e have entered a slow news cycle for the United States Men's National Team. The Nats' lack a proper competitive competition until next Summer. World Cup qualification is even further away. The transfer window closed with little movement; the biggest movement happening (Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, and Timmy Chandler) all coming to pass months ago. American soccer fans have turned their minds to the Euro leagues, and increasingly, to the close of the MLS season.
Here are a few musings for those who like their soccer martini garnished with a twist of patriotism.
1. Changing of the Guard
Youth players are crucial to the United States Men's National Team taking the next step towards ranking with the elite national sides.That said, the Yanks have lost a wealth of talent and experience from the pool this year. In Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra, we've lost 197 caps worth of experience this year as they gracefully retired from the national team. To put that in perspective, our recent match against the Czech Republic featured a roster with a total of 14 games of World Cup/World Cup Qualifying experience.The full-time and part-time captains' absences are a small part of the transition for the Yanks.
Oh yeah...Landon Donovan. We lost him, too. Whether you be pro or con, the USMNT did not have the all-time goal and assist leader available for our adventure in Brazil. Voluntarily. It was a bold decision, and we have every right to bitch. As of this writing, Donovan ranks Lionel Messi in goals per game, and odds are, he'll probably always have a superior ranking. He will always have a better goal per game rate then Diego Maradona despite the Hand of God. Will history give him the respect he deserves?
Despite missing out on this accomplished trio, the US advanced out of the Group of Death in Brazil. Hoping for better is okay, but it bears mentioning that we missed out on a lot of talent and leadership in Brazil. Maybe we should trumpet the US's advancement more than we do/did. At any rate, it would be nice to see Cherundolo and Bocanegra playing in Connecticut, too.
2. Youth is Served
217 caps. That was the total count for the starting roster in Prague 2 weeks ago. 136 more, and this group ties the 3 players I mentioned earlier. Despite their inexperience, they earned a 1-0 result against a full-strength Czech side that looks more impressive given the Czech's victory against World Cup semifinalists the Netherlands. This continued a good run of form in Europe for the Nats and showcased promising neophytes (Emerson Hyndman, Greg Garza, Joe Gyau). Calling it an unqualified success isn't a stretch. Go USA!
3. Youth is Served Part 2
Roughly half of the 1st choice U-20 squad traveled to South America earlier this month and strung together some pretty impressive results. Two victories against Argentine Professional reserve teams, and a 1-1 draw against the Argentine U-20's highlights the depth of talent in the youth ranks. Given there were more than a few absences from the squad due to professional duties, it's heartening to know that most of these guys are at least professional reserves. This is a new development at this level, and one has to wonder if it will be another 19 years before we see another Jordan Morris on the U-23 or National team. It feels like we're catching up with world's model for professionalism in the sport, and it's not difficult to cite the U-20's success in Argentina as prime evidence.
Share your thoughts. Is college soccer going the way of the dodo? Are we on the cusp of joining the elite soccer nations of the world, or is success at this level not indicative of how our youth talent will actually perform when they hit the senior circuit? Please add thoughts on the influence of MLS academies; one can't help but think they're contributing a lot to the pyramid these days.