As a country, we’ve doing a lot of winning this year (SO MUCH WINNING). The level of winning is such that you almost have to suspend disbelief to comprehend what actually happened. The US Men’s National Team, for the first time since a lot of the player pool has been alive, won’t be a participant in the FIFA World Cup. In other words, it’s time to do some scapegoating.
This is a time honored tradition in the United States, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t start with the real cause of the problem- Jurgen Klinsmann. Starting off 0-2 (albeit in 2 of the 3 hardest fixtures in the Hexagonal) was simply too much for the team to overcome against the Murderer’s Row that is CONCACAF. We’ll go ahead ignore the fact that the 12 points out of the remaining 8 games was the worst performance by a US team in qualifying since the 6 team final round format was adopted in 1998. Ok, maybe it was the roster that Arena inherited. Yes, that’s certainly it. Bruce said it himself.
"One of the things that was confusing as I came in and evaluated the rosters was there was just too many players called in for whatever reason from everywhere and no consistency," - Bruce Arena
The blunt New Yorker who tells it like it is- believe me- was certainly spot on in this observation in June right after he called in 26 of 27 players Klinsmann had called in the previous year (the lone exception being Jorge Villafaña). It was obvious to many in June and even before that, Arena would certainly fix the roster and tactics that saw the USMNT humiliated by a semifinal appearance in Copa America a mere 5 months before. Really, that was only one in a series of tumbles over Klinsmann’s tenure.
There was the home loss to Mexico in the friendly confines of the Rose Bowl which ultimately kept the US out of the very important Confederations Cup. There was the loss against Jamaica where the US was played off the field. Failing to defeat pitiful Belgium in Brazil after failing to win their group was clearly a red flag, and the infamous article that got a journalist fired probably should have been a warning that Klinsmann was in over his head. His insistence on attacking the knowledge of the fans, the level of competition in MLS, and the construction of youth soccer in the US were consistent reminders that Klinsmann had no idea what was wrong with American soccer. Frankly though, it wasn’t even a problem with one German; it was a problem with all of them.
“Players on the national team should be–and this is my own feeling–they should be Americans. If they’re all born in other countries, I don’t think we can say we are making progress.” - Bruce Arena (March 2013)
“Jurgen Klinsmann had a project to unearth talent around the world that had American roots. But having American roots doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country.” - Tim Howard (January 2017)
"I wouldn't feel as good about it if we had a team full of players that didn't really grow up or didn't really identify as being American..." - Landon Donovan (December 2015)
Arena did his part to both spearhead and manage this entirely reasonable point of view saying, “I believe an American should be coaching the national team. I think the majority of the national team should come out of Major League Soccer. The people that run our governing body think we need to copy what everyone else does, when in reality, our solutions will ultimately come from our culture.”
WOW! A total shut down of what everyone else does until we figure it out here...that’s brilliant! Amazing! If there’s something we can rally upon, it’s a tough guy bringing the real talk. He even joked about getting out of the gig by punching a journalist! Tough and very smart- believe me. We were so primed for so much winning, and it didn’t quite happen. Thanks a lot, Klinsmann.
I could write about this for hours, but I’ll spare you. The knives were out for Klinsmann the moment the Straus article came out, despite what anyone might tell you. No sooner did Arena come into the fold, the tone in the journo community instantly brightened. And it was all going to be OK! Nevermind the fact that ‘respected’ outlets felt the need to publish utter fabrications about a player in the pool (???)- everything was going to be just fine.
Well, the change in tone from ‘Most talented player pool ever’ to ‘NO TALENT: TIME TO REVAMP YOUTH DEVELOPMENT’ was as rapid a pivot as you’ll see, and you only saw it because the US failed to qualify after leaving Arena the easy matches. You also only saw it because a pack of sycophants preferred and, perhaps, pushed for a foolish consistency and mind-numbingly cliIché insights over someone with long term vision. They will, of course, face zero consequences in their profession for as long as anyone can draw a check in sports journalism.
None of this to say that ‘Pay to Play’ isn’t a flawed model. Of course, it is. I guess it’s great we’ll immediately fix it (we won’t). Sunil Gulati? Yeah, he messed up. Regardless of whether you think it was a mistake to give Klinsmann a 2nd contract or not, he botched the replacement, bigly. It’s hard to say whether it would be worse if Bruce Arena was a hasty desperation hire or the long held ‘ace in the hole’. Regardless, searching for the single culprit is a fool’s errand, and the people pointing the finger carry culpability for that, too.
Time is a flat circle. Dumping problems on immigrants and entities outside the ‘Real Americans’ clique is as American as apple pie. William Jennings Bryan? Nah. Father Coughlin or Pat Buchanan? Who? What about the warnings of Theodor Guisel? Who??? And before you think to yourself that I’m being melodramatic, I’d advise you to consider the thoughts of Golden Boy. Even if you do, statistically speaking, it won’t matter.
Two years from now, when we go through a cyclical recession, you know Trump will blame Obama for the slump despite being left with a booming economy that only an idiot could screw up, and at least 20% of the people who receive the message will believe it. The ‘enlightened’ scribes, drunk as lords on groupthink and narrative, will forget everything they learned in school and produce the lamest copy imaginable- weighing the message as if it were equivalent to careful deliberation and protesting that they did nothing wrong when it turns out that it was an obvious fraud. The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even the past.
Oh yeah. Game! Here’s a roster.
DFW is well represented. On top of Jesse, Kellyn, and Mckennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers’ dad is a former Mavericks great. I won’t be tuning in to here Bruce Arena on Fox Sports (LMFAO). I’d recommend Univision. Peace out.