June 2010

US Soccer: What’s Next?

Well that was rough. It seemed as if we had the kind of draw that comes once every three or four World Cups, a legitimate chance for the USMNT to get into the semis. It felt as if we would be able to ride the momentum of a last second goal all the way to the world’s version of the final four. Alas, it was not meant to be. The final African nation powered on by blasting plastic horns took down the Americans and we are left with our beers nearly empty and warm, or maybe that was just me. What follows are a couple of my questions for the next four years…please add yours and comment on mine.

First and foremost for me is the fact that a forward for the USMNT has not scored a goal in the World Cup since June 17, 2002. Let that settle for a minute. Brian McBride found the back of the net in the 8th minute against the Mexicans, and no other forward has been able to repeat that feat in two World Cups. That, my friends, is an issue. Say what you will about the performance of the back four or some of the roster decisions made by Bradley, but somebody up front needs to score. Plain and simple. Moving forward, who is it going to be Jozy, Herculez, Davies? We need someone up top that can score when given the opportunity, and we had plenty of opportunities. Why is this? Is the American soccer culture too structured? Do we not have the ability to play the “beautiful game”? Do we rely too much on the midfield to provide creativity? I’m asking because I don’t know, and it doesn’t seem that anyone at the US Federation knows for sure either.   

Where do we go from here in terms of leadership? Is Bob Bradley going to be shown the door? I think he soon will be, but where will his replacement come from? The President of the US Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati believes that we are capable of more. I have got to agree with him. Gulati and Bradley are set to have a meeting of sorts after the conclusion of the Cup, if I were Bradley I’d be sending out resumes. Do we make another run at  Jurgen Klinsmann? Would he even be interested this time around? And if Bradley gets canned where will he end up? MLS? Overseas?  

Finally, can the MLS effectively produce world class talent? I believe that this may be an overlooked aspect of the make-up of quality national teams. While many of the top talents of any individual nation may play their club ball outside of the county, many of the role players and those essential pieces to solid teams play at home. Is the MLS competitive enough to produce the talent needed to assemble a top tier national team?   

Clearly we are left with more questions than answers after that premature exit. At least we’re not French.

Dru Boyer is a contributing writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at dru@yanksarecoming.com.

Dru Boyer

  • Neil W. Blackmon

    Nice job Dru. I think as forwards go, we’ll have to hope that Davies recovers and Adu figures something/anything out… (he could score as an attacking center mid)— Altidore is bound to get better and I think he’ll score in a World Cup– but he needs help, as the Ghana game suggested.

    As far as coaching– the mantra should be simple: if you let Bradley go, make sure it is an upgrade. What I mean is– don’t move laterally in class– ie…Dominic Kinnear.

  • Dan Cooper

    Hey Dru. I agree with you that the US needs a striker. Exactly how that happens I’m not sure- you can’t just pick one off a tree… but I think there is a bigger issue in player development in America. I appreciate that it isn’t the ‘American Way’ (I’m a Brit living in Atlanta) but in my opinion the college system causes a big problem. Turning professional at 21, 5 years after most of your peers around the world is just too late. If more players followed the path of Michael Bradley and learnt their craft at an early age in a lower European (or even South American) leagues then I’m confident the US would have a larger crop of higher quality players to select from.
    Klinsmann would be a fantastic manager (if he would take it on) but he would need to be given a long time to succeed. If you look at what is happening with the German team then you can see that the formula that he started and Joachim Low continued is coming good. Of course, the problem then goes back to the number of good players to select from…
    All in all I think the US have nothing to be ashamed of from this World Cup Performance. Definitely a missed opportunity, but once again, they have played like a team and become greater than the sum of their individual parts. Something my beloved England would do well to try to emulate.

  • dan

    1) I think it’s unfair to look only at the world cup games when making this argument. Altidore and Davies both had great qualifying campaigns. Sure it’s a strange stat that our strikers haven’t scored in a world cup since 2002, but thats only 8 games and 7 goals. Too many games without a striker scoring? yes. Unheard of? no.

    2) I think Bob Bradley has done an amazing job. He stepped into a hard position as a temporary fix, and earned the right to stay on. There are two sides to this argument, as far as I can tell. Either you think “He’s done a great job, why would be get rid of him?” or you think “He’s done a great job, and largely because of him the team is now in a position that it can continue developing with a new manager.” For me, it’s the natural time to make a switch. And besides, you can’t feel bad for the guy: he’ll head over to Europe and continue to develop his career too.

    3) I’m not sure the MLS is creating players at this point that can fill national team roles. But it is creating players that can go overseas to play (Howard, Dempsey, Altidore, Gomez…), and from there fill national team roles. Obviously there are some quality guys in the MLS (Bornstein, Donovan, Findley…), but from a national team perspective I think we would all prefer that they go overseas sooner rather than later. The MLS is undoubtedly getting better. The time will come, patience…

    Other question marks: Do we have the young talent coming up to replace some of our old lynchpins, particularly in defense? The average age of our WC defender is (was) over 28 years.

  • Nepotism be damned, I do agree with my Rt Hon friend Mr Cooper – US College players would learn far more getting knocked from pillar to post in Leagues 1 and 2 of the Coca-Cola Championship in England than in their own system.

  • Amy

    Yep– and the proof is in the pudding– even the US nationals who attend college do better when they leave it early– see Stu Holden and Mo Edu who left for MLS before they were seniors. Charlie Davies and Alejandro Bedoya are exceptions that to some extent prove the rule– and neither played in the World Cup.