Reality arrived when Juan Agudelo turned and looked at his phone.
Like everyone else inside the stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, he knew all of the permutations as the final seconds of a frustrating match ticked away and he understood the United States’ 2-1 defeat could knock them out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Agudelo took a moment to glance at his phone and saw the last, cruel piece fall into place. Roman Torres had scored for Panama to book his country’s first trip to the World Cup. The late goal — plus Honduras’ victory over Mexico — sent the Americans home without a precious berth in hand for the first time in three decades.
"The first thing I thought was that four years of my life were just taken away," Agudelo told New England Soccer Journal ahead of the Revolution’s 2-1 victory over New York City FC last month. "That’s it."
The next step in the process involved some self-reflection. Agudelo earned a place in former U.S. coach Bruce Arena’s 25-man squad for the final Hexagonal matches against Panama (a 4-0 win in Orlando on Oct. 10) and Trinidad and Tobago, but he spent that period on the sidelines.