Thursday, January 19, 2017

This again (sigh).

By now, I'm sure you've all read Tim Howard's regrettable comments about commitment to the USMNT shirt and its intersection with the increase in dual nationals in the team. In the current climate of the country at large, Jermaine Jones was entirely correct in calling the remarks 'dangerous'.

For a moment, let's set aside the obvious fact that scapegoating a certain group of players for the opening two defeats of the hex and the general direction taken by the team last year is nonsense. At the risk of repeating myself, an American is an American, regardless of where he was raised or lived or lives. One is not "half-American" because they have one foreign-born parent. Being American is like being pregnant; you can't be either thing halfway. Either you are or you aren't. And that's all I have to say about that. Yet again.

We all saw the games last November. We've all seen the heroic contributions of dual-nationals, dating back to long before Jurgen Klinsmann took over. And even though we definitely do not, I feel we all should realize that there were a list of things one could question about Klinsmann's running of the team before we ever got down to any silly discussion about weighing commitment levels.

The real head-scratcher about Howard's statements is that they, whether by intention or not, provided cover for a departed coach who is not American... while at the same time criticizing him, kinda for not being American enough in his job. And (as was the case when Landon Donovan made similar remarks in 2015) they were made by a guy with one foreign parent. Bear in mind, too, that this is a fact Howard certainly doesn't hide from. It was layers of weird, man.

And it was wrong. Again. The coach didn't coach well and the capable players made mistakes players can't make, and that's how things go awry when you play good opponents. Why can't folks just say that, instead of something stupid?






- Greg Seltzer

24 comments:

Freegle said...

I didn't read Howards comments as saying anyone was not American enough. Simply that some players showed less commitment to the usmnt than he thought they should. I believe Timmy thinks that if we have to ask/campaign/beg a player to wear our crest, we may not be getting a player who will bring the right attitude consistently. I also believe that he is more than qualified to judge who is and is not bringing the proper commitment to the program. If some of those players are our dual nationals who were recruited, why is he wrong? Abby's comments were deplorable (especially when she doubled down). Arena's were poorly worded but correct in that our need to scour the globe for talent illustrates the lack of success in our domestic development. Howard's are unique in that they were made based on observations from someone inside the program. They were spoken with knowledge of specific examples. Did he articulate poorly? Absolutely. But he's a goalkeeper not an English teacher.

Dany Tzvi said...

I agree with freegle... i think it was a valid thought and he made horrid word choice when trying to express the thought. That said, when that question comes up, i would hope players either have a pre-thought out, pre-meditated answer or just say "im not prepared to answer that question". When you try to speak off the cuff about a controversial topic like this, bad things happen. So id still say hiward handled this poorly, but i dont think its a huge deal.

Bob Stanley said...

The pre-canned responses we get from players is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous are reporters that blow things out of proportion when a player does say something that's not 100% politically correct...

Greg Seltzer said...

Yeah, I do not agree with you guys on this. Sorry. What Howard said (and what others before him have similarly said) was scapegoating nonsense. And before we credit him as being inside for the two November games, let's remember he wasn't actually there for those. He knew it was a bad sentiment, otherwise he would not have walked it back later.

As for cries of PC, don't get me started on that.

Patrick said...

I think people like Timmy and try and read onto what he said nobler thoughts.
I agree with Greg, this is all nonsense. Not the least because Howard sounded like JK, where tactics, skill, and experience don't win matches but passion. If we just had more passion against Argentina! Never mind the puzzling selections and lack of game plan. Never mind we scrap the system and starters that looked great against T&T, to play six new guys in a formation we practiced for a few days against Mexico. If we had passion we would have won.

Xenophobic yes, and naive.

Dany Tzvi said...

Yeah^ i think you've convinced me with this... dope seem a bit daft to blame failings on "passion" of 1 or 2 duals

dikranovich said...

howard didnt walk anything back, and he was the starter in the mexico game. try again tsar gregor!

dikranovich said...

It's important for everyone to read the us today article, which the quotes come from, in order to get the full context of what Timmy is talking about.

Andy Palmer said...

I'm with Timmy in looking at the Costa Rica game in which many players just stopped trying. That didn't used to be an issue for the USMNT; we might be lacking in skill and tactics, but no one ever questioned the team's heart.

As someone born in Europe to a European mother and American serviceman father, it CAN be difficult to have the same level of patriotism that a 'born and bred' American has. I was lucky in that regards because I stayed in Europe, with my father, and attended US schools on base for my last 7 years of school. During my years attending local schools in England, however, I didn't have that same US patriotism.

This is not to say that it's impossible. I've criticized Jermaine Jones' decision making, but never his heart on the pitch while playing for the USMNT. I can't say the same for all of the Euro-Americans. Heck, I can't even say the same for all the born and bred Americans. But it used to be a core tenant of our team and one that I hope Arena can re-prioritize.

The crux of Howard's poorly stated argument is that talent should not be the primary criteria for selection to the USMNT. The willingness to put it all out on the field for the shirt, to treat the games as MORE than just another club team game, should matter AT LEAST as much as talent.

Freegle said...

I don't think he was talking about just the November games, but more about an ongoing and worsening problem that manifested in November in the worst case scenario. I also don't think he was scapegoating anything or anyone other than Klinsmann. Ultimately, having players with inadequate commitment is a personnel issue and still falls with tactics, adjustments, formations, etc (or lack thereof) at the feet of the manager. There is nothing xenophobic about stating that the players with commitment issues were dual nationals if that is, in fact, what was observed. Again, this isn't an accusation from an outside observer. It's a veteran player in the dressing room relaying (albeit poorly) what he experienced. Moreover, it confirms the lack of unity that we all suspected during the past couple of years. If your veteran leader/sometime captain is harboring these feelings it is likely prevalent throughout the program. Dual national or not is not something Timmy cares about. He has played with dozens. Special treatment is. Lack of commitment is. Team discord is. He just worded it poorly.

Greg Seltzer said...

I stand corrected on Howard starting the Mexico game. The rest I stand by.

dikranovich said...

I tell ya, weighing commitment levels wasn't such silly discussion when it involved our best ever player and his participation at the last World Cup. And when you consider that it was his perceived lack of commitment that kept him out, yet Tim chandler, who showed a lack of commitment, probably more so, and yet, he was still part of the team. This is T Howard venting, and his comments about the rhetoric that was spewed about leaving MLS for Europe, these comments were directed at Juergen klinsmann.

I think what Timmy is really saying is that unearthing players eligible to play for the USA, and pushing a heavy recruiting campaign for said players, is not the way to build a program, which is about exactly what coach Arena has said in the past, along with others.

In the end, these comments are meant to light the fire of all players, that playing for the USA is a special honor, never to be taken lightly.

Greg Seltzer said...

Ohhh it *definitely* was silly then, too. Beyond silly.

And, as I've said so many times, expecting Klinsmann's so-called standards to hold up across separate moments is futile.

Patrick said...

I don't believe Arena ever said that finding players abroad is no way to build a team. What I believe he said is that you cannot grade USA youth development progress on a player like Fabian Johnson because he wasn't developed here. Very logical, but he said it terribly.

The USA should field the best team possible using the best players that can be found. Period.

Jon said...

Seems to me there's an undercurrent of xenophobia running thru the US program and it probably stems from looking for excuses and scapegoats for MLS's poor player development. No one dares question why most of our domestic based players are letting the program down so they instead want to blame the foreigners. There's an inability to look within.

Jon said...

@Andy, what a bunch of nonsense. It was Landon who chose vacation in Cambodia over WC qualifiers, Howard who took a year off and Nagbe who rejected an important callup right before the Mexican WC qualifier. Those three right there deserve way more attention for lack of commitment to the program. But you and MLS media won't dare do that.

Dany Tzvi said...

^^ yes. if people have a problem with the foreign-reared players... well then we should be developing our own better players!

^yes, although in greg's defense he is being consistent here in devaluing this abstract idea of "commitment"

well, none of this would be an issue if we could get a lot of the other things correct with our team.

dikranovich said...

"Players on the national team-and this is my own feeling- they should be American. If they are all born in other countries, I don't think we can say we are making progress". Patrick, this is coach arenas original comment on the subject, and the quote needs to be taken in context, with the particular moment in time. i mean, coach Arena made these comments knowing the makeup of his own team when he was the national team coach the first time around.

It's clear to me now, there is and was a deep resentment that Tim chandler got into the 23 for Brazil, and Landon Donovan did not. one person had bled for his country, while the other had mixed feelings about representing her, and in the end, our German coach went with a German born player, and left behind our all time greatest player.

I don't know if it is scapegoating, but whatever! David Regis was probably scapegoated after 98, but that did not stop dual nationals from playing lights out in 2002, in fact, it might have made them play better.

Patrick said...

@dik: Yes, poorly said by Arena. All players on the USMNT are by definition American, so that is dumb by Bruce. Where a player is born is also immaterial to what I think he was trying to say. Where they learn to play soccer is more important than where they were born. If a player is born in Kansas but then lives in Germany from 2-14, that also doesn't say anything about US youth development. Conversely, a kid born in England but then lives here from 2-14, but then signs with Arsenal at 15 would be a reflection on US youth development. Many rabbit holes to go down with this stuff which is why it seems so easy to mis-speak. Which is why we should just accept all these Americans as the equals they are.

Arena was in charge when Rossi did his bit of treason ;) Maybe Bruce was still smarting from that and thinks he should have been forced to play where he played soccer at 8...

dikranovich said...

Patrick, from looking at the history of US soccer, it looks like we have always accepted our fellow Americans as the equals they are, have we not?
Didn't a pretty good chunk of that history also include coach Arena as the head coach of our national team?

Break down his original comment. All he say is that players should be American. Is coach playing with the interviewer? Who knows, does it matter? He has stated a simple belief, that to play for the national team means you should be American. Simple.

His second comment is about all the players being foreign born, its not seen as progress. Really, he is simply giving a hypothetical answer, to what was probably a hypothetical question.

Patrick, do you think the USA needs a strong domestic league, in order to become a real soccer power? Is it really possible to become a soccer power with a weak domestic league, but players playing all over the world?

Patrick said...

We can ask Brazil and Argentina... And France.

dikranovich said...

Yeah, right!!! Of course Brazil has not won a World Cup since 2002, Argentina since 1990. It must make you wonder a little Patrick if these countries did in fact have stronger domestic leagues back in the days when South American teams won at least every other World Cup. Now they have gone three straight without winning one. It sure is looking like it's going to be four straight come Russia. Then South American countries will have to really travel come 2022. Maybe all the top South Americans will be playing in china by then anyway, and the travel won't be so bad to Qatar.

Bob Stanley said...

Greg, you're a really good writer but I think Steve Davis at Fourfourtwo, http://www.fourfourtwo.com/us/features/usmnt-dual-nationals-conversation-evolution-player-development-united-states-tim-howard-jermaine-jones has the right temperature for this story. You've over-cooked it a bit.

Greg Seltzer said...

I saw it. In my opinion, these sort of comments are not only incorrect and unfair, they are bad for team unity, especially when coming from someone who is supposed to be a leader in the dressing room. Besides, talking about this issue (that keeps coming up every year) doesn't mean ignoring all others.