U.S. coach Thomas Rongen, a Dutch-born veteran manager of Major League Soccer clubs, pointed to his player’s lack of game experience as the main reason for World Cup failure.
His statement was:
“We have a bunch of part-time players, quite frankly. Players around the world play hard games every weekend. Our players don’t,” Rongen said. “That’s a huge concern for our country—we are falling behind in the under-20s.”
My initial reaction to this was: “Just another typical excuse.”
Even though I think our sorry performance has more to do with a failure to select the best players and having a premier level coach in that position, I did wonder if his statement / excuse had any merit. As a result, I decided to go ahead and do some research to find out just how much playing time the roster was getting on their college or pro teams.
The results, to a certain extent, confirm what he said. Here is the breakdown.
15 out of the 22 man roster were on professional teams (or making that transition). Of those 15, five are on MLS teams and one in USL (Gale Agbossoumonde) where data is available. Only 3 players had appreciable minutes in the month leading up to the World Cup.
The other players, where there was no data available, are either signed to clubs overseas or recently left their college teams and are in a transition period. Those that are on foreign soil, we found do not get any action with the first team. If anything, they get some minutes with the reserves.
Now, the story looks quite different when looking at the players still in college. With the exception of Dillon Powers, they are all starters and protagonists on their respective teams.
Below are the lineups used in our 3 world cup games.
- Players in bold are those that had good playing time leading up to WC.
- Players with a strikethrough are those that had terrible playing time leading up to WC.
- The others had no data available. They play on foreign pro teams (the reserves) or are in current soccer limbo.
Brian Perk; Gerson Mayen, Gale Agbossoumonde, Ike Opara, Kyle Davies (capt.) (Jorge Flores, 36); Dillon Powers (Bryan Arguez, 46), Jared Jeffrey, Mikkel Diskerud (Dilly Duka, 78); Tony Taylor, Brian Ownby, Brek Shea
Brian Perk (capt.); Sheanon Williams, Gale Agbossoumonde, Ike Opara, Jorge Flores; Jared Jeffrey, Bryan Arguez, Dilly Duka (Dillon Powers, 76); Danny Cruz, Tony Taylor (Brian Ownby, 74), Brek Shea
Brian Perk (capt.); Sheanon Williams, Gale Agbossoumonde, Ike Opara, Jorge Flores; Jared Jeffrey (Kyle Davies, 73), Bryan Arguez (Mikkel Diskerud, 62), Dilly Duka; Danny Cruz, Tony Taylor (Peri Marosevic, 46), Brek Shea
Upon first inspection it seams the US team indeed suffers from lack of consistent playing time for those players on professional teams. To make a definitive case the data on those foreign players is needed.
However, if those foreigners are not playing consistently on the reserve squad, then it is more telling of their lack of true international quality and potential. If that is the case, then why were they selected in the first place? If coach Rongen had the foresight to know match fitness would be a problem, why did he not select other players? Don’t tell me he had no choice because these were far and away the best the country has to offer! After watching their first touches and decision making on the field, this is simply not true. We have better players in America!
In soccer countries around the world, they scrutinize the crap out of coaches and their statements. Here, it seems they can get away with anything. Not anymore! We will fact check and scrutinize as much as possible, publish our findings, and let the fans have more information.
What are your thoughts? Think his statement is a valid excuse? Why is there no serious heat coming down on him? What conclusions did you draw from our poor performance?
Below, you can view or download the raw data we compiled for the roughly 6 weeks leading up to the World Cup: