First and foremost it was important for us to get out of the group. And it’s tough to have written a better script!
The way we advanced – by a razor’s edge – helps to keep fans grounded, while at the same time experiencing an emotional reaction so rare in all of sports. This is good for the game! It is this experience that could help push some people from average fan to passionate, or from casual observer to a regular. That’s progress.
Hopefully your heart rate was through the roof! Did you have that sinking feeling of despair when all seemed lost, only to break out screaming in the 91st minute? Or how about that soothing, calm serenity that comes right after the nerves are relaxed? Hell, maybe after all the euphoria, you might even have the urge to give the finger to critics (me being one of them).
This is necessary for soccer in our country! We need that passion! Three games and out would not have generated this.
But Now … Now I Fear the Worst!
I whole-heatedly believe that if the US goes too far in this cup it will do more damage than good. Actually, I fear it may be devastating.
Looking at the bracket, the road to the semi-final is quite accessible. The US will not run into any of the “Great Whites”. They have a date with Ghana and then the winner of Uruguay vs South Korea. While I believe the Ghana game will be tough and Uruguay (my presumed quarterfinalist) is superior, victories are definitely not out of the question.
While the fan-base would jump for joy, I think US Soccer will be set back by a decade!
You see, all the problems you or I may talk about and witness at the youth, college, or professional level will essentially cease to be seen as such. Quite the opposite, the existing establishment and philosophies in all its forms will be reinforced. After all, this is what propelled us to this one World Cup success, right?
Enjoy the Ride
In any case, congratulations to all the true fans out there! The way I see it, you’re in a win-win situation now: one short term, one long term.
If the team continues to advance, we become more passionate and the sport might receive more attention and more respect. What happens down the road doesn’t effect the here and now. You want the emotional ride to continue! You want success now damn it! And that’s as it should be!
If the team loses, it was not an embarrassment and the cup still energized the base. But more importantly, US Soccer along with its fans will continue to seriously look for major improvements.
Nice article, Gary, and a bit courageous, too, I might add. Definitely not PC.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we have been spared the fate of arriving to the Semifinals. Personally, I think the US were lucky to get this far. The mediocre technical and tactical level of the team did not show as badly as it did in the last WC, but when nations like Ghana, Slovenia, Slovakia can field teams that appear to be better trained and have a high technical level, why aren’t more people taking note? Do Americans really believe this is the best we can aspire to at a technical, tactical, and managerial level? Hell, we’ve come further in water polo in the last 30 years!
Now, I hear the ESPN analysts talk about a natural rotation of coaches, politely questioning whether the same person can get you to the “next level”. What is your take on those comments? Do you think this diplomatic approach is a better way of moving US Soccer from its current position? Or do you think we will continue along the same path? Keep up the great work.
Gary Kleiban says
I try to be as open and honest as possible. Believe me, I’m actually holding back quite a bit on all fronts! But that’s ok. Our objective here is to educate and help out.
On to your questions:
1) “Do Americans really believe this is the best we can aspire to at a technical, tactical, and managerial level?”
Americans only have an elementary understanding of technical, tactical, and managerial quality. When they believe that Gooch or Demerit are great defenders, we have a problem. When they believe that Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley are good coaches, we have a problem.
2) “Do you think this diplomatic approach is a better way of moving US Soccer from its current position? Or do you think we will continue along the same path?”
There are some who are being diplomatic but know better, but the vast majority are simply clueless (Alexi Lalas). Being PC won’t work – certainly not in any reasonable time-frame. Our system is horrific at all levels! And someone, or a handful of someone’s, with established authority needs to say so! Another route is for lots and lots of smaller fish to speak up.
In the end, it’s a matter of soccer education. If people don’t know what the hell they’re doing or talking about, we’ll continue to be mediocre.
It was nice to hear Jorgen Klinsman begin to express some of his thoughts. If you didn’t get to see that, check it out here:
Ricardo Sandoval says
This World Cup did a lot for the sport of football(soccer) in our country. See the USMNT is a force to be reckon with now. England, who didn’t have the best tournament finished behind us and yes it was by the skin of our teeth but on paper it will show that USA won its group for the first time in 80 years. The thing is that the way it happen, we didn’t go into and dominate although that would be the way a power house team would do it. The USMNT did it with drama and that’s what caught the attention of a nation who’s football league is still new to the world compared to La Liga or the great EPL. That’s how Spain, England, and all the other powerhouses have become what they are. USA doesn’t have much history in football but we are moving in a good direction, our nation team is stable with a good coach who’s brought much success to US football. When I watch ESPN and every program is talking about US football and the World Cup I see that we are doing something to show our country what’s happening and that we don’t suck at “soccer”. Lando and Jozy to big clubs this summer, the yanks will be back in 2014, better and stronger!
Gary Kleiban says
Thanks for that Ricardo!
I agree with much of what you say with the exception of two big things:
1) If the definition of a good coach is good motivator, then yes Bradley did well. Credit where credit is due. His guys worked their asses off! Other than that, he is completely barren. The national team has no style to speak of, and tactically he has no clue. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. And without these attributes, your results will be inconsistent.
2) The yanks will be back “better and stronger” in 2014 only if we have a change in mentality of what a quality player is and what is required to be successful. We need to hire a coach with a clue and give him the power to redefine soccer in this country. We need to have a model in the National Team that correctly influences the youth level. If we re-hire BB or one of his many clones, we’re doomed!
Ricardo Sandoval says
Well at the youth level I know that we do need alot of work BUT, I think BB has done well for the USMNT cause for example, Brazil, Dunga doesn’t give his team a certain style to play. The players come with that style and he as a coach just makes the formation where the players can fit in. I’m sure Dunga’s job is made alot easier cause of this. BB has to do plenty more, but the never die attitude can only get us so far. I’m sure if we had Charlie he could of made a huge impact, but only time can tell if he has some soccer superstar rise from the slums or if our nation team stays the same with only a few changes.
Oscar Mayer says
I will say it again and again and again. US Soccer is broken and it needs a wrecking ball now; not the PC we are getting from the establishment. The best player in the world “Lionel Messi” would never rise to prominence in the US because he doesn’t fit the prototypical “American” player profile. I see every weekend on the field, players that could become the next Messi’s, and they are consistently overlooked by are so called US Scouts and experts. We need to bring in some Brazilians to set up camp in the US and call it Samba USA. Let the true soccer experts teach us how to build a winner.
Gary Kleiban says
Well said Oscar!
But how about some Argentineans as well 🙂