Not the break I wanted

In contrast to the last two Chelsea results, it was a disappointing international break for Blues fans in the States who also follow the national team.

The USA picked up just one point from their matches against Costa Rica at home and Honduras away. We have a vested club interest in World Cup qualification with an American international on our books, defender Matt Miazga currently on loan at Vitesse. He was not in the squad for these matches but played (and scored) in the summer’s Gold Cup.

The States should have booked their ticket to Russia months ago and it’s worrying that with only two games left their qualification hopes are in the balance. We are at stage five of CONCACAF qualification, a round-robin group of six countries known as the hex. The top three make the 2018 tournament and fourth place get another bite at the cherry in the form of a two-legged intercontinental play-off against either Australia or Syria.

The USA started the hex disastrously, losing at home to Mexico and hammered 4-0 in Costa Rica. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked and they brought back Bruce Arena who had been in charge for the 2002 run to the World Cup quarter-final. They then went unbeaten in four contests until last weekend, when they lost at home to Costa Rica and needed a last-gasp equaliser to rescue a draw in Honduras, a side they smashed 6-0 five months ago.

I watched Tuesday’s battle with Honduras in a New Orleans football pub surrounded by fans from different nationalities. Rowdy Peruvians cheered as their country won a vital three points in Ecuador, a crowd of Colombians celebrated a draw with Brazil, Argentinians arrived for their crunch fixture with Venezuela. I love how in the States you can watch football in a bar with supporters from a kaleidoscopic collection of countries.

It was the Labor Day holiday weekend in America and I drove 700 miles to North Carolina (22 hours driving return) to watch Northern Ireland take on San Marino. A bunch of ex-pats met in a Charlotte bar to see us secure three points, and three days later we beat the Czech Republic. With a bit of luck I might even see ‘both’ my home countries in Russia...

But now let’s get back to Chelsea and the Premier League. I love the occasional diversion the international break offers, but I love resuming my support for the Blues and our title challenge as well.