 2017, the remaining 31 teams will have accomplished their "Mission to Moscow", and been sued for copyright infringement by the creators of the Police Academy franchise.  But focusing only on those who qualify excuses us from the equally important work of focusing on the un-qualified countries. So we write these "Happy Trails" posts as a way of holding a candle for them, just as we hold a candle for sweet, sweet Tackleberry.

This week, we honor the North/Central American (and Caribbean) nations that have once again missed out on the final stage: the Hexagon. These nations should be familiar to most of us; after all, three members of the Hex have seemed set in stone for the competitions 20 year history: Mexico, Costa Rica, and the US of A. Two others have been in over half the competitions (Honduras + Trinidad And Tobago). The final spot now seems the purview of Panama, at least until Canada rises from the football ashes.

So who are these hexed has beens? This CONCACAF chaff? The minnows we cast back into the Caribbean for another three years? Here's the latest edition of Happy Trails.

#113 Fare the well, St. Vincent And The Grenadines (+41 from 2014)
Why they lost: Vincy Heat took a huge step reaching Round 4 this time out, so much so that a -23 goal differential is a minor detail in comparison with their accomplishment in getting here. (There should be some concern that a winless 2016 did them more harm than good though)

What we'll miss: The best stars of St. Vincent (and friends) can actually be seen regularly in the USL as part of the Seattle Sounders reserve squad: so get ready Rochester! Oalex Anderson and Myron Samuels are coming soon to a pitch near you.

#112 Hasta luego, El Salvador (+14 from 2014)
Why they lost: The friendly confines of Estadio "Magico" (named for Salvadoran legend Jorge "Magico" Gonzalez) may be the greatest boon to Los Cuscatelos, especially since they managed a pair of draws against group rivals Canada and Honduras. Unfortunatley, they still need to play away matches.

What we'll miss: A wider spread hipster appreciation of  "Magico" Gonzalez. (Think of it, "Magic is going to run the Lakers? Ohhh...the basketball player, I was thinking about the Salvadoran striker..." etc.)

#111 Buh-bye, Jamaica (-66 from 2014)
Why they lost: In what might well be called a catastrophe by Jamaican standards, the team was pushed back from its lofty perch as a consistent CONCACAF threat. In particular, losing at home to Haiti, a squad they normally push around, has to sting.

What we'll miss: Dumb allusions to Bob Marley songs. ("No Hexagon, No Cry", "I Shot the Sheriff, but I Couldn't Shoot the Winning Goal", etc.)

#110 Au Revoir, Haiti (+34 from 2014)
Belfots and Nazon 4 Eva
Why they lost: Les Grenadiers have seen a serious boost to their profile in the last year, a shock qualification for the Copa America Centenario gave them prime time billing alongside Brazil last summer, and a sturdy defensive corps saw them ship only four goals during World Cup Qualifiers (to more high profile CONCACAF sides (Costa Rica, Panama, and Jamaica). Their next step will be to turn those narrow 0-1 defeats into 1-1 draws.

What we'll miss: The continued development of my Haitian strike force dream team: Kelven Belforts and Duckens Nazon. (Also, the chance to turn "Belforts and Nazon" into a TNT original mystery series.

#109 Farewell/Adieu, Canada (+16 from 2014)
Why they lost: A few years ago, the Canucks reported that their national soccer association had a budget of $24 Million dollars, and walked away with a $1.7 million dollar surplus. Which is a little less than .002% of what Hockey is worth to the Canadian economy. That may not be a fair comparison (I'm not a math person), and there are reportedly more soccer players than hockey ones in the great white north, but the simple fact is that until there are more soccer fans than hockey ones, Canda will always be a big country with a relatively meager investment.

What we'll miss: Any logical consistency to Canda's match scheduling. Outside of Qualifiers Canada has had to set up matches in the last year with Azerbijian, Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Morocco, South Korea and Bermuda. I mean...seriously...Canada...pick a lane, bro.

#108 Ciudata, Guatemala (+16 from 2014)
Why they lost: Because despite the glitzy golden ball won by Carlos Ruiz (who netted 8 in this round of competition), Guatemala can't play St. Vincent and the Grenadines every match (which is why Ruiz's 5 goals against them were ultimately futile).

What we'll miss: The vague, sinking feeling that overcame the entire US Soccer fan base when Guatemala when Los Chapines beat the Yanks at home, and sent Jurgen Klinsmann's career as manager into a death spiral. Oh the old days of US National Gloom and Doom, only slightly less fun then current day gloom and doom.

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