We're only through four of the 10 matches to be played in the Hexagonal, the last round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, but after some odd matches last November, the cream is starting to rise to the top. It's becoming fairly clear that the top three teams are going to survive and reach Russia in 2018, but the gap is still small enough between the top and the bottom that no one is firmly safe, while no one is anywhere near finished yet either.
Mexico – 10 Points
Costa Rica – 7 Points
Panama – 5 Points
United States – 4 Points
Honduras – 4 Points
Trinidad & Tobago – 3 Points
Will the United States be a little disappointed to not take three points against Panama after thrashing the heck out of Honduras 6-0 in San Jose a few nights earlier? Sure, it will. But Bruce Arena's squad knew that four points out of six was going to be a good result and one that, if it continues through the rest of the Hex, will see the Stars and Stripes to the ultimate goal of getting to Russia.
The pessimist though, will point out the fact that the Americans have really only looked good in one of their four qualifying efforts thus far, and that leaves them in a world of hurt. At the moment, they'd be fourth best in this group, and that would only be good enough to leave them in the intercontinental playoff. Still, at any given moment, this team can come up with an effort like it had against Honduras, and with Clint Dempsey clearly back and ready to be a force, this offense should look a lot better the rest of the way.
Mexico remains on Easy St. at this point. El Tri has 10 of a possible 12 points, and their home win over Costa Rica looks like it might be a de facto finisher. They've only got two away dates left, and even if they drop the return trip to the Ticos, they're still on a minimum of 10 points with four home games left. Getting to 15 should be plenty to qualify. Costa Rica, in spite of its loss at Estadio Azteca, will be more than fine as well, as it still has four home matches against just two away left to go in the Hex.
The real questions are coming for Panama, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago. T&T picked up arguably the most important win of the bunch last Friday night when it snuffed out Panama with a 1-0 victory thanks to Kevin Molino. There's a lot of young talent on this team that is sure to only improve as time goes on, and that makes the Trinidadians all the more dangerous at the end of the Hex.
Panama coughed up a big opportunity to get something out of two road matches. Getting just a point against a disappointing Honduras team in San Pedro proved to be a problem. Still, the Panamanians are setting on five points and would be heading to Russia if the Hex ended today. Their problem? Their three road games left are against Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States respectively, and it's hard to see more than maybe one point from that bunch. That means matches against Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras at home are must-wins.
As far as the Hondurans are concerned, they're in a world of hurt. They still play four away matches, and their two fixtures left at home come against the United States in September and Mexico in October. This is the one team that is virtually certainly going to have to beat some long odds to get into the World Cup.
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