2018 World Cup Qualifying, Featured, October 2017, USMNT

Following Qualifying Failure, US Soccer Requires Change, from Gulati on down

The US huddle before their match against Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday night.

Neil W. Blackmon

The United States Men’s National Team is out of the 2018 World Cup, eliminated before the draw and it never had to come to this.

A cycle packed with more warning flags than a beach awaiting a hurricane riptide didn’t need to end this way, all scramble and hustle and panic and crushing sadness on a patch of soggy grass in the west Caribbean. It never should have come to this. There were plenty of nights and afternoons and even Sunday mornings where federation choices could have been more urgent, roster selections less forced, lineups and tactics more cohesive. There were plenty of “days between” to turn things right. Plenty of days and decisions and moments to make sure the US continued its streak of seven consecutive World Cups, dating back to 1990.

Instead, what was the most vital week-plus in US Soccer in two decades ended Tuesday night in surreal, astonishing, abject failure, with the US losing to an experimental, young but hungry Trinidad and Tobago team 2-1 on a muddy-sidelined, tall-grass but playable pitch at Trinidad’s Ato Bolden Stadium.

The first red flags and hints this cycle might be different- more harried, tense, complicated- came at the 2015 Gold Cup, where the US were continuously outclassed on home soil by inferior opponents. The US were pressed and outplayed by Haiti in the group stages, eking out a victory very much against the run of play. Then, in front of 60,000 loud, mostly red, white and blue clad fans in Atlanta (a full house in Atlanta just another preview of what was to come in this country during the cycle, as it turned out), the Americans were stunned in the semifinals by Jamaica, a country that had never won a competitive match on US soil.

There were many more failures to come, all met with narratives about progress and tales of growth and a federation moving in the right direction.

On Tuesday night, the foundations of those narratives caved in.

Sunil Gulati shrugged off the idea of long-term change Tuesday night. That’s probably because he must go too.

The sum of three years of soccer ended in collective failure and perhaps that’s why, in the underbelly of a muggy, stale-aired press room, it seemed strikingly disingenuous that US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati would go back to the his well of cautious statements, and offer the following:

“You don’t make wholesale changes on a ball being two inches wide or two inches in,” he said.

If that sounds familiar, it should, because that’s the well Gulati went to after the US lost the CONCACAF playoff in 2015 and missed out on the Confederations Cup, which, according to then technical director and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was “priority number one” for US Soccer. Priority number two, according to the Klinsmann power point, was to “qualify for the Olympics, and make sure our young players have the experience of playing in a great competition.” Hours before the CONCACAF Cup loss, the US Olympic team failed too.

The CONCACAF Cup and Olympic failures occurred two years ago this night, on October 10, 2015, at the Rose Bowl, and Gulati’s statements came in an equally sweltering but far more crowded Rose Bowl press room.

Perhaps October 10th is a cursed date for US Soccer. More likely, Gulati needs a better answer.

Setting aside the obvious fact qualification wasn’t lost in one night, but over ten nights and one year, Gulati’s continued caution started this mess, of course. Any polemic to be written- and they will be written- begins with the economics professor.

Gulati’s urgency to hire “his guy” sent him big-contract in hand to Jurgen Klinsmann after striking out on him in 2010, even after Bob Bradley won a World Cup group and played a stylish Gold Cup final against a full-strength Mexico.  And Gulati’s decision to double down on that big contract and extend Klinsmann after a 2014 World Cup where the US weathered a difficult group but performed poorly metrically seemed to defy an economist’s usual affection for weighing opportunity costs. It was a calculated gamble, I suppose, but one defied by soccer’s lengthy empirical calculations that second cycles fail- a phenomenon a younger Sunil had witnessed first-hand with Bruce Arena.

Klinsmann’s big ideas are useful as a CEO but put the US in a deep hole in the Hex. Klinsmann’s team was outcoached and outplayed by Mexico in Columbus, losing their aura of invincibility and three vital points in the process, and when, days later, they were humiliated in Costa Rica, Gulati finally had to make a change.

Had Gulati heeded history and acted sooner, he might have been able to bring in a different kind of manager, a visionary with a clean slate of ten games and friendlies and a Gold Cup to figure out the player pool and impose a style and attitude on a group of players craving discipline and leadership. Instead, he waited until the US were in a hole and then did the cautious thing, hiring a proven pragmatist. Asked why he waited, Gulati’s answer was largely the same as he offered Tuesday. “You can’t rush into these decisions,” he demurred.

Gulati needed a better answer.

Another person who shares blame with Gulati and certainly needs better answers is Bruce Arena.

Following the loss, the US manager answered multiple thoughtful, fair questions from the US journalism pool about the future of the US program with hardly surprising, but certainly disappointing deflection and defiance.

Hearing Arena Tuesday night, it was hard not to recall Jurgen Klinsmann’s command that American soccer journalists be less conciliatory, less accommodating, less deferential to positions of US soccer authority. Klinsmann understood that many of America’s soccer writers plied their trade from positions of passion, joy and a desire to grow the game at home. He urged them to “become part of the dialogue,” and even as he sometimes bristled at our criticisms of him, it was believable. These types of board-room, broad picture insights- not tactics and position-switches and depth charts, were always what Jurgen had right.

Listening to Arena Tuesday night, there seems to be only one plausible reaction. But you decide for yourself.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” Arena said, largely emotionless in his fact-of-the-matter New York drawl. “To make crazy changes would be foolish.”

On the contrary, Bruce, to not make changes would be crazy.

This probably starts with the manager, who clearly took the forgiving CONCACAF process for granted even if he’d vehemently deny it. He admitted it, or at least made statements probative of taking the process for granted Tuesday night.

United States’ Christian Pulisic, (10) is comforted after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match  in Couva, Trinidad, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

“This is a roster that needed multiple changes, had we qualified for the World Cup,” Arena said.

That’s odd coming from the manager who selects the players, and it forces one question and one conclusion.

First, if the roster was that flawed- why not fix it during the ten-plus months you held the job? This would seem in Arena’s job description, given that on assuming command Arena was always playing the role of faithful steward, forestalling retirement for a job he didn’t need. Undoubtedly, Arena was brought in as a stopgap, his job to put out Jurgen Klinsmann’s qualifying fire and see the team to Russia.

Second, the conclusion: you only wait to make the changes if you think not qualifying is impossible- or, at a minimum- highly unlikely. Arena’s arrogance was in thinking he would have time to evaluate the necessary changes later– he could get through the qualifying process, he believed, with a flawed roster.

Arena, of course, was the ultimate “cautious hire”, the manager with the World Cup quarterfinal credentials who knew the domestic league and had just enough tactical nous to right a rudderless ship. It’s ironic, then, that he would abandon the caution and methodology that got him- and the US- to Tuesday night, where a simple draw would have sent them to the World Cup next summer.

For seven games Hex games in charge, Arena had made multiple changes and used squad rotation to keep his players fresh, even as his tactics were at times unchanged. For seven games, it worked, and he utilized the same methodology to help the US win the Gold Cup as well this summer.

On Tuesday night, Arena gambled, abandoning the squad rotations and fielding the same eleven that decimated Panama in Orlando last Friday. It was the type of gamble the conservative Arena rarely makes, and it devastated the US, who came out of the gate flat, slow and complacent.

Knowing the US had played and trained for a week in hot weather, under extreme pressure, and after extensive travel and a limited training session thanks to a wet field, Arena abandoned the methods that had guided him through three CONCACAF World Cup cycles. The result was the most devastating defeat in the history of the US Soccer Federation.  When you make those sorts of mistakes, you don’t get to lecture credibly on the foolishness of change.

The players failed too, of course, and not just Tuesday night and not just Omar Gonzalez. No, the US was good enough to weather CONCACAF’s forgiving format and simply failed.

A talent pool that was and is the deepest in history was nevertheless hurt by injuries and inconsistency and, to be frank, a lack of high-rent district talent. Christian Pulisic is a marvel but now he’s been deprived of a World Cup, and with it, the stage to showcase his magisterial skills on the largest stage in sport. He also lacked persuasive talent around him, a testament, borne out by results, as to how US development has failed- missing multiple Olympic games as well as a U17 andU20 World Cup this decade.

For all the joy fans have taken in Pulisic, US Soccer has struggled this decade to deliver the goods, its anachronistic, top-down structure and elite kingmakers resistant to the types of structural changes necessary to truly modernize the sport in America.

A sober, open, transparent discussion about US development must happen now, and probably should have happened regardless of whether the US won or survived with a draw Tuesday night. That discussion must include concerted development academy and scouting reform, just to start. And no Bruce, nothing about that is crazy. Nothing about that is “two inches deep.” Everything about that is necessary.

2018 was always going to be a defining year for US Soccer. Now it becomes even more vital.

Assuming Gulati doesn’t resign as USSF president- and there’s no indication he will- he’ll face opposition in February (with a new term beginning in March). His job is determined by a committee of stakeholders, mostly lawyer and business suit and tie types that will appreciate the constant economic growth under Gulati as well as his astute guidance of the political aspect of the job, which includes his ability to basically get the 2026 World Cup awarded to the USA, Canada and Mexico without much of a fight.

But the contest, which was an afterthought Friday night in the glow of the Orlando rout, has now become interesting. Add not qualifying for the World Cup to Gulati’s resume and the list of failures smells to high heaven. The ardor incudes the failure to qualify for the World Cup, the alienation of a World Championship US Women’s National team and colorable equal pay complaint, the failure to qualify for two Olympics, a costly buyout for a bad tactician, unspent money in the coffers when there’s a pay-for-play pandemic affecting youth development, multiple antitrust lawsuits and a failed World Cup bid lost to Qatari slave labor. Carli Lloyd going off in a World Cup, a win over a historic Spain and Landon Donovan’s group-winner in Pretoria can’t wash away that stench.

Gulati must be held accountable, even if the Sword of Damocles doesn’t fall.

As for the next manager, Arena’s resignation should come quickly and without argument. Last Thursday in Orlando, he reminded the media “he was hired to qualify the team for Russia,” and boasted that the US “had a really great year.” Arena failed to do the job he was hired for and as a result, the US have not had a great year. He must resign.

As for the fans, the youth coaches, the parents, and the players in our country’s various domestic amateur and professional leagues, remember this.

Our sport- growing in America at the fastest, most healthy rate in its history- will be under siege, starting now. There will be all manner of hot takes, from shock-jock rants about the inevitability of continued failure to nativist hits about the sport not being “American” to the tried and true and absurd “best athletes” take to the “you’ll never be as good as South America or Europe I told you so” rants.

These takes will sting but that’s fine. Let them talk and have their time in the sun. They don’t care about what happens to the game in the United States anyway. They’ve either closed their mind or made their mind up and will wither away and quiet down as soon as the talking point loses news value. These people are a distraction.

Remember 70,000 people saw professional soccer in Atlanta last month on a college football Saturday. Remember 30,000+ regularly pack a football stadium in Cincinnati to see second-division soccer. Remember no sport grew more at the gate this decade than soccer in the United States. Take heart in the domestic game, don’t be dismissive of the fans of the global game, and keep forcing the dialogue about the game back home.

Move the dialogue forward.

In Chicago, the federation must move forward too.

The next managerial hire for the United States will be the most important in federation history. Steeled by the crushing failure of Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann’s 2018 World Cup cycle, this manager- or a collective brain trust functioning as a participatory democracy, must be someone with knowledge and appreciation of the US development apparatus and an understanding of where it internally creaks and fails. This manager must understand tactics or not be afraid to shed ego to someone lingering in the shadows that does. Ideally, this leader will have connections to both the expansive Mexican and Latino communities of American soccer and the important European connections US Soccer has spent years cultivating. These qualifications sound heady and hard because they are. The dialogue about the hire must begin now. The dialogue needs a committee that isn’t steered wholly or largely by Sunil Gulati, who has swung mightily and largely missed on all but one hire. The future of the federation- and a first World Cup for an exciting generation of young US players just bursting onto the scene- depends on it.

A collective exercise in systemic failure has brought the US to this place, somewhere due south of rock bottom.

As the great Sam Cooke sang, “A Change is Gonna’ Come.” Get on board or get out of the way.

Neil W. Blackmon and Jon Levy founded The Yanks Are Coming in 2009. Collectively, they’ve covered over 50 US matches since, including 20+ World Cup qualifiers. They’ve done so largely at their own expense, out of love and passion for the sport and game in the United States. Follow them on Twitter @nwblackmon and @TYAC_Jon.

Neil W. Blackmon

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  • Kirk Diggler

    But seriously, who the hell still plays a diamond?

  • larry

    OK. I read your missive through. Fine, but nothing, nothing new. Change from the top gets us change, to be sure, but no guarantees of anything. Things could, in fact, be worse and you do not present a new and substantive route to make things better. Moreover, you ignore the bottom line: the US lost, miserably so, with a performance that consisted of terrible luck in that the two T&T goals were outrageously unlikely combined with wholly inadequate performances by most of the attacking cadre, including Pulisic. The do-or-die winning behavior, traditional for the USMNT was almost totally lacking in this game as well as others in this and recent years. Who is responsible for that? Surely it is shared, but the primary failure is with the players; secondarily with the coaching staff who, clearly, were unable to build the attitude properly to carry the day. It is clear to me that the number one item in the job description for the next coach is a requirement that he enable the team, whoever is in it, to win road games in Concacaf. All else is secondary.

  • David Peisner

    Right on. Easily the most reasoned, articulate, nuanced piece summing up the current state of affairs for U.S. Soccer. One tiny correction (that only reinforces your point): Gulati doubled down on Klinsmann and extended his contract not after the performance in the 2014 World Cup but before it. BTW, while Gulati’s financial stewardship may have made USSF board members pleased, it’s hardly flawless. Bob Bradley had been making less than 500K a year as head coach. When Sunil hired Klinsmann, he gave him $2.5 million a year until late 2013 when JK renegotiated and got a raise to $3.2 million a year. What did Gulati get for his money? Klinsmann’s winning percentage was 2% better than Bradley’s and 2% worse than Arena’s (during Arena’s previous tenure). I’m no economics professor at Columbia, but that doesn’t seem like great value for money. My concern though is that because of the overall financial health of US Soccer–not to mention the soon-to-be-expanded field of 48 teams for the World Cup, which would seem to make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to not qualify again anytime in the near future–that there will be little appetite for the kinds of real, systemic change you advocate here. Because soccer is not the national sport, because it is not intertwined with our national identity (the way it is in say, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, England–other countries that have at times had to take hard looks in the mirror and assess what’s wrong), I’m not sure I can envision a makeover to the sport’s stubbornly stodgy infrastructure here that would make the any sort of long-term difference. I imagine, most in the position to make these sorts of shifts, will just see this failure as an aberration, a blip in the otherwise upward economic growth of the sport. The goal, instead, will be to return the U.S. to the status quo. It’s not all about who the U.S. men’s head coach is. While I’d cringe at the appointment of Tab Ramos or an MLS lifer like Peter Vermes or Caleb Porter or Jesse Marsch, it’s nothing against any of those guys, who all might have the goods to be a quality U.S. coach, but the message a hiring like that would send is the same message that Sunil and Bruce were giving yesterday: All is fine, nothing to see here. Ultimately, even a Carlo Ancelotti or Tata Martino is going to struggle against the massive bureaucratic apparatus that is US Soccer. Strangely, the kind of hire that we need is the kind of hire that Klinsmann was supposed to be. Someone transformational. In my opinion, that was the right instinct back then, just the wrong guy. As you pointed out, the changes need to go down to the youth levels. Everyone says “Let’s blow up the pay-to-play model,” and I fully agree. However, as someone who coaches youth soccer and helps to run an Academy and Select program, that is a lot easier said than done. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful analysis. Hopefully, there will be more of it from many quarters in the coming weeks, months, years.

  • disqus_vSCEayCycv

    Gulati should go for having no management sense. Huge extension to Ellis was unwise. Ditto decisions on Klinsmann and Arena. If all the board wants is to make money, ok. But eventually people stop going to see teams who don’t win. If Arena is sacked for this, so should Ellis for making a WC winner crap out in Rio.

  • Bill Anderson

    Unless and until the soccer media in this country are brave enough to ask the tough questions of players there can be no growth. This is a group of players who have squandered their opportunity. I can think of several who have been directly involved in the SACKING of 3 managers. We can’t keep sending the team out with the same failed players. How can we continually blame inept managers and misguided leaders while patting the “star” players on the back and telling them “great job” ?

    • grimm1111

      I swear, one of the reasons soccer is having a hard time catching on with the general public is because the existing soccer fans are such hipster douches. It sounds so lame when you appropriate British words.

      You don’t SACK a MANAGER, buddy. You FIRE a COACH.

      I’ll give you credit for this much, though… at least you said “soccer” and not “football.”

      So lame.

      • Bill Anderson

        Hey Einstein, our whole entire language is an appropriation of British words. But you are a douchebag when you use a French word like lame, or douchebag.

        • Martin 33

          Einstein was German- American , a dual national. He also filed a one time switch to play for the US, though I think he was partly trying to get away from his ex wife.

      • Jared Lehr

        The word Soccer was invented by the English. It’s an “Oxford-er”. Origin is Association Football Players were “Assoc-er’s”.

        I played and currently coach youth soccer, but I don’t really follow, b/c it’s too hard to catch all the games for your team. I can always catch the Philadelphia Eagles game, but I can’t get Comcast in my area, even though people all around can, so I can’t watch all the Philadelphia Union games (Even with MLS Direct Kick).

        If you can’t follow your team completely, it makes it less desirable to watch. Same goes for Premier League, Bundesliga, etc. I don’t want to watch random games.. I want to watch MY TEAM. I think that’s why soccer has a hard time catching on. It’s too hard to create larger, strong, loyal fan bases.

        • grimm1111

          I love soccer, but I hate the way it’s packaged and sold in the US. My parents both immigrated to this country from soccer-crazy nations… so I know what it looks like when it’s done the right way.

          The MLS is a peewee league, and the USMNT is a national embarrassment. American soccer fans are generally middle class, white, suburban hipsters… as are their players. They don’t represent the heart and soul of America the way that, for example, Brazilian soccer fans represent the heart and soul of Brazil. They represent a small portion of America.

          What you say is true – if soccer is not on TV, people won’t watch. But the problem is bigger than that.

          I think the people who run US Soccer today don’t want to be inclusive. They want to keep control of this country’s soccer in the hands of the white suburban soccer moms who, in the end, pay all the bills. But if they don’t expand the tent, the sport will never progress.

          If US Soccer really wanted to move the needle, they would stop ignoring the HUGE MEXICAN AND LATINO ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. That is your grassroots market right there, waiting to be tapped.

      • Martin 33

        Soccer is a British word. It is usually used in countries with other forms of “football” like the U.S., Australia, Ireland, etc.

        The Brits don’t have such conflicts.

        • grimm1111

          I don’t think the etymology of the word is the issue. What matters is usage. Most people in this country call the sport “soccer.”

          The notable exception to that is the few superfan douchewaffles who think it’s cool to copy everything European. But they come across as fake and try-hard.

          The second the MLS started naming teams “FC Dallas” and so forth, I knew things were moving in the wrong direction.

          I think Bruce Arena is a terrible coach, but he was right about one thing: the only way soccer is ever going to succeed in the United States is if our brand of soccer has a distinctly American flavor. It has to be ours.

          • Martin 33

            So you think names like Cleveland Force , Phoenix Pride, Cincinati Kids, Phoenix Rising, Rochester Rhinos, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Reno 1868 FC, Indy Eleven,San Francisco Deltas or Ottawa Fury are a move in the right direction?

            My favorite was Philadelphia Fever, “Catch it and die”

            I don’t. A good name is a good name.

            Real Salt Lake is a bad name because I never that that the Salt Lake was fake so why do I need to know that it is real?

            FC Dallas is simple and makes it clear that it’s a soccer team. Soccer in this country has been strongly influenced by the game in the rest of the world and to attempt to deny that is ridiculous.

            The Beatles were from England. They’ve never denied their debt to American music.

            Why should American soccer teams act as if they invented the game?

            The USMNT has always had it’s own ” distinctly American flavor” .Did you ever notice how much influence immigrants and dual nationals have had on all things American:

            ” Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin (Russian: Серге́й Миха́йлович Брин; born August 21, 1973) is a Russian-born American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur. Together with Larry Page, he co-founded Google. Brin is the President of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc.”

            After all George Washington, and a couple of other US Presidents were dual nationals who filed one time switched to play for the US.

            Why should the USMNT be any different?

            That USMNT distinct flavor? At the moment that flavor is a lot like liver. They tell me that most liver is overcooked but I still hate it. .

          • Kirk Diggler

            My favorite name for a team that doesn’t exist. Put a team in New York and call them Queens Borough Rangers.

            Atlanta United should have been called Atlanta Internationale aka Inter Atlanta. United is just overused at this point.

            Put a team in Boston can call them Boston Athletic (or Athletico). The baseball Athletics used to play in Boston.

            A team in Cleveland could be called Cleveland Town

            A team in Pittsburgh – Three Rivers Plate.

          • Martin 33

            QB Rangers. Awesome! I wanted there to be a San Francisco Treat, sponsored by Rice A Toni, the Bradenton Bunch, the Columbus Daze, the Springfield Homers, the Fargo Wood Chippers, the Saskatchewan Swans, the St. Paul Girlies, the Charlotte Webs, the Chattanooga Choo Choos and the Bergen Bada Bings.

  • grimm1111

    Surprise, surprise – a liberal economics professor, who has no soccer background and no management experience, sucks as a general manager for US Soccer.

    Soccer is about to take a huge step back in America, because the USMNT have embarrassed themselves and embarrassed America. Nobody is going to watch them, or the MLS. Because nobody wants to watch a loser.

    Soccer will remain a marginal sport in this country until it becomes more inclusive and can reach out more effectively to blacks, latinos, and southerners.

    Sorry, you’re never going to field a decent team if all your athletes are white suburban kids from Provo, Utah named “Dustin.” You need more diversity.

    • Martin 33

      I’m not a Gulati fan but he was VP of the USSF in 2000, and was elected President in 2006.

      Which means he has 18 years of experience at the highest executive levels of soccer in this country. Manager? No. Player ? No.

      But he ain’t inexperienced. And not all white kids are named Dustin.

      • grimm1111

        I was still pretty heated yesterday when I posted that… just unbelievable that they failed to qualify out of CONCACAF for God’s sake.

        But still, Gulati has to go. We don’t need bureaucrats and bean-counters captaining this ship, we need people who actually know what it’s going to take for our team to improve.

        I’m a big believer in Eric Wynalda for the job, and I hope he wins.

        As for the talent pool – I still believe that we’re never going to win unless we can grow the tent beyond suburban Kansas City. You have +50 million latinos in this country – bigger than the population of Argentina – and we aren’t even lifting a finger to try to include them in the development of our sport, despite the fact that they have loved soccer for generations and could enrich US Soccer greatly. Frankly, it’s a crime.

        Don’t you see the politics at work here? Suburban soccer-mom politics. These women send their kids to soccer camp, paying out the nose to do so, because they want their kids involved in a sport but they don’t want them mixing with the dregs that play football and basketball. These are the people who have enshrined “pay to play” and other nonsense as a paywall to protect their babies , and their power in the sport is a big reason why US Soccer has failed to take a meaningful step forward in the past 20 years.

        • Martin 33

          Politics is at work in everything. Money and success talks especially in America. As far as I’m concerned you can thank the most important soccer team in America, the USWNT, for the soccer moms and for a lot of the growth of the game in this country.

          They are the female equivalent of Brazil and America loves a winner not teams that lose to countries that can’t pump water out of their stadiums.

          “As for the talent pool – I still believe that we’re never going to win unless we can grow the tent beyond suburban Kansas City. ”

          Oh for God’s sake, ever hear of California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Texas? Ever hear of Landon Donovan , Claudio Reyna, Carlos Bocanegra, Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey? I’ll bet the only reason those guys ever were in Kansas or Missouri was because of something to do with do with SKC. I should add that I Kansas City is a great place to live and visit.

          “You have +50 million latinos in this country – bigger than the population of Argentina – and we aren’t even lifting a finger to try to include them in the development of our sport, despite the fact that they have loved soccer for generations and could enrich US Soccer greatly. Frankly, it’s a crime.”

          Are Tab Ramos, Hugo Perez, Celo Balboa ( noted Mexican TV pundit) , Fernando Clavijo, Reyna, Carlos Bocanegra, Joe Corona, Omar Gonzales, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Orozco, Juan Agudelo, Jorge Villafana, Jose Francisco Torres, Edgar Castillo, Herc Gomez, Jonathan Bornstein, Ventura Highway, and more than I can remember not authentically latino enough for you? Are they “fake” latinos? Jurgen even spoke Spanish or so I’m told.

          The USSF could always do more and should do so with our latin community and connections but your depiction of the USMNT as being completely bereft of latino influence or participation is horse manure.

  • Gregory Givens

    Arena is gone. The man currently who will make the decision on who to replace Arena is Gulati. We will remain in the cesspool for awhile because of our lack of leadership. That said I still love US Soccer – GO USA!!!

  • Gonzalo_Vergara

    OUTSTANDING!!! I would add: Hire Miguel Herrera as technical director. El Piojo will kick ass & not take crap from anyone.

  • Gonzalo_Vergara

    Strategically, we need to sit down & really think this one out. #ussoccer must ensure we NEVER AGAIN sit out world cup. Criticism at all evels is required. Tactically, begins with coaching. Hire @MiguelHerreraDT as coach–need someone who will kick ass & not tolerate shit. “The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel — these are the things what will endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events themselves.” Vince Lombardi

  • Taylor Smith

    Relegation and Promotion of clubs must be part of this discussion. The best-ranked clubs in the lower divisions (NASL) are promoted to the higher division for the next season, and the worst-ranked teams in the higher division (MLS) are relegated to the lower division for the next season. All nations in the world, except US/Canada, India and Australia, are organized in this format. The benefit of quality of soccer and fan entertainment is stronger and more important than the protection of investment from America’s closed loop system.

  • Martin 33


    Obviously you didn’t see the 2011 Gold Cup final. It was the most cowardly, craven humiliating piece of crap ever ejected from the USMNT’s nether regions until that farce the other night.

    Bob’s squad was playing poorly leading up to that game and he needed it to save his job, or at least make it harder to fire him.

    I can show you articles from ESPN during the latter stages of Bob’s tenure, when all you had to do what cut our “Bradley” and paste in ” Klinsmann” and it would have read just like a piece from 2016. Same whining and moaning, same complaints.

    Please don’t try to sell us this revisionist history that JK was worse than Bob. That’s just a lie.

    • I saw it, Martin. I respectfully disagree with your assessment. So do brilliant, well-regarded tactical analysts like Michael Cox, Raphael Honigstein and managers like Otto Hitzfeld. I’ll agree with them, not you.

      • Martin 33

        You are perfectly free to call the 2011 Gold Cup “stylish” if that floats your boat but it was still a humiliating loss, one that gave Sunil his excuse to axe Bob.
        So what part of your assessment did Cox, Honigstein and HItzfeld agree with?

        • Daniel Seco

          They all agreed with the tactical assessment, and the argument that the US took the game to Mexico, and attacked efficiently, despite not having as much possession. The game turned- according to Hitzfeld- on Cherundolo’s injury- and as Cox noted- the US adjusted at that point as well, playing deeper, only to have Gio hit the curler just above Lichaj’s head and Dempsey miss at the post down 3-2.

  • jbvok

    Let’s not overthink this.
    Iceland (pop. 330k) figured it out.
    It’s not about Arena vs. Klinsmann.
    The data are in.
    Rebuild from the street up.
    The best players are the best players b/c #STREETSOCCER.

    • synthmeister

      Yes, Iceland made it easy for kids to play soccer, they built lots of public indoor and outdoor fields all over the country.
      But they also invested heavily in training coaches all the way down to the kids leagues.
      Finally, Iceland allows/encourages 16 years old players to sign with pro developmental clubs, which is forbidden in the good old USSF.

      • jbvok

        17 turf fields, several indoor facilities (though few of the current national team players had access to those) and 111 street soccer pitches. And, yes, they invested heavily in coach education. Every kid who plays gets coached by a trained coach. We have great coaching education here as well via United Soccer Coaches. The real wild card is the unstructured play. Contact me with your email if you would like to see a more in depth 500 word white paper I have written. jeremy@mettlesports.com

  • The Gorn

    The fact that Gulati still has a job today tells you all you need to know.

  • synthmeister

    Allow, encourage, promote the option of talented 16 year player to sign contracts with US based developmental clubs. Currently this is not legal in the US, yet the rest of the FIFA universe operates this way. Any wonder why talented USA players stagnate in the critical 16 – 20 year age bracket? NCAA soccer is currently NOT set up to develop talent or reach all socio-economic classes by its very nature.

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