Let’s just call it The Debacle. American soccer fans know what I’m talking about.
Since The Debacle I haven’t cared much for writing here. And I’ve been busy. But, of course, I’ve been busy before and that never stopped me from posting here before. (Well, sometimes it did.) But even when busy I usually found a way to write something - you know - as “preparation” for work or as a “break” from work. But since The Debacle I just wanted to stew and fume in silence. Hence my absence.
Well, that’s not entirely true. See, a few days after The Debacle I jotted down some notes on its aftermath but then I never found the time to convert them into something substantial and I certainly didn’t have the inclination to make that time. But they’ve been gnawing at me for weeks and it’s time to get them posted because it’s plainly obvious unless I post them nothing will ever be posted on this blog again. And I like this blog. I just have to get over The Debacle.
So here without much editing are my notes:
- Our Way. After the success of the 2002 World Cup US Soccer produced a DVD on the accomplishment. It was called “Our Way” and that phrase accurately captured the character of that team. In 2006 we didn’t play our way. If we’re going to be successful we have to do things our way. That means we have to play our game. If that means we lose, then so be it. The point is we’re never going to win unless we do it our way.
- Transitional Era. The reality is this cup came at a bad time for US Soccer. As all the post World Cup retirements attest, our player pool was in very much in transition.
- Prima Donovan. Landon Donovan is a very talented but very limited player. The sooner everyone realizes that the better. He should be on the team, but he is not the kind of player around which you can build a team. Things could have been different for Donovan, but it’s clear at this point he has reduced himself to a high caliber role player.
- Playing Soccer While American. (Some will get that reference.) We can never expect calls to go our way. It’s not because they’re against us, it’s because we’re Americans playing soccer. There will always be a presumption against us. That means we have to be better than both the other team and the referee. It’s not fair, but those are the breaks. We either learn to cope with that fact or we will forever fail on the world stage. If that means we have to be twice as good to get the result we’d get on an even playing field then so be it. We’ll just have to be twice as good.
- MLS vs Europe. For the moment the core of the team should be European players getting time (like Gooch) and MLS players looking to jump to Europe (like Dempsey). Career MLS players (like Pope and Donovan) should, at most, be role players on the team.
- We are hated. I knew this beforehand, but it bears repeating. When we lose billions are happy. Embrace the situation and stop whining about it.
- McTargetForward. We don’t necessarily need a big, lumbering, hard working target forward. I look forward to the day when US Soccer realizes this.
- MLS is both a problem and the solution. Our standout players at the World Cup generally came from MLS. The league can create solid soccer players. But it does not foster a truly competitive player – that is someone with the habits and mindset to deliver every single time he steps on the field. It is a significant problem that a star in Major League Soccer admits he wasn’t “tuned in” during the World Cup and laments that he doesn’t know why some days you’re on your game and some days you aren’t. Professional players in competitive leagues cultivate the habit of being “tuned in” and they know exactly how to make sure they’re on their game in every game. Major League Soccer fails to cultivate any of that. So Major League Soccer is a problem. But at the same time there is no other possible body but Major League Soccer that can solve these problems.
- Captain American’t. He said “we’re still a small footballing nation” and in the 2006 World Cup he did his best to prove that. Good riddance. I’ve had enough of “experienced” players. Speaking of experience …
- Experience and Innocence. Yup, that was the most experienced team the United States ever sent to the World Cup. I was right about the perils of experience.
- The Bruce. The 2002 World Cup (the one four years ago) accomplished one thing for us: it solidified our position as a powerhouse in CONCACAF. That was Bruce Arena’s ultimate accomplishment. He made us a power in CONCACAF. We can debate if we’re better than Mexico – but the point is Arena made that debate real. That was, however, all Arena was capable of doing. He accomplished this feat backing 2002. We’ve been stagnant ever since then. The bitter truth is it is four years past time to move on. (By the way, we’re going to learn a lot about Bruce Arena when he takes over the New York Red Bulls. And what we learn may not be pretty.)
Oh, and I take back everything I said about playing like buffaloes. (Maybe I should have said buffoons.)