How do you lose 30 years of progress in about 90 minutes? I give you the United States Men’s Soccer Team. Last night, the USMNT lost to Trinidad and Tobago 2-1, and a couple other things happened shutting the door on the United States’ 2018 World Cup hopes. This is the first time since 1986 that the World Cup will not have the United States. For reference, the MLS started in 1996.
Sure, this really stings the growth of Soccer here in the United States. There are still plenty of people who will watch soccer and the World Cup, but you lose the interest of the casual fan when you fail to qualify for the game’s biggest stage.
If you have not watched Taylor Twellman from last night, you should.
The question that needs to be asked is: Where do they go from here?
Start at the top. The leader of the USSF is Sunil Gulati. It should be a safe bet that he will not be at the top much longer. This was, probably, the final straw. The alienation of the Women’s National Team and the men’s team missing the World Cup, among other things, sealed the fate for him. In order to turn this around by 2022 (and 2026 when the United States, Mexico, and Canada host the World Cup), it has to be a complete tear down.
Next, you turn to the coach. Bruce Arena was never going to be the long-term solution for the USMNT. He was a band-aid to right the ship after the team got off to a less than ideal start in qualifying under Jurgen Klinsmann. There was promise, but a loss on home soil to Costa Rica is not the way to the World Cup. The USMNT went even further behind the 8-ball there. To get to the World Cup in CONCACAF a team needs to Win at home and draw on the road. Do that, and you’ll find yourself in the World Cup.
Even with the lack luster start, the team controlled their own destiny. All they had to do was win at Trinidad and Tobago and they’re in. That is a relatively simple task in the world of soccer. They didn’t, so here we are, beginning a tear down and a road to recovery.
Now, we turn to the players. There’s talent here, one cannot deny that. Christian Pulisic is the most talented player to ever play in a US jersey and he is only 19. What is sad is that he won’t be seen in World Cup until he is 23-24 years old. That is a shame. You also have John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin, Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta, and some other names here and there. United States Soccer has young talent and promise, which is something they are not used to. There will be more, but the door should finally close on the likes of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. These are names that US Soccer fans have become used to seeing every single game, but look where the team is… It won’t cut it anymore. It is time to start over. The status quo for United States Soccer has not been good enough.
The fact that the team fell off of a cliff like this is incredible. Remember when just three years ago a point blank shot on goal by Chris Wondolowski went wide? He makes that, US Soccer advances to the final eight in the 2014 World Cup. How do you do from inches away from that, to this? By doing the same thing year in and year out. It is time for the United States to stop doing just enough to qualify and start competing. It is not a lack of athletes, the United States has plenty of athletes, it’s about lack of talent and skill. That can help with the right coach. The United States needs a coach that understands how to develop and find young talent, wherever it comes from. The MLS, Europe, wherever. It can get much better than this, but there needs to be a complete change of mindset rather than doing just enough to qualify. Doing that can no longer be acceptable.
The United States can right this ship, but the road to 2022 starts now. There is no time to dwell on this, but the future of soccer, and international success in soccer, starts now. The USMNT is at a crossroads, which way will they go?
What are your hopes for US Soccer? Do you think a complete teardown is necessary? Who are your building blocks outside of Christian Pulisic? Let’s talk. You can find me on Twitter @Mhill_.