It’s now been almost a month since the USMNT crashed out of World Cup Qualifying with the grace of a sloth in a foot race with a cheetah. So now is as good a time as any to weigh in on what went wrong, the current state of affairs, and how to move forward.
What Went Wrong:
Jurgen Klinsmann should get some credit for convincing some very good players to join the ranks of the USMNT in the buildup to World Cup 2014, but unfortunately, this is about the only thing Jurgen should get credit for. The 2014 tournament was an anomaly of performances from out of position players who were given little to no direction about a tactical strategy for each game. How it worked in that moment, we’ll never know.
After that cup, the team regressed back to the mean, and Jurgen left Bruce Arena with some work to be done in order to qualify. However, given the relative ease with which CONCACAF qualifications should be (basically 4 of the 6 finalists get to go to the World Cup), it should have been a slam dunk for Arena to put together enough talent to qualify. Instead, a lack of passion, desire, and commitment to being aggressive left the team searching for answers at the worst possible time. No need to hash out the specifics, the team and players just simply weren’t good enough at crunch time.
Now the team has failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and everyone is starting to look at the current build of the roster. Should longtime veterans still be active participants, or do the young kids get to run the show now? Most of the elder statesmen will now be too old to help qualify for the 2022 World Cup, so why not get more time for the younger members of the squad. The upcoming friendly with Portugal will be the first step toward recovery, and we’ll see if the next generation of players is ready to take the mantle and elevate the game to new heights.
Aside from getting a new coach and testing out the young players to find the next stars of the USMNT, there remains a lot of questions to be asked about the US Soccer system in general. Some of those questions will be answered sooner than later, as several strong candidates are trying to replace the incumbent Sunil Gulati as the President of US Soccer. With a newly elected official would come some potentially large systemic changes. Will those changes lead the USMNT out of the darkness and into a new Golden Age of US Soccer? The best thing to do is to support the team whenever possible, and keep voicing opinions where needed.
In a time of uncertainty, raise the bar and expect more.