The USMNT and Missing the World Cup

What. The. Fuck. A day of reckoning for the USMNT. All they needed was a draw at lowly Trinidad and Tobago. In the immortal words of our amazing president: sad!

Today, Bruce Arena resigned. Fine. Expected. However, Sunil Gulati has not. His accountability needs to be had and he needs to exit this program. He failed. On the biggest level. You can’t just hang around because the US will be hosting a World Cup in 2026. That’s not how this works. Bring leadership and resign. Now.

But we can’t simply blame Arena and Gulati. The players are also accountable and will be viewed as a failure for the rest of their careers. Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore. Once pristine USMNT players now tarnished. Forever remembered as the group that just couldn’t get it done.

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And I fear for even Christian Pulisic. The rising star. The prodigal son. The next big thing. How will this affect his career moving forward? I want to hope that it fuels him even more, but who is to say. A failure of this proportion at that age, when you’re viewed as the best player, cannot be easy. And for what it is worth, he seemed to be the only player on the pitch Tuesday night who gave a damn.

But let’s break down these players. Because at every level, they sucked. And sucked might even be a compliment. They were an embarrassment to the sport and the country in that match. It’s liked they just expected to be handed a win.

Goalies

Tim Howard. Really? To lose on a shot from distance is embarrassing. Do we, as a nation, not have anyone better than Howard? This isn’t the 2014 World Cup anymore. That Belgium game is a long memory. This loss might be what you’re remembered for now.

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But seriously, why was he even in net? He is 38 and would be 39 if they qualified for the World Cup. He clearly has lost a step. Guys like Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, or Jesse Gonzalez should have been given the opportunity to play much earlier in the qualifying process. Those guys are the future. Not Howard.

Defenders

Okay, sure, stalwart center back John Brooks was injured and missed those final four crucial qualifying games. His presence would have surely helped and I can almost guarantee with certainty they would have qualified.

But he was injured. And the US had no other option at center back. Literally no one. Do they not teach defending in America? Why, with all the players playing, can the US not have a better center back pairing than Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler? How? HOW?

And then the full-backs. DeAndre Yedlin. Stud. But other than him, there is not one other decent option. Jorge Villafana? Are you serious? DeMarcus Beasley? What? Fucking Graham Zusi played right back for a spell. And sadly, he was actually better than every other single person to play in that spot in the last few years other than Yedlin. Pathetic.

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That own goal by Gonzalez was a comedy of errors by everyone. First, how Villafana does not block that cross is shameful. Abysmal defending. And then Gonzalez does the rest. He is out of position, his body is angled the wrong way, and just is far too casual on the clearance. He ends up scoring an incredible own goal. One for the history books.

Midfielders

I questioned why the US couldn’t develop any center backs. Well, the same can be said for defending midfielders. What is it with the US and defending? Do they not teach it? Every successful club has a solid holding midfielder. So why don’t the US?

I mean, Bradley could do that job admirably. But since Bradley is also left with the distributing duties, his defending takes a hit. I can’t blame him. Having to perform both jobs is asinine. That is why Bradley was at his best on the national team when Jermaine Jones was there winning tackles. That way Bradley could sit in that deep-lying midfield position and start effective counters.

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And let’s not forget Pulisic, who scored the only goal against T&T on Tuesday night. He looked up to the challenge, but he couldn’t do it all himself. On top of that, every time he got the ball, defenders crashed on him and usually fouled him to prevent any sort of rhythm. For the US to succeed, they need to play more effectively through Pulisic.

One final thought on the midfield: Fabian Johnson. Great job just leaving off an effective attacking player for who? Darlington Nagbe? Paul Arriola? Johnson is a top creative player and was sorely missed in that contest against T&T.

Strikers

Clint Dempsey was awesome. He is old now. No fault on him for the US not developing another striker. Jozy Altidore. You are simply not good enough. This was your World Cup. Your time to show the country and the world what you could do, and you came up flat. You will be over 30 by the time the next World Cup comes around. Your time is over. Please see the door.

I like Bobby Wood (24 years old) and Jordan Morris (22 years old) for the future. Both have great pace and are strong in the ball. The goal Wood scored to salvage a draw in Honduras was great. And unfortunately, Morris was injured for the US for these crucial fixtures.

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But on the point as a whole, where the heck are those strikers 25-30? You know, the guys in their prime. Again, can’t put this on Dempsey, who is 34. I feel for him, as this was  unquestionably going to be his last World Cup. He would have been an amazing super sub.

See Ya in 2022

Not to be. The US, with all their money and “development” actually don’t have that many top notch players. Everyone in US soccer needs to take a long look at themselves and change the culture of the sport in the country. The basic fundamentals need to be taught and taught right. The US is great at producing the athletes, but that’s about it.

And one aspect that is always missing when I watch the USMNT play is their lack of overall ball skills. Pulisic has them. Dempsey has them. But that’s about it. You go watch a mid-tier European squad play and you tell me that the US are better on the ball. There is a 100% chance teams like the Netherlands, Wales, Bosnia, and Ukraine would have qualified in CONCACAF, yet they are already outright eliminated. Then you still have nations like Italy and Switzerland who still have to play a two-legged playoff to qualify for the World Cup. That is why when Bruce Arena said that he’d like to see a “Hot shot European” team come over and try to qualify in CONCACAF he looked like an idiot. Yes. Let’s put Germany in this group and see them. Let’s.

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The US deserved every bit of this failure. They need to own it and move on. The miss will put soccer back in this country a few years. The sporting public always embraces the USMNT come every four years. Most leave, but some stick around and with the growing popularity of the EPL and Bundesliga in this country, as well as the improved MLS, more have stuck around. If the US want to become a better soccer nation, they need to care about more than just the US national team. Now they have that chance. We shall see what comes of it.

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