Tuesday, June 16, 2009

USMNT: One Day Later

In the wake of yesterday's loss, there was a lot of UF backroom banter about the state of the US Men's National Team. It was mostly reactionary, but that's understandable.

After holding a 1-0 lead over the reigning World Champions for 65-odd minutes, the US promptly let in a trio of goals and lost rather convincingly on the score sheet.

It was all made worse by the fact that the goal that turned the game was scored by a kid from New Jersey. Oh and it was a shot from 30 yards out because nobody could be bothered to close him down. Salt in the wound was provided by the guy who split open Brian McBride's face.

We blew a chance to—at worst—steal a point from Italy and now we're staring at Brazil followed by an Egyptian side that suddenly doesn't look as crappy as the team that lost a World Cup qualifier 3-0 last week.

The frustration from the Yanks among us was basically this:

—We fought bravely against Italy in 1990 and lost 1-0. No shame in that.
—We fought bravely against Brazil in 1994 and lost 1-0. No shame in that.
—We rolled over like cheap hookers at the United Christmas party in 1998, so we'll skip that.
—We fought bravely against Germany in 2002 and lost 1-0. No shame in that (but I still hope Torsten Frings gets Super AIDS).
—We fought bravely against Italy in 2006 and drew 1-1. Even though we were a man down for almost the entire second half. No shame in that.
—Yesterday we blew a 1-0 lead and fought hard before we got beat by Italy. No shame in that.

That's 20 years of near misses. And the more we miss, the more 2002 seems like an aberration. As one UF'er put it: No more moral victories, just victories, please.

But we don't have any regular players at any of the world's top clubs. Perhaps the best we have is Tim Howard at Everton. Hell even Iceland has produced GuĂ°johnsen, who plays for FC Barcelona.

The only regular position player we have in the EPL, La Liga, or Serie A is Clint Dempsey at Fulham. And when he puts on a US shirt he looks absolutely ordinary. The talent gap between us and them is persistent.

Still, after not even qualifying for the World Cup once between 1954 and 1986, we've made every tournament since 1990, and are in good qualifying position for 2010.

As angry (or just maybe disappointed) as we were yesterday, our opponents maybe saw things differently:

I think because they created problems for us with they played, the tension tended to grow. But then in the end, we managed to get the ball and get more into the game. They were well organized and made it quite difficult for us, especially their number five player (Oguchi Onyewu) and 17 (Jozy Altidore), who caused us lots of problems. When their player was sent off, it was not that easy because they are a very strong team, Yes, we won, but it was not easy.
That's Marcello Lippi, the Italian manager. Either he's playing good politics, or he was impressed with the way we played.

So how bad is it for the US? Are our expectations unrealistic? Are we close to being a top 10 squad? If not what does it take to turn the corner?

Or are we going to continue to fight valiantly against the world's best and continue to come up just short?


EbullientFatalist said...

Or are we going to continue to fight valiantly against the world's best and continue to come up just short?


corky said...

First time commenter here. Love the blog.

2002 was an aberration. The US caught Portugal napping and then drew the one team they knew how to beat in the round of 16.

Until we find a game-changer (I still have hopes for Adu), we will always be that scrappy team that is super-annoying to play against. However, it means that unless we give maximum effort, our results will be the same as they are now.

I don't get too angry -- we fielded a semi-pro team in 1990. That was only one generation ago.

phil said...
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phil said...

No, we're not close to being a top 10 side. Here's some of the things we need to get over the hump:

1.) A real manager, one not beholden to US Soccer and without a vested interest in selling the MLS as an internationally competitive league. Someone like Klinsmann. Or, you know, Klinsmann.

2.) As corky mentioned, a game-changing player. Maybe Altidore can be that player, but he's far too young to be saddled with that burden in 2010. So, not a lot of hope here unless Adu emerges and Torres' maturation continues at an even more rapid pace.

3.) A holding midfielder who isn't completely reckless (gives Clark the mal occi), but still has some real steel in the middle. Clark needs to get coached up and get some discipline.

4.) Practice like a real team. Enough with the cone-running bullshit. Of course, this likely doesn't happen as long as Bradley is around, because he seems to think this is an U17 team.

Signal to Noise said...

Honestly, I'm with Phil on this one. Get an outsider, an internationally respected coach. Other soccer federations do this without any compunction in order to get better for Cup runs. Pride doesn't mean shit if you're stagnating. Bradley's done what he can with what he has. I don't think firing him now does any good, but look up someone else for 2014 and beyond.

But it is a massive accomplishment where the USMNT is now EXPECTED to make the World Cup and not doing so would be a major disappointment.

Precious Roy said...

Remember we had Bora for 1994, so it's not like we've never had a foreign manager.

Crazy to think that since then our only USMNT managers have been Sampson, Arena, and Bradley.

corky said...

Why can't US Soccer bring on a foreign guy to be assistant coach and help Bradley with tactics? There's got to be a few older Dutch/German/Italian coaches around who don't want to be head coach but would like to live in the US and chase American tail in their spare time.

G said...

Can't help but wonder if Lippy is patting us on the head like a little kid. It is frustrating that tone doesn't translate.

I third Klinsmann. I understood the reason they didn't hire him is he wanted control over the youth program. If that's true, I wonder if we would not have missed the next Rossi. Klinsmann was perfect - knowledge of European tactics but wants to live in America. I remember his daughter got hammered for wearing an American bikini during the last world cup. Understands America, lives in California, knows our culture but still knows Europe. What more could we fricking ask for? Getting the chosen one for a year free?

Precious Roy said...

Depends which Klinsy we get: The one that managed Germany to the semis of the last WC or the one that managed Bayern Munich last season... until he got fired that is.

Spectator said...

The thing that worries be about Klinsy are the rumors that Joachim Low actually ran the German national team and Klinsy was just the figurehead who pumped his fist on the sideline whenever they won. Seems like this was kind of confirmed by the performance with Bayern.

But, would I like to see Klinsy take over from Bradley? In a heartbeat. I figure he'd be motivated as hell to rekindle his reputation and to be treated like a savior.

Also... holding midfielder. Jermaine Jones, who really does seem like a hothead but God knows the USMNT needs some more grit.

Consigliere said...

Depends which Klinsy we get: The one that managed Germany to the semis of the last WC or the one that managed Bayern Munich last season... until he got fired that is.

Bayern was actually decent last year under Klinsmann, despite some personality conflicts in the locker room. I'd still take that Klinsmann, still better than anyone homegrown.

EbullientFatalist said...

I think we need to move past Klinsy and start asking deeper questions about what kind of team do we have, and what strategy best suits the players we currently have. I believe we have the quality to always get into the final 16 - hell, in 2006 we had lost a terrible game to the Czechs, drew the Eye-ties, and still held our destiny going into the final half of the last group game. Bradley has shown himself incompetent both in managing the team and developing a certain cohesion between the players. If foreign coaches are good enough for England - saying much? - then a foreign coach is good enough for the OOO-sah.

Personally, I think a manager from Germany or Italy would best suit our team; the make-up of the MNT is well-suited to the type of footie both those countries are adept at playing.

Precious Roy said...

You don't need a squad packed with world class players (see Greece, Euro 2004) with the right coach and the right tactics marginal talent can win.

Of course I'd rather not play like that Greek team played.

30f said...

The USMNT seems to choose, time and again, safety over creativity. Defense over offense. Organization over attack. There is certainly a time and place for that - but if that time is 'always' we are going to linger right where we currently are in the world soccer landscape.

I have fumed recently over the lack of Adu in the line-up, but he is just a symbol for what is wrong (to me, anyway) with how USSF goes about things. No one (or six) player will make the US better than Italy - but at least let's give it a shot.

I get the feeling that Bradley treats ever USMNT game like a CONCACAF qualifier away to T-N-T where we desperately need a draw to advance. No matter what the game he trots out a couple of defensive mids in front of the back four - both of whom (Clark and Junior) are serious risks to get thrown out of every match.

Yes we are better than where we were a a decade ago. Yay! Now lets move on. Maybe that means Klinsmann, maybe not. I am tired of the feeling that my national team is holding on by its fingernails - because holding on only means we'll end up right here again tomorrow.

The TJK said...

First of all, can we all give Ricardo Clark a break for a second? That was a preposterous red card. Let's give him a few more run outs before writing him off.

Fortunately for both Bradley and Clark, discipline is something that can be taught. They're both young; they won't be such liabilities for long.

Apart from the fact that he lives in California, I don't know why everyone thinks Klinsmann is the answer. He took the hosts to a 3rd place finish, which is nice and all, but they're supposed to get that far. They're Germany. He also contrived to not win the Bundeliga with its most talented team, and presided over the most lopsided game (first half?) in Champions League quarterfinal history.

Does this mean he would be terrible for the US? Absolutely not. I'm just not sure why he's automatically considered the right solution for US soccer by so many people.

mk said...

You must recall what Klinnsman did with Germany before 2006. He overhauled their system of training and the 'good old boy' network. He dumped most of the veterans from WC2002 and Euro 2004 and picked young unknowns at the time namely Schweinsteiger and Poldoski(sp) as his new German team. He didn't live in Germany during the build up to the WC, which pissed off the country. They lost to Italy 4-1 one month before the tourney. Beckenbauer called for his head. The Kaiser for god's sake!!! Nothing was going well, but Klinnsey stuck to his plan and overachieved his side to a 3rd place finish. That's the kind of coach we need. Someone who is not afraid to bench Dumpsey when he's not in form. Someone who knows the American footballer and the American culture.

p.s. - Bradley sucks.