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Locals react to U.S. failing to qualify for World Cup
Longtime Ceres Youth Soccer Organization leader Lou Toste believes the U.S. mens national soccer team will become a powerhouse in the world in the future. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The U.S. men's national soccer team made the wrong kind of history this past week when it failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.

Retired professional soccer player/Johansen High School grad Heath Pearce, Ceres Youth Soccer Organization President Lou Toste, and former Central Valley High School soccer standouts Ozzie Ramos and Angel Lopez all expressed disappointment after hearing the stunning news.

Pearce represented the U.S. national team 35 times during his career.

He was on the 30-man preliminary roster for the 2010 World Cup.

"USA not qualifying for the World Cup is not a just domestic embarrassment, it's a global one," Pearce tweeted. "By far worst night ever, for US Soccer. BY far."

Toste has been affiliated with CYSO for 35 years. He moved to the United States in 1957. He was born in the Azores, a self-governed region of Portugal.

"I'm disappointed," Lou said. "But I'm a person that doesn't like to dwell. USA will improve in the future. There will be time when it will be hard to be this country when it comes to this sport. I don't know if I'll be around."

Ramos was voted Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player twice during his three-year career with Central Valley's varsity boys soccer program.

He's currently a starting senior center midfielder for NCAA Division-I Seattle University.

"I was at practice, got back to the locker room and was informed U.S. didn't make it," Ozzie said. "It was a shock. It's disappointing to know our country is not top 32 in the world at this moment. I thought the Gold Cup win would give them a boost."

A four-year varsity soccer member at Central Valley, Lopez has logged playing time at center midfielder as a true freshman at NCAA-Division-II Cal State San Bernardino this fall.

"I saw an update on Twitter," Angel said. "I'm actually really surprised U.S. didn't make it. Two of my teammates in my class couldn't believe it either. It's disappointing. They let the whole country down."

Losers of eight of its previous nine games, Trinidad and Tobago prevented U.S. from clinching the third and final qualification spot with an improbably 2-1 victory.

"I usually stay awake, no matter where I am, for US games," Pearce tweeted. "But I'm in Dubai and I felt an ease sleeping through this match thinking theyd cruise 2 a hard fought 3 points as I had done so many times under pressure with the US but woke up to what feels like ultimate devastation."

"I didn't expect them to lose that game," Toste said. "It's not because they didn't put in the effort. They tried hard. The better team doesn't always win."

"There's no excuse," Ramos said. "They had the talent to make it. I don't think they used the right players."

U.S. placed fifth in the six-team CONCACAF tournament under manager Bruce Arena's guidance.

It was a humiliating finish for U.S., which posted a 3-4-3 record in qualifying play.

"They had the talent to get to the World Cup," Lopez said. "They just couldn't get the job done. They've been inconsistent in games. They should bring in another coach with experience from overseas."

Arena resigned as head coach on Oct. 13.

"U.S. Soccer Federation has to try to unify the (domestic professional) leagues a lot better," Ramos said. "The system as a whole needs to be a lot more connected. The quality of coaching and education of soccer has to increase. Other countries are doing it better than us based on what happened yesterday."

"You can't blame everything on the coach," Toste said. "It takes a team to win. Look at England, one of the top countries in the world. They failed to qualify for the World Cup in the past. This country is powerful in all kinds of sports. Soccer is still developing. The young generation cares about USA. They're not going to give up."

The 2018 World Cup will be staged in Russia next summer.

A total of 32 teams will participate, excluding U.S.

"Everyone in the soccer world waits for the World Cup," Lopez said. "It's exciting. It's not like the Super Bowl or NBA Championship. It's held every four years."

Angel, Ozzie and Lou will all throw their support behind other countries.

"I wanted U.S. to make it because I'm from here," Lopez said. "But I'm actually rooting for Mexico. That's where my family is from."

"I'm glad Mexico made it to the World Cup," Ramos said.

"Portugal has a good national team," Toste said.

U.S. had participated in the last seven World Cups.

"The World Cup comes around every four years," Ramos said. "It's a big event. I remember watching it for the first time in 2002. I woke up at 5 in the morning to see Brazil and Germany play in the final."