Ladies and Gentlemen, Once again, it’s Saturday in America. And it is gameday in Gainesville, so we all know I’ll be well on my way to blackout shortly. Since we last got together our beloved USMNT has lost two consecutive matches 1-0 to the likes of Costa Rica and Belgium. The talking heads in Chicago, as well as your favorite German and his coaching staff have continued to reiterate the same phrase, “It’s a process”. Certainly we did not expect the USMNT attack to magically turning into the free flowing style of Barcelona, but many did expect better than a 0-2-1 record during Klinsy’s first three matches. This may sound like an overreaction from one of the more outspoken Bob Bradley defenders, but my faith in Klinsy is a little shook up at the moment. The bottom line is this: it took Bradley 3 years to lose to a CONCACAF opponent on American soil. Klinsy accomplished the same feat in less than a month. I am tired of hearing the same two excuses from analysts and fans across the country. The first excuse was the one I previously touched on, “It’s a process.” This whole “take our time” mentality is complete horse manure. Since 2006, the USMNT has played in 95 international matches, which averages to roughly 16 games per year. The reality is that our national team does not get all that much time to work together and this “process” has to end at some point. I understand that training camps help build a team dynamic, but nothing can replace live game action. Every time I hear Klinsy or the USMNT suits use this tired phrase, I can only think of Allen Iverson and his practice rant. Just imagine Klinsy at the postgame mic after the next round of friendlies if the USMNT is still winless: “Friendlies, we talkin’ about Friendlies. Not a match. Not a match I go out there and die for!” Every match matters, let’s all stop acting like 1-0 defeats are moral victories.
At the same time, a large majority of the USMNT fan base seems happy with the USMNT play. These jacklegs walk around acting like we are 3-0 scoring 8 goals a match with Klinsy at the helm. This glass half full mentality sounds a little something like this, “I know we lost the game, but damn did we look sexy knocking the ball around. I can’t wait until we get it together in the final third.” I got news for you clowns, looking good does not always mean playing good. Ryan Leaf, ever heard of that guy? There are no moral victories, especially in sports. If the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team played a tight game against the USSR in Lake Placid, but lost 1-0, do you think anyone would care? Of course they wouldn’t because results matter, not how it all went down. People care about that game because the US won. The idea that there are such things are “good” losses is a notion for 8 year olds or overcompensating parents who can’t come to terms with the fact that their baby is not the special snowflake they thought they were. For the record, I’m all for abolishing “participation trophies.” If your Little League squad went 2-13, you don’t deserve a trophy. Kids need to learn about failure early. But that rant is for another time.
Let’s look at a USMNT example, the 2009 Confederations Cup Semifinal win over Spain. Anyone who watched that game knows we got beat all over the field in terms of possession, shots, and overall play. The USMNT strategy was to sit back, absorb pressure and counter attack. Luckily, we managed to finish off two chances. For the last 30 minutes, much like the final ten in Lake Placid, the game was a block party, with USMNT defenders sacrificing their bodies to stop Spanish attempts on goal. Luckily, the Yanks were able to walk away the victory. Anyone who watched that game and thought the USMNT was the better team that day is just downright crazy. Spain was clearly the better team, but no one cares because the history books will only say the result was 2-0 to the USMNT. And Spain cared too. Ask any of them. Or watch a video of their revenge this summer.
Another example, the Dutch almost won their first World Cup last year with an overtly physical–some might say thuggish– style of play. They knew they were no match for Spain in the midfield, so they wanted to rough a few guys up and slow the game down. Guess what? It almost worked. When it comes down to penalties to decide a match, there is simply no telling what is going to happen. Sure, most of the international soccer community was outraged with the Dutch tactics, but if they had won the game, it would barely be a footnote in the FIFA history books. The message is simple: results are what matters. Maybe I am in the minority in thinking that I would rather win than look good. I don’t care. I would rather be lucky and win then play wonderfully and lose. It’s the same reason I wear a bike helmet. Sure, I look like huge nerd, but I would rather look like one of the guys from Revenge of the Nerds, than look like an underwear model and have no higher order brain functions.
All Klinsy’s talk of a new offensive style of play for the USMNT has led to a huge lack of attention, from the media at least, on what the real weakness of the team has been, our defense. As previously mentioned, the USMNT has played 95 games from 2006-2011. During that time we have a record of 49-30-16. Sure, that record is not all that terrible, but you also have to remember that these games include early round WC qualifying were we steam roll teams like Barbados 8-0. The larger point here is not our record, but the disturbing trend of how often the USMNT gives up the first goal of the match. In 95 games since 2006, the USMNT has given up the opening goal 35 times. That means that the USMNT has to come from behind in roughly 37% of all games played in order to secure any type of result. This type of defensive effort is, in a word, unacceptable. I understand that an American audience wants to see more goals scored, and the hiring of an offensive minded coach was an attempt to appease this growing section of American fans, but not giving up goals is just as important as scoring them. You can win a lot matches by playing great defense and grinding out 1-0 victories. At the same time you can go with an all-out attacking style and lose a lot of matches 3-2. I know what I would choose, but I don’t think Klinsy has the same opinion. If our style is simply going to be trying to outscore teams, we should be fine within CONCACAF play. However, against any real opposition, we won’t stand a chance.
I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little with my, “the sky is falling rant”, but at some point, fans and analysts alike are going to start looking for results, not just a building process. Hopefully the next round of international dates will see the USMNT walk away 2-0, and everything will be right in the world. If we end up winning those games by some absurd score line like 4-3, I will still be very concerned. A distinctly attacking style is good for the USMNT but let’s not forget about the other side of the ball.
Looks like this week’s gathering went from Happy Hour, to “Puck’s Cranky Hour” real fast. At least I still have some free advice.
PUCK’S FREE ADVICE:
Looking for a way to keep your wardrobe “fresh”? Check out one of the most absurd websites I have ever seen, www.stunnerofthemonth.com . Essentially, you sign up and for 9.99 a month these clowns send you a new pair of “Stunners” that will apparently keep your swag and street cred up. Trust me, it’s worth the investment, they made be made of cheap plastic made in China, but I’ve spent a lot more money on stupid jokes than 10 bucks a month.
I need a Rossi Drink.
Sorry for partying…
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