Wednesday, June 6, 2012

U.S. Men's Soccer Team Constant Source of Disappoinment

So it may seem awkward time for a rant on the U.S. Men's National Team #USMNT two days before the start of Euro 2012, but I actually sat through 45 minutes of the Canada game, so I feel I'm entitled after all. Still amazes me how well I slept Sunday night, regardless...

Two reasons to smile
I'm an American, and aside from Portugal, I truly do root hard for the U.S. to succeed. I want them to win friendlies, and I agonize when they inevitably bomb out of the World Cup every four years. But man, oh man, it's really difficult to consume the #USMNT as a product. I blame ESPN, Twitter, myself and many others for this wave of expectation around the team that just isn't realistic.

It's disturbing how much #USMNT Kool-Aid is drunk. It's disturbing how easily we're duped into thinking this is a quality, world-class product. It's our national team, and yes, root hard for it. But there isn't a lot here that's going to make a dent internationally. Just a fact. That's all.

Let's ratchet back to the friendly last week in D.C. against a Brazil B-Team. Yes, the #USMNT hit the post in the second half and you could say "won" the last 20 minutes of the game. Tim Howard was his usual beast of a keeper and Clint Dempsey brings an essence of class to the field. But good God almighty, the overwhelming essence on the field was the stench emanating from the pirate-shirt clad U.S. players--in particular, those directly charged with defending Howard's goal.

The abomination that was the U.S. defense, yes you Gooch you stiff, was a beacon into the capabilities of this team. These are mid-level players tossed to the lions every time Honduras, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago don't have an opening on their respective friendly calendars. Exposed? How about raped? The U.S. was down 3-1 when it decided to surge forward and force the Brazil keeper into a couple of just stellar saves.

But don't kid yourselves, Brazil had it all day and twice on Sunday. Any time it wanted, it could go box-to-box and score. Look no further than Marcelo's goal; the U.S. poked the bear and Brazil rolled up the nearest newspaper and swatted the U.S. on the nose, going--against--nearly uncontested from one end of the pitch to the other to make the final 4-1.

And oh yeah, as for the final 4-1. I've heard from more than one pundit that the 4-1 score was harsh and on some level did not paint a true picture of the game--yeah you Grant Wahl. Got news for you--you're right! 4-1 wasn't a fair representation of the game; more like 8-1 if you ask me. Again, let me clarify: Brazil had it any time, any way it wanted. Whenever it wanted.

Now for the Canada game, well let me just say that this was the ultimate money grab. Celebrating the centennial of Canada-US is all well and good, but no one on either side gave two good shits about this game and the final 0-0 was a testament to the mediocrity and sleep-inducing nature of this mess. Refunds please...

The bigger picture here is that --in true American fashion--we overvalue our own. Always. The U.S. are what they are, the Milwaukee Bucks of international soccer. Usually a decent team. Make the playoffs once every few years, and with some luck advance beyond the first round. Make an equally quick exit once confronted by the big dog on the block.

What hurts is that we want and expect the U.S. to succeed. As a fan base, and I'm talking to and for the casual fan base for a second, we're too easily influenced by ESPN and FOX Soccer pundits whose job it is to promote the telecast and market their respective coverage. They won't tell you that Jurgen Klinsmann has for the most part chicken shit to work with and the chicken soup he's cooking up won't ever be gourmet fare. They will pump up Landon Donovan and Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey because those are the names most familiar to American homes. But they won't tell you that those guys are NOT the problem. They won't tell you that the #USMNT's version of the golden generation is old and past its prime. They won't tell you that Bob Bradley failed to utilize very many of his younger players during his reign as coach and that there just isn't very much depth or reason for hope going forward. And finally, they won't tell you that the #USMNT is equally cursed and blessed by geography.

Having to qualify for the World Cup out of CONCACAF means the U.S. should perpetually be in the tournament. Outside of Mexico (a real 2014 dark horse to win the whole thing), there isn't much quality in this region and the U.S. is obligated to cruise into the World Cup every four years. And they have consistently since 1990. What's also been consistent is that they've failed too every tournament since 1990 to grow enough to be the superpower you're spoon fed to believe they are.The U.S. is exposed in friendlies against Brazil and even Canada (yes, we went to Italy and won, see the blind squirrel and the nut) that there just isn't enough depth or consistency to be a contender.

And that's OK. Really it is. Just don't expect much, and you'll feel a lot better about the whole thing.

No comments: