As a country, we are still in a World Cup blues after the United States flopped harder than the Falcons against the Patriots in Superbowl LI, after they carelessly blew their chances like Paris Saint-Germain against Barcelona in the Champions League, and after they broke the hearts of die-hard fans, similar to what the Astros did against Dodgers in the World Series. That being said, the United States Soccer Federation needs improvement in the league and the national team. Change is imminent.
On the last day of the World Cup qualifiers, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team prematurely popped their champagne bottles and left last place Trinidad & Tobago with a ticket back home after a shocking 2-1 loss, having beat Panama 4-0 days before.
Prior to their loss, the North American hotshots were seen receiving piggy back rides over a moat in the Trinidad and Tobago stadium, giggling as if they knew what was ahead of them, and critiquing the condition of the field. The unpredictable loss paved way to an insane last day of qualifiers where Panama and Honduras dramatically bounced back to win and qualify into next summer’s World Cup.
To add insult to injury, Iceland, the nation of 335,000 people, was in celebration mode as they shocked the world of soccer by qualifying to the World Cup of Russia 2018 for the first time.
“The gloves should have been off years ago,” ex-USMNT player Taylor Twellman expressed. “We should have been having real criticism.”
Time to deliver some “real criticism” on the US Soccer Federation.
Arrogance, unawareness, failed leadership, and lack of concentration, heart, and passion were all predicaments that the USMNT faced between a remarkable 2010 World Cup run and their now famous elimination.
Players that were past their prime shouldn’t have been called up. Comparing rosters from 2010-2017, an outrageous 14 players stayed in the squad.
The most decorated players are goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, defenders Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, and DaMarcus Beasley, midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley, and strikers Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
These players combine for an average age of 32 years. That’s the age most players retire, unless you’re Zlatan Ibrahimovic (35) or Cristiano Ronaldo (33).
For the last game of the World Cup qualifiers, then-manager Bruce Arena called up Chris-freaking-Wondolowski. He famously missed a sitter against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup that could have made a huge difference.
Only a few players like Gyasi Zardes (26) , Jordan Morris (22), and Darlington Nagbe (27) made the cut as the “young guns”. And they are yet to make some sort of impact internationally and in the MLS. Their time is ticking.
Furthermore, former coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena continuously changed players and formations, never finding a solid group of 11 main starters.
A change at the helm is necessary. President of the USSF Sunil Gulati has reigned since 2006 and he’ll likely seek re-election. However, this upcoming election will see a possible run from heavy favorite NBCSN analyst Kyle Martino, Boston-based lawyer Steve Gans, and former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda.
Chief Correspondent for “Goal” Peter Staunton said that, “this is a risk still associated with the widespread ‘pay-to-play’ system in the US, where parents have to shell out for their youngsters to participate with elite youth clubs. Without that money, or a lucky break…then talents from lower socio-economic backgrounds slip through the cracks.”
Unlike Major League Soccer, Europe’s youth system is immensely high quality. Dutch club Ajax’s youth system offers everything for their young players for a small yearly fee of 12 euros. Said system has created and evolved such stars like Patrick Kluivert, Luis Suarez, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
New York Times Magazine contributor Michael Sokolove writes, “Parents pay nothing except a nominal insurance of 12 euros a year, and the club covers the rest… Promising young players outside the Ajax catchment area usually attend academies run by other Dutch professional clubs, where the training is also free, as it is in much of the rest of the soccer-playing world for youths with pro potential.”
It’s like getting paid for attending college and becoming richer afterwards.
In the USSF, the president does not get paid for his services. Gulati earns his income as a professor at Columbia University. Therefore, we need to pay the person in charge. It’s real simple.
Former Barcelona FC and current Atlanta United coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, echoes the argument of a better youth development program.
“There needs to be a bigger demand in terms of preparation,” says Martino. “I think the academies have to have a higher demand of how they prepare players.”
In terms of the national team, youngsters from the Under 17 – Under 23 system need to be given the opportunity to get senior experience, so by the time the World Cup of 2022 arrives, these players will have the experience and skill to resurrect a fallen soccer nation.
In those ranks lie: goalkeeper Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), defenders Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Eric Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City), and Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Spurs); midfielders Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie (Shalke 04) and Tyler Adams (NY Red Bulls), and forwards Andrew Carlton (Atlanta United), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), and Timothy Weah (Paris Saint-Germain).
Revamping key parts in the USSF like the Spanish and German soccer federations have done in the past will pave way to becoming a soccer powerhouse around the world. Youth matters, so make it a priority to get those players up and running, ready to take on challenges.
In their last international friendly of 2017 against Portugal, the USMNT called up some of the youngsters previously mentioned. Weston McKennie debuted with a goal, and Tyler Adams was an engine. Both offered a bright future for the Stars and Stripes as the friendly finished 1-1.
Yet it appears the USMNT miraculously will participate in Russia 2018 World Cup in a tough Group L, where the likes of Italy, Netherlands, and Chile will also be placed in. What a group stage that could have been.
On a serious note: let us hope that by the time of the World Cup in 2022 that the United States aren’t on the outside looking in again.