Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Five-Year Stare

Before we get started, please do forgive me for taking this long. To be quite frank, I spent the first few days after the USMNT's gasp-worthy World Cup qualifying failure staring off into space. I simply couldn't believe it was real.

This was me from the final whistle last Tuesday night until Friday:

I was in a daze, folks. Sleep was a struggle. Making even simple decisions was a chore. What do I say about this? Where do I even begin? Should I shower? What do I want to eat? Yeah... it was that bad.

The initial (but protracted) shock finally wore off to some extent, so here I am. I've actually only digested a few takes from fellow media members since the loss to Trinidad & Tobago. Mostly, I've read comments from fans across the country.

Many were understandably distraught over the situation, but to my mind, most everyone has the reasons for failure and some answers moving forward at least partially right. Then again, many observers are also angrily reaching to identify foundational causes that require tearing everything down when the painful answers are actually in plain sight. Perhaps somewhere out there is our own version of Doug Forcett, who in a shroomy haze has managed to break it all down with 92% accuracy.

Make no mistake, though: we are all definitely in The Bad Place. First, I want to tackle all the reactionary howls and wayward finger points that naturally come with this sort of forced national ice-water dunk, before moving on to the "What do we do next?" part that has most fans in our USMNT bubble rather consumed at the moment. And I won't even try to pretend I have all the answers for that.


For those who say our players just aren't good enough: Don't be ridiculous. We're not talking about threatening to win a World Cup. We're talking about finishing no worse than fourth out of six CONCACAF teams. We're talking about managing at least an away draw against a greenish Trinidad & Tobago side that hadn't won in seven months.

Let's be clear. Even with the somewhat poor field, even with the misguided game plan and line-up, even with the fluke-y goals that put us behind, even with the phantom goal in Panama, even with any excuse that can be thrown out, this team is good enough to have leveled the score on Tuesday to pull qualification out of the fire.

And as Landon Donovan stated, the worst part of watching it go down was the baffling, stunning lack of urgency, especially in the second half. I will never understand that.

For those who gripe that our core was too old: I also noticed the unusual dearth of players under 27 in the our most recent selection. And I do realize that US soccer experienced a bit of a youth talent swoon earlier in the decade, with numerous prospects failing to live up to their potential. On the surface, it seems like a major issue.

However, it must also be noted that no less than five young guys that were likely to either start or could have acted as bench weapons last Tuesday (Brooks, Lletget, Morris, Rowe & Saief) are currently on the shelf with injuries. That doesn't even include potential left back option Greg Garza or Aron Jóhannsson, who has seen his form and international status derailed by an incessant injury bug.

There are other youngsters who have failed to develop in a pleasing manner and even some that might have helped during the Hex if broken in sooner, but I can't help but feel that this complaint is somewhat misguided. Twenty-nine and 30 are not ancient for defenders or a defensive midfielder, 27 is not decrepit for a striker. And while I see now that we needed a refresh in goal, if anything, the attack could have used a lot more time with the resident "senior citizen" than we got in recent games.

For those who say MLS is the problem: I get this gripe, believe me I do. It's just silly, is all. Right off the top, I'll note the obvious, that improving the USMNT and qualifying for World Cup is not the job of Major League Soccer. It's not the league's job to see that our international players/prospects go to/stay over in Europe for maximum sharpness.

That said, one could reasonably argue that MLS has become a poor scapegoat choice anyway. It's far better than it was when we reached the World Cup knockouts in 2014, and far, far better than it was when we reached them eight years ago. Besides, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama are littered with key cogs who play or recently played in MLS. And most of the Soca Warriors who doomed our qualifying efforts in the end have day jobs in their nation's much inferior domestic league.

What's more, MLS has gotten its development game together in recent years. Most clubs in the league now have a full-time academy, and several are either loaded in the youth ranks (like Atlanta United), have been churning out pro players for a while now (New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake) or both (FC Dallas).

Heck, quite a few of the youngster we're all clamoring to lead the USMNT squad turnover (DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, Weston McKennie, Justen Glad, Tyler Adams, etc.) are - yup, you guessed it - MLS youth program products. And that's not even counting other domestic-based youngsters like Brandon Vincent and Wil Trapp, or still-blooming internationals such as Kellyn Acosta and Jorge Villafana.

It's far too easy to take angry shots at our home league, but it's still a rapidly improving relative baby in the global scheme of things. And despite a late start with academies, it is doing it's job.

For those who blame it on firing Jurgen Klinsmann: Oi vey... I have news for these folks. He never should have been given a second cycle as manager. Anyone who thinks ditching the guy who sprung a formation the team had never practiced with no notice in a home World Cup qualifier against Mexico was the problem is buggin'.

That's not to say he never accomplished anything or that he never had any good ideas about how things should work. It just gets hard to remember those things after he'd lost the room and, occasionally, lost his mind regarding selections and tactics. Put a Joachim Löw at his right hand, and Klinsmann is alright. Otherwise, he's a loose cannon that contradicts himself and leaves the team feeling unprepared.

For those who lay the failure on Bruce Arena: This is partially fair. While he pulled our qualification drive out an early ditch and steered us to the precipice of "good enough" in the Hex, he also stumbled miserably at the Couva finish line.

I said it before, and I'll say it again. The old trope of trotting out a winning side is much more worthwhile in the club game, where players aren't pulled from stray points on the map on short notice to play vital games three days apart. In a World Cup qualifying situation, it's just lackadaisical, and that's precisely how the team looked last Tuesday.

Not only should typically steady hands Geoff Cameron and Clint Dempsey (if not also Alejandro Bedoya) have been in the line-up, but sticking with a 4-4-2 diamond set against a massive underdog with nothing to lose on a poor field was a highly unfortunate choice. In either a 3-5-2 or a 4-2-3-1, Michael Bradley should have been given a partner to share the central park workload against a speedy foe.

Not only that, but the team clearly looked out of sorts mentally - which was quite strange considering they'd just run through walls to bash Panama around. Last Tuesday, they were stuck in neutral for most of the game. There was none of the usual fight we see when their backs are against the wall, and other than bringing on Deuce at halftime, his in-game maneuvers were slow to come and odd.

It wasn't Arena's only misstep in this Hex, but it was the crucial one. I like Arena. I respect him and his accomplishments. And it's because I respect him that I'm comfortable saying this game plan was an obvious disaster from the get-go.

For those who point the finger at Sunil Gulati: Okay, well, I don't have an argument against that. Klinsmann's firing marked twice in just over five years that US Soccer had jettisoned a second cycle manager early. That's well more than the tip of the iceberg here. I'm not suggesting we lay all the blame at his feet, but his decisions definitely had us chasing the Hex from the start.

Oh... and everyone can stop screaming for him to be fired. The guy was elected, there's no firing him. He either resigns (which ain't gonna happen), or he serves until the next election in February.

Final analysis: Some folks surely won't want to hear this, but this monumental failure shouldn't be chalked up to any great systematic defect. That's not to say that we shouldn't be having serious discussions about development, scouting or coaching in America. We should have these discussions whether we qualify or not. These issues didn't suddenly get worse when we lost in Couva and they aren't really about the art of qualifying. They're about reaching that mystical "next level" our soccer bubble is always consumed with. They're about catching up to the Frances and Germanys and Argentinas, not about staying ahead of Honduras.

When it comes right down to it, the USMNT will miss out on World Cup because the players and manager fell flat at the finish line after digging themselves out of the Klinsmann hole. That wasn't the only problem event from the Hex, to be sure, but nobody would be freaking out from despair about blowing up the system had the team handled business in Trinidad & Tobago. The World Cup place was there to take, with controlled destiny, from the easiest away match of the bunch.

Excuses are for the unsuccessful, and there was no excuse for letting the ticket to Russia 2018 slip away last week. It's not fun for me to say that, as I know everyone involved is gutted by what happened. But it is what it is.


Considering my take on the Hex letdown, it may seem like I don't see so much worth fixing in our system. That's not the case. There is plenty to work on - just not so much that it should stop us from falling on our faces at the CONCACAF level.

The USSF leadership: Yeah, obviously it's time for a change. Gulati has done plenty for US Soccer, and he will still be active in the World Cup '26 joint-bid (another terrible, overly safe idea, by the way).

It's time for someone more in tune with the soccer side than the business/diplomacy side to take the reins. Reaching the "next level" doesn't come from repeating the same old program and methods that got us this far. It requires something new, something bolder, and definitely something less purely about front-end profits.

Our NT attitude: I already mentioned this in the comments, but I'm sick and tired of the familiar refrains we hear during World Cup qualifying. We all know it's not easy to travel in CONCACAF.

Nevertheless, we need to stop caterwauling about how European powers would struggle in our Hex and being content with road points - especially when we don't win all the home games. In each of the prior three Hexagonal campaigns, we chalked up seven road points. This time around, we gathered just three, all from draws.

Enough already. Plan and play to win every time, and stop telling the players that away draws are satisfactory. This reactive mindset can't help but creep into their heads, and it's simply not helping. Or true. It's about time we accepted that the best way to "play it safe" is to go balls to the wall.

Tackling development: This area already seems to be on a better course, largely thanks to MLS academies. Many folks subscribe to the notion of busting up the pay-to-play youth networks, but that's easier said than done when money is involved for the adults. However, we all know that US Soccer is sitting on a $100 million surplus.

They could quite easily break off a tiny chunk of that to subsidize wider participation for (and the scouting of) kids from lower-income families, a demographic that often produces world-class players in all those countries whose international success we aspire to emulate.

Frankly, I can't imagine why we're still fumbling around this issue. If US Soccer can't splash a little of their windfall to improve the player pool, then why do they even have it? Doing something proactive much sooner might have helped us avoid the brief youth talent gap that saw us left out of the last two Olympic Games.

Finding a new boss: This is another one that is easier to theorize than it is to pull off. Word going around is that longtime youth NT manager Tab Ramos could be given the job on an interim basis, and I'm fine with that.

But we should already be beating the bushes to find a permanent main man to lead the next cycle. And I believe it's more important to find some that will push the USMNT with a clear tactical vision than it is to hire a rudderless system-shaker (see Klinsmann) or a safe choice who can list "knows the American game" as a résumé selling point.

Forget this "we can go free-form" stuff. Never mind with altering formations every FIFA window jazz. Let's get someone who will start by institutionalizing organization, which has repeatedly been lacking throughout this failed cycle. Let's get one game plan down cold before we go trying to diversify every time the wind blows.

Oh, and I still must insist on that tactical vision featuring a triangle in central midfield, because being outnumbered there is almost always a problem. That means no more 4-4-2's of any shape, please.

Do I know exactly who we should hire, or which side of the Atlantic that person should come from? No, I don't. Sorry. But by now, we should all be able to detect options that won't do the trick.

The coaching issue, overall: Let's wander back toward that mega-fat stack the USSF is sitting on. Last year, our old buddy Will Parchman detailed the stunning paucity of learned coaches in America and the head-shaking cost of adding more to the ranks at a time when youth soccer participation is at a burgeoning all-time high.

This is a serious problem, if not the most pressing one we can kick about in any talk about our soccer ecosystem. Let's do a little math, shall we? An A-level coaching badge costs roughly six-and-a-half times as much in America as it does in Germany, where the reigning world champions have around five times as many A-level coaches. Now look at preceding World Cup winners Spain, who have approximately 10 times as many coaches walking around with an A-level status that cost them about 20% of what American coaches pay to get there.

Gosh, I think we've found one of those gaps we're always talking about slashing to catch up with the big boys. Soccer folks always go on about how competition breeds quality in selection, which builds performance levels. This dictum should naturally extend to the coaching realm. Why the USSF is not spending some of their windfall to remedy this situation is beyond me. Isn't growing the American game precisely their function? How better to do that than by properly guiding your players?

And we all wonder why the US coaching ranks is such an insular, conservative, old-boy network... well, wonder no more why our youngsters aren't equipped with enough technical skills and why youth coaches are often more focused on results than on development. With one A license coach for every 6,000 American players, who has the time to teach?

This is dire, friends. And the anybody running for USSF president next year needs to make changing this nonsense one of their main platforms. There's more than enough money lying around to do it.


And with all that said, I have begun working on a new Clipboard. But this one will be different. Sadly, it won't be about a depth chart headed for a World Cup (or any competitive tourney in particular). This time, it will be about starting over with a long view. That doesn't mean all the veterans will be left behind. It doesn't mean all kids are automatically in.

It will be about taking inventory with designs on finding the best way forward. And it will begin on Wednesday with the netminders.

- Greg Seltzer


Zac said...

Worth the wait. Thanks, Greg.

Dr.Jon said...

Wow!! Great work.

This just in from Claudio Reyna:
"Our approach and our behavior to the sport here — to coaching, to everything, is just wrong. We’re far too arrogant. We’re far too obnoxious. We are egotistical having never won anything or done anything, and that’s not the case around the world."

Sounds like a certain ex-USMNT coach who got grilled for stating the obvious.

Media: Hey coach, we're ready to win the World Cup now right?
Das Coach: Umm....It's not realistic
Media: Why you!! Arrogant, foreign....

As if the only difference between the US winning a WC and not is some encouraging words. Like a really motivated SF Giants this year didn't know all it would take is some kind words and they would totally be the post-season.

That article and Bruce's and Sunil's comments underscore what Reyna is saying, IMO

tzvi said...

out of everything we could spend the surplus money on, i think lowering the cost of coaching licenses is the best.

i also think there is some level of arrogance in our structure. the fact that we look at the entire rest of the world with solidarity payments and pro/rel and say we dont need those structures. there's a reason those structures exist. there's a reason the entire rest of the world does soccer business that way.

i do agree though, if we get the result in T&T nobody is freaking out like this, and we had the ability to get the result. while some of the players could have done more, i think the fault sits squarely on bruce's shoulders. the audacity to think we could play with only 1 center midfielder in a professional football match is almost revolting. That formation got us no better than typical results and it lost us 6 points in matches we typically win. go on michael, do the work of an entire midfield. absurd.

Patrick said...

MLS is not to blame, that is a straw man. MLS does allow American players to make good money playing soccer domestically. The financial incentive to go overseas is not as strong as in the past. MLS academies are relatively recent. Only 3 or so American players under 20 got more than 1000 minutes last year.

Pointing out the MLS players from other countries is also a straw man. Someone taking a limited international spot in MLS is in a different competitive player pool entirely to an American in MLS.

But I'm not going to convince you, or Matt Doyle or Steve Davis of this, you are paid by MLS.

Why good young MLS players like Hedges, Acosta, etc. Had such bad Gold Cups, against poor international competition is worth studying.

I think everything else is spot on. The coaching fees (and ref fees) are ridiculous. Gulati would have been smart to announce a 75% reduction in all course fees on Friday.

ZackL said...

So, I have lots of thoughts (AND FEELINGS) about all of this. I think the measured approach that Greg advocates here is ideal–there are clearly a number of things that aren’t working properly or have never worked at all, along with other aspects of US Soccer that are either improving or functioning relatively well–so we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. This was obviously a colossal failure, but it’s also a real opportunity to address shortcomings that our heretofore “automatic” WC qualification papered over.

I’m also hopeful that this debacle might serve to as a way to engage more casual fans in the discussions around the structural issues that have plagued US Soccer for years. I’m not sure how much airtime pay-to-play got on ESPN before Twellman’s rant, but it’s probably garnering wider attention outside of our soccer bubble than it would have otherwise. The more people we have talking about these sorts of things, the better off we’ll be. That’s my hope at least.

Mostly, I hope that this leads to more nuanced discussions about what soccer in America needs to do in order to improve. It’s endlessly frustrating to me as a fan to have most of the debate around soccer turn into a series of hot takes and recriminations: “TRY HARDER!” “MLS IS GARBAGE!” This isn’t to say that the players showed enough effort throughout qualification, or that MLS doesn’t have deficiencies that need to be addressed–they didn’t and it does. But how do we fix these problems? If the best solution we can come up with is a former pro getting red-faced on TV, then we will never really improve.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Patrick:

Setting aside that I feel you're confused about what a straw man is, you should know by now that my opinions are unfiltered. Heck, I *just* slammed MLS last week for how they handled the FC Dallas roster flub.

Whether or not paying American players more removes some incentive for going overseas (and from my vantage point, I can assure you this is only a small factor in why fewer Americans are playing in Europe right now), it's not their job to push guys across the ocean to benefit the NT.

It is no type of fallacy to point out how most of the players on the two teams that nipped us in the Hex and the team that played spoiler on us either play in MLS or an inferior league. If MLS is to blame for anything, it's helping those national teams by buying a bunch of their players from clubs in lesser leagues.

You are correct that MLS academies are relatively recent, but you're vastly underrating the amount of pitch time young Americans are getting. This thread features a count of Homegrown Player minutes per team through June 17th (the most recent one I could find). Now, not every single one of the HGP's is American, but most on US-based clubs are. You can see they are getting pro experience in MLS...


And you can feel to try and convince me. I'm not immovable and I do respond to salient arguments. I've just yet to hear one from anybody that makes me think MLS should be blamed for the USMNT's failure to reach World Cup. If it makes you feel any better, I never credited MLS for us qualifying in the past. :)

J.D. Springer said...

I agree with most everything you've said, Greg.

Any interest in campaigning for a certain election coming up in February?

One thing I do disagree on with many is that the cost of youth soccer participation is keeping many players out of the pool for US age-group squads. I've heard that for so long, but I can't quite wrap my head around it having seen youth clubs in this area (North Carolina) recruit and "scholarship" kids from poor socioeconomic backgrounds (some from other states) who they think will help them win at the national level.

If these kids are out there in great numbers, is there a lost generation of poor American kids playing in some amazing underground soccer league? If they're out there, where are they? I'd love to go watch a match or three.

If there's all this untapped talent here, you'd think Liga MX or somebody else in the world would be scouting and scooping up these kids at an early age and turning them into world-class players. If this is happening and I've missed it, please let me know.

I don't think the problem is finding young talent as much as developing the talent already in the system. (MLS academies have helped, but much more must be done.) I had no idea about the issues with A license costs. That should be the very first thing the Federation addresses, whether Sunil is in charge beyond February or not.

I also think the Federation president needs to be a paid position so that there is more accountability at the top. The smugness from Sunil and the rest of his clown posse about how they're doing all this great work for free is tiresome. Yes, they've done a lot on the business side and their continued efforts there would be welcome, but it's time to fix the playing side.

I fervently hope that the debacle that was this Hex qualifying cycle brings needed change. My biggest concern is that an opportunity to start over and fix some structural issues will be missed because get caught up in pointing fingers (I only have 10, and I ran out last week, so I'm guilty on this count.)

This country has so much potential as a soccer nation, but we have to agree on the next steps to get there before we can resume the journey.

Patrick said...

@ Greg

Blaming somebody for something implies they were willful in what they were doing. It is a straw man to argue that MLS should not be blamed for the disaster. Unless, you are hearing people thinking Garber and Co. are preventing young Americans from leaving for better leagues or that their motivation for bringing American players back was to undercut the USMNT. They do those things for reasons other than trying to scuttle the USMNT. Legitimate, to them, business reasons. But just because you can't be blamed does not mean you are not part of problem.

Why is Hamid leaving on a free at 26? Why is Acosta still at Dallas? Why does EPB have to wait for his contract to run out to move? Why did Haji Wright have to sign with the NASL?
These are all things MLS has done for business reasons, but that Hamid has not gotten good enough to start against T&T has hurt the national team. Why is Pomykal rotting away on the bench? Academies are great, but if 18-21 year olds are just not going to get PT, or sold, or traded; what is the point? Why with no threat of relegation, don't all non-playoff teams play all their youth players after they are out of it?

One week out from the disaster, you already see all the different interest groups in the US Soccer ecosystem starting to circle the wagons over their own piece. MLS writers and fans will spend lots of time discussing other parts of that ecosystem, but when will they turn that gaze at their own piece?

From what I saw, Tyler Adams and Justin Glad were the only homegrown players over 1000 minutes, Nick Lima was at 900+, and one more. With guys like Agudelo still called a Homegrown player, I'm sure minutes played can be inflated statistically. Teams are signing guys so as not to lose them for free, but then not playing them. This all has to change.

Greg Seltzer said...

Okay, well I don't want to go off into a side discussion of what a straw man is. But in my personal opinion, considering MLS to be part of the reason why we didn't qualify is silly.

A few other answers for ya:

- Who says Hamid isn't good enough for more starts? That is down to the USMNT coaches that passed him over time and again.

- If you ask FC Dallas, Acosta is still there because they've not had offers for him. Either way, you

- EPB is an odd situation, I'll grant that. I'm sure his club did not want it to get to this point, but they simply felt the offers received for him were insufficient at that time. But it's not like he's sitting behind a pair of schlubs, Sporting KC has the best defense in the league.

- Pomykal is 17, and spent a couple months on the injury shelf. I'd hardly say he's wasting away on the bench at that age.

- It's not like 18-21 year olds are swimming in PT at most clubs. A place like Ajax is an incredibly rare situation, and I don't think anyone would confuse our young talents with theirs.

- Agudelo is not an HGP for the Revs. His minutes are not in the count.

- Young players *are* getting PT, that was what the link demonstrated.

Notable minutes for young Americans:

CHI: Mihailovic (18 yo, 674 minutes), Connor (22, 1015), Vincent (23, 2461)

DC: Canouse (22, 810), Arriola (22, 830), Harkes (22, 2009), Odoi-Atsem (22, 661)

PHI: Jones (20, 822), Epps (22, 795), Rosenberry (23, 1260)

MTL: Fisher (23, 1724)

ORL: Redding (20, 1405)

CLB: Steffen (22, 2970), Manneh (22, 1112 - includes time with CLB), Crognale (23, 1159)

RBNY: Adams (18, 2702), Muyl (22, 2457)

TFC: Delgado (22, 2129), Bono (23, 2480)

SEA: Morris (22, 1803), Roldan (22, 2870)

SJ: Yueill (20, 1356), Thompson (22, 1845), Alashe (23, 1250)

HOU: Rodriguez (21, 528)

FCD: Acosta (22, 2239), Gonzalez (22, 3000)

RSL: Acosta (19, 1320), Glad (20, 1530), Lennon (20, 1478), Schmidt (23, 764)

VAN: Nerwinski (23, 1964)

POR: Farfan (18, 493 - obviously would've had more if not for injuries)

SKC: Palmer-Brown (19, 776)

COL: Ford (21, 1724), Serna (23, 976), Hairston (23, 2544)

LA: Arrelano (19, 514), Jamieson (21, 1175), McBean (22, 871), Villarrreal (22, 578), Smith (23, 1087)

MINN: Martin (22, 724)

So, for the record, there have been eight players 21 or under to reach 1000 minutes thus far this season. Farfan likely would have made it nine if healthy. And several of these guys were gone for multiple games due to youth NT duties.

Tom said...

Also the youngish players you list for DCU *mostly* arrived after midseason and immediately played and provided impact minutes

Patrick said...


Thanks for all that work. I feel you deserve some kind of response, but I can't help but think that when you say the idea MLS has been a part of the problem is silly, it is falling on deaf ears.

Let me ask some questions that will maybe help explain my position:

1. Do you think the USMNT should be made up of mostly MLS players or players in Top 4 leagues?

2. Do you think the fact that the most current USMNT had so many MLS players reflects simply a lack of ambition or talent among a whole generation of players?

3. In a Salary Cap, Single Entity league, does the fact that the selling MLS franchise cannot reap all the financial gain from selling players to another league reduce the possibility that MLS players move to Top 4 leagues? Does the fact the club losing the player doesn't get the full financial benefit, cause that club to value that player higher than market value? Inflating the value, for them, beyond anything outside clubs would pay for.

4. During the last FIFA window, zero American players were sold by MLS to any international team. One was re-loaned. 2 USMNT players moved from other leagues to MLS. Two fringe USMNT-ers moved from abroad to MLS. Over a dozen other Americans moved from abroad to MLS. Does it seem strange that Americans move into MLS in the double digits but zero move out? Is this again, simply a lack of talent or ambition, or do the rules on how transfers affect the salary cap have anything to do with this?

Maybe the answer to #1 is no for you and that is why we can't see eye to eye on this. But if the answer is yes, you have to agree that the way MLS handles transfer sales in its internal, arbitrary rules, makes it extremely hard for American players to move. Empirically, we see that in the fact none ever move (players are now adapting by letting their contracts expire). Since the way MLS handles transfers is arbitrary and totally in their control; the lack of Americans in Top 4 leagues is, at least in part, caused by the arbitrary rules MLS has. Thus, the fact the USMNT isn't made up of talent in top leagues is, in part at least, because of the arbitrary transfer rules of MLS. Thus MLS, is in part at least, responsible for the talent level of the USMNT and the fact they failed to qualify for the World Cup.

dikranovich said...

Patrick, would you mind explaining why South America has only 1 World Cup win in the last five? Brasileros and argentines and all these players are moving to top leagues in Europe. Why have South America stopped doing what they always did, which was win at least every other World Cup? What's the incentive for American sports fans to watch soccer, when all the top American players are playing in Europe?

Kirk Diggler said...

"I'm comfortable saying this game plan was an obvious disaster from the get-go."

This statement is the ONLY thing that matters. Arena's arrogance left us exposed. His poor tactics and player selection cost us the World Cup. Talking about MLS or player development is just a distraction to just how badly Arena blew it. He had some hungry players on the bench that would have given us the edge we needed to get that point. PERIOD.