Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oh, I cannot take this one more second. - Part Deux

One of my personal pet peeves is needing to repeat myself. Ya know, when I get or see incessant comments from USMNT fans about how Tim Ream is a lost cause or Jozy Altidore is a bust or how this or that player is worthless, I want to scream.

When I was a season ticket-holding kid, the St. Louis Blues acquired a veteran all-star defenseman by the name of Rod Seiling from the New York Rangers. The first season, he was alright, probably the least you would expect from him. He wasn't overly popular.

The second season, dude was abysmal. It was like watching a train wreck into a Keystone Cop nightmare. The fans got on him good, and nobody more than little me. I was about seven or eight, verbally in that guy's hair biting his scalp like everybody else. It became a regular thing to boo and hoot at Seiling, at one point practically every time he got near the puck. His performance worsened and his ice time decreased. At the end of the season, he was traded and everyone rejoiced.

But now that I look at it, we didn't help. We needed this guy to be good and instead ran him out of form and town. Oh... did I not mention what the team's records were that season and the next? Seiling's horror season saw the Blues finish 20-47 with 53 points, one of the worst campaigns in franchise history. After he was shipped off, they went 18-50 for 48 points, their worst season ever.

Thinking about that makes me think about how harsh some people get on the USMNT, with particular players rather popular as whipping boys at one time or another. We all know who they are, a list of guys "discarded" as legit Nats by fans and media before they reached 23, even some that have gone on to become stalwarts.

It's not just the Marvell Wynnes and Jonathan Bornsteins and Freddy Adus and Robbie Rogerseseses needing support; heck, how many times has Oguchi Onyewu been buried over the years? Didn't Michael Bradley have the ridiculous nepotism cloud even after marshaling our midfield at World Cup? And for that matter, how long does Heath Pearce get aggressively punished for being generally solid instead of the world-beating left back raider we daydream about? Has he even been allowed to become what we want? Have many of them been allowed to progress as it often goes on the way to being what we want?

So to repeat myself (sigh): We don't do this anymore. We are building something, it takes time and players must be improved in this new system - that's the whole point of it. These are realities, as is the fact that we're meant to be on the same side. That doesn't mean don't criticize or have preferences. There's quite a gulf between "being gagged by the preachy writer" and "Why do we even bother calling up (fill in your favorite promising youngster with game flaws or famous episodes of woe) anymore? He's useless!" the last time I checked.

These players don't so much fail US Soccer, as it and we fail them. If some player has weaknesses, we coach them up and stick behind them. We don't just give up on 24-year-old defenders with glitches and 21-year-old attackers with uncommon traits and players that just happen to specialize in the specific field role that's universally bemoaned as missing. When we do, the coaches eventually will, too. We've seen it countless times. And I suppose while we're being fair, this new way of backing the team extends to the coaches to some extent, as well.

Growing pains aren't supposed to tickle and unchecked cynicism doesn't help, least of all with a new coach, loads of green players, a new tactical mentality and nine months of all friendlies where the result means less than nothing. Oh, I know... being told to be nice and patient is like putting the soul in a headlock with noogies. Unfortunately, only hearing things we like isn't an option if we wish to grow and advance in life.

We are not all seven years old and the USMNT is far from Rod Seiling. Let's get on the team, for good days and bad. All the frustration in the world comes out in the wash as long as you thrive out of weakness. That's what champions do in order to become champions.

What they don't do is reject moldable talent or crudely rant against a player's wife or pretend star teammates are in a competition or gripe at them over where they wish to play or forget that they're all doing the best they can to rep that shirt for all of us - even if they aren't doing it quite as well as they will one day if we let them.

- Greg Seltzer


Nicholas said...

This post is valuable. I think we often fail to notice the human element in the players we follow. We who don't play are critics. The psychic balance of a player is now open to society. I admire anyone who goes through it and shows their professional nature. As fans we will critique. It is difficult enough to manage someone let alone with words from afar. I cringe at messageboards, if only to be Sir Harry and to not read. Everyone dies and dreams to plays for the U.S. so keep it clean

Matt said...

Fantastic post. And fancy Photoshop work, too.

M Vann said...

Bravo. Bravo. Bravo. I'm giving you a handing oviation. Yes,
at my desk and I'm not worried that the chick across the hall is giving me the weirdest, WFT look. You sir not only hit the nail on the head you drove it into concrete on one swing!

Devin Mathias said...

so spot on. kudos.

SpinTheGlobe said...

Amen, brother!

Tony M said...

Great piece, great sentiments, but a bit like a puppy barking back the ocean. You are missing one component of the phenomena, I think. There is a sort of misguided advocacy going on. If you think George John should be getting a shot at the national team, it's a small step to building your case by listing and exaggerating the flaws of the guy you think is taking his place. Soon, you see nothing but the missteps...and before long you're shouting at the television that the guy sucks, he was never any good, people who like him are morons, yadda yadda yadda.

As Gore Vidal said, it's not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

Anatoly M said...

This is the first time I am posting here – so I’d like to start with a big THANK YOU. I check your website daily. (I use a nifty firefox addon Speed Dial that opens a tab with my selection of sites tiled on and updates at set intervals).

Your analysis and insights are thought provoking. Keep it up!

1. On nepotism with Michael Bradly. He is a very good player in his own right. What his Dad did for him - and that is something that many promising players would kill for – he believed in him, and he gave him playing time on the highest available level. We and Michael are fortunate that he did not fail and used the opportunity to develop. He remains one of our best defensive/holding mids with occasional attacking forays. He is not and never will be #10, but again, he is one of the best in what he does.

2. My biggest pet peeve with the player selection is apparent slow reaction of the coaches - Bradley and looks like Klinsmann as well – to the current form of SOME players. Examples: Jonathan Spector was running hot, but was not called until his injury and slump. He did show some quality, but not equal to the hype. Then he was deservedly dropped. Hercules Gomez was extremely hot, and never utilized. We know how the “hot” condition is important for strikers. Cooper was never called when he was in the good form, now nobody wants him (rightfully so). Opposite examples – Beasley was trusted despite the obvious drop of form. Same goes to Clark and Bornstein.

3. That we have now higher expectations, unreasonable expectations – is a sign that we are becoming a soccer nation. Everybody have unreasonable expectation about their teams. Unless you are a member of the select club of Brazil, Argentina and Spain who have the right to do it.

Realistically – who of our players would be on the national team of other countries?
Let’s look at the current FIFA ranking: Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Uruguay, England, Brazil, Portugal, Croatia, Italy, Argentina. Next ten are Denmark, Chile, Russia, Greece, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Cote d’Ivoire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Japan. There are suprises with some countries under- and other over-performing. Which only makes it more true that now nobody is guaranteed a cake-walk. You need to go below first 50, and even then – Ukraine is #54, Costa-Rica is #62, Poland is #68 – good luck pushing them over.

Howard – there are very few countries that would not have him as a starting goalkeeper.
Depsey and Donovan – would be in 23 for all but Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, and Argentina. How Depsey is playing now, maybe some of these would have him too.
Same I think applies to the healthy Gooch.

But everybody else – it gets much tougher. We know where our best players are on the club level. There are hundreds of footballers that play on the higher level. If allowed, same Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Argentina could field 2, 3 or more teams stronger than ours. But everybody else is in the same boat as we are. Yelling at their national team coach. Building same higher expectations from the same pool of good but not elite players. And we can and should compete well.

dikranovich said...

if marvell wynne gets a call up under this regime, i will laugh my ass off so hard. that will be a beautiful day.

Bryan said...

Cheers, Greg. Next time I'm in Amsterdam I'll buy you a Heineken extra cold for you for this

Jay said...

*slow clap*

Phillip Goldman said...

Awesome post Greg, I couldnt agree with you more. Now just write something about those pesky Americans who think their taste and knowledge of footie is too sophisticated to root for THEIR national team and how to get them to a.)shut up or b.) see the light of day and this will be the best V-day ever!

UnitedDemon said...

There is a cure for the loathing of young attackers.

His name is Eddie Johnson.

Start Eddie Johnson as lone striker for a few friendlies. Suddenly, Agudelo, Altidore, and Teal will be saints in no time.

Don't fight the system; play it.

Greg Seltzer said...

Thanks, everyone. Appreciated.

Phil McCracken said...

Great post, Greg. The toughest thing about being a soccer fan in the US is that for years, you end up dealing with fans of other (more "American") sports who don't understand or respect the sport. Also, you don't really get any respect from soccer fans in other countries as it was easy for them to take shots at anything American. So, you end up feeling like you're always at that bottom of the pile.

Now that things have started to go our way, we get impatient and want to see more substantial progress towards achieving something that will make us feel like we've arrived. You're spot on that we should appreciate what we have and be patient that we're building towards something great, but think that at times, we forget this and just want it all now.

The US has a great future in soccer, both domestically and abroad and we should take great pride in that. It's not "if" any more, it has become "when".

Jay said...

A news trawl on Brian Ching's imminent return to Houston managed to bring me to this article, which, of course, led me to return to this NSC post. Nothing here is soccer-specific, but it doesn't need to be.

"The more interactive it is, the more these remarkable claims are being made," Curtis said. "The more instantaneous it is, the more rapidly it changes, the less historical collective memory we have. The less collective memory we have, the more likely we are to make these phenomenal claims."

Yup. We've all seen that.

The downside of soccer as "the first American sport of the internet age" is that it necessarily has fans like ours, with short attention spans and no sense of history. Any invective reinforces more invective.