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The USMNT’s Last Chance Blown-Up By TNT

The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) will not compete in next summer’s World Cup in Russia after losing away at lowly Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 last night.

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(Christian Pulisic reacts as USMNT fails to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia)

The USMNT has officially hit rock bottom.

One of the blog posts I wrote a few months back concluded the hiring of Bruce Arena would be a 50/50 coin toss regarding success. Whether you picked heads or tails, it turned out to be the other one for Mr. Arena’s prowess for getting the United States to the 2018 World Cup. In truth, the coin didn’t land in someone’s hand, but rather in a gutter.

As written in yesterday’s blog, like the Dutch not qualifying for next year’s World Cup, the USMNT failing to qualify is equally a “total mess.” It’s embarrassing and humiliating. There’s no other way around that fact. Moreover, this blog has repeatedly (repeatedly) written about the shocking lack of change and insight concerning USMNT’s ineffective roster, strategy (the team had a strategy on the pitch?) or any overarching philosophical guiding principles whatsoever for America’s national team. And these critiques aren’t limited to this year or a match-by-match basis, but for several World Cup cycles.

There are so many negative things that can be stated right now. Actually, there are far too many negative things that should be stated right now about the USMNT. That’s a problem in and of itself. One plus today, however, may be that the current roster, not including Christian Pulisic and possibly Bobby Wood, are likely done at the national team level. These older and familiar players were given too many World Cup cycles, especially because their way didn’t deliver expected results. The next generation of Americans, like Christian Pulisic, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, Wil Trapp, Bobby Wood, Josh Williams and others, need their shot to define the USMNT with a dynamic playing style guided by an identifiable, innovative philosophy.

A new coach from overseas with a proven record with young players wouldn’t hurt. If US Soccer is thinking clearly (a big if), they might focus their attention and wallets on Mr. Pep Guardiola. Once again, it’s possible and also the best bet for simulating a Men in Black flash eraser moment for American soccer fans. All the above problems would be resolved and the USMNT could enter a future World Cup with talent and expectations like never before. If there was ever a moment to show someone the money Jerry Maguire-style, this is it.

The USMNT is (and has been) in desperate need of a soccer revolution. When you think revolution, you think of standing for and protecting your home; the values that define you and showcase your best characteristics for a bright, prosperous future. In the case of US Soccer, that means returning home:

Columbus, OH.

In Columbus, US Soccer will find a future waiting and willing to be built together by dedicated blue collar workers from a plan by white collar visionaries and supported by the best damn fans in the land stands. Quite frankly, it all sounds like a massive idea.

Actually, it all sounds pretty damn American.

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Should U.S. Soccer Reinvest in the Same Kind of Arena for the Future?

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(FourFourTwo online)

“Patience is a virtue.”

True, but staying with it two-and-a-half years past its boiling point was beyond any logical comprehension.

The Big News: Jürgen Klinsmann was fired as the head coach of the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team).

About.Damn.Time.

Many will speculate that this decision was driven by the recent and shocking opening group losses for the World Cup in 2018 to “That Team Down South” (Jimmy’s Daily Planet trademark pending) 2-1 in the “Dos-a-Cero” sanctuary known as Crew Stadium in the soccer capital of U.S. Soccer on November 11th, followed by an equally embarrassing and inexcusable 4-nil drubbing in Costa Rica days later.

Sure, but soccer fans paying close attention knew Mr. Klinsmann’s American soccer experiment had reached the insanity level years ago.

Bigger News: Regardless of performances on the pitch (fair, mostly bad and worse), nothing changed. The same roster was compiled with minor, predictably ineffective alterations. The same core group of players were given multiple (yes, multiple) World Cups to define and showcase their talents in leading the USMNT. And yet, each World Cup (again, that’s plural) in 2010 and 2014 revealed nearly identical staleness regarding vision, creativity and results.

Precise and purposeful ball movement that is adaptable, whilst breaking down the complexities of the opponent’s defensive apparatus? Nope.

Kick the ball up top and then hope for the best. Yup.

Not only that, but the 2014 World Cup roster for the USMNT with newcomers Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Brad Davis, Omar Gonzalez, Brad Guzan, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and Chris Wondolowski achieved…

Do you know? Nothing comes to mind. What sophisticated, fluid style did they enact on the pitch? Again, my mind is blank.

That’s quite a feat, considering that the only place for the USMNT to go is, well, up. And this is why Mr. Klinsmann’s American soccer experiment is described as insane above, which is that the same ineffectual roster with the same non-existent strategy (micro and macro) was used for the past several years and the end result was a wasted 2014 World Cup by not bringing in the youngsters to lead a daringly exciting and innovative team of the future. The names that come to mind are Julian Green (Bayern Munich, 21), Mix Diskerud (NYCFC, 26), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, 18), Aron Jóhannsson (SV Werder Bremen, 26), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew, 23) and Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal, 19), to name just a few.

To be fair to Mr. Klinsmann, he played Julian Green against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup and Mr. Green rewarded Americans with a goal against those Belgians.

Imagine that…

Let’s not forget that some of the best players in the world have to work their entire careers with the best clubs to earn the honor to represent their country is just one World Cup. U.S. Soccer claims to mimic the rest of the world in order to catch up to their level in Europe and South America. Fair enough. However, U.S. Soccer has neglected to include the same standards as the best national teams in Europe and South America.

Why did Mr. Klinsmann select the right dual-citizenship players and then refuse to develop them through natural growing pains?

The Biggest News: I have been writing on many, many occasions about these very concerns and about how Mr. Klinsmann should have been fired a long, long time ago. So, while I am very happy his tenure as USMNT manager is over, the next question is who will replace Mr. Klinsmann? Conventional wisdom and hearsay points to former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena. This is a double-edged sword. Yes, Mr. Arena coached the last great USMNT in 2002, but he also knows the system. And there’s the key phrase: “the system.” That leads me to believe that Mr. Arena, if appointed, will not change the system, but merely tinker within it. Odds are high that hiring Mr. Arena for a second go-around will look and feel more like a band-aid rather than a creative overhaul for the future that’s desperately needed and available at the next manager’s finger tips.

The quality on the pitch has to improve (after Mr. Bradley and Mr. Klinsmann, it’s damn near rock bottom), yet it appears as though the status quo in the starting eleven and call-ups will remain mostly the same. Landon Donovan will likely return, along with a few other familiar names to American soccer fans.

Just what American soccer fans are yearning for right now: Something familiar.

The USMNT will be better, but the revolution of selecting the best American players in MLS and leagues around the world based on talent, shared philosophy and individual fit within a cohesive collective unit without great concern for name ID and not simply choosing the most familiar or “tested” athletes, whatever that means anymore for players deemed “inexperienced” with the USMNT, will be put on hold in all likelihood. An unwillingness and fear of the unknown by known personnel at the top and within the U.S. Soccer family to venture into a brave new world will prevent the grand opportunity for dynamic innovation with a bit of exhilarating mystery attached and, instead, very likely opt for the reliably non-flashy, safe approach led by Mr. Bruce Arena.

On the one hand, Mr. Arena did select Brian McBride, Brad Friedel and John O’Brien for his 2002 World Cup roster.

On the other hand, Mr. Arena did select Jeff Agoos to start in his back line for the 2002 World Cup.

The risk/reward with Mr. Arena guiding the USMNT to its promised land is a coin flip at 50/50.

News That Needs To Happen: It’s time to fire Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation President. 

Mr. Gulati, and his business partners at U.S. Soccer, hired and then fired Bob Bradley and Jürgen Klinsmann. Clearly, he doesn’t have the intelligence, vision or basic understanding of the beautiful game to lead U.S. Soccer at the highest level. Why should Mr. Gulati be trusted to hire a third head coach of the USMNT? He’s been disastrously 0-2 recently. That’s around a decade of bad judgement.

We are living in the era when people feel (rightly so in many cases) that institutions of all varieties are failing them. That’s actually a false assumption. It’s the people leading the institutions that are failing. Just like the pitch, it’s way past time for the next generation of soccer professionals to lead U.S. Soccer into a promising future. The right players are ready to work and thrive and USMNT fans are ready to cheer and make the United States a soccer nation (see Columbus, OH if you have any concerns with this notion). Incredibly, the United States may have flashes of a golden generation of sorts in the wings.

However, if the next USMNT head coach doesn’t shine a bright enough light (or any light) on these aforementioned players, then we’ll see yet another major American soccer investment in fool’s gold.

Three’s a Crowd

I want to wish everyone a Happy Veterans Day!

2-nil Dos-a-Cero is pretty perfect, isn’t it?

Admittedly, 2-nil is the worst lead in soccer (there’s a legitimate psychology to this). However, for whatever reason, this scoreline has evolved into a magical anomaly in the beautiful game when the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) and That Team Down South meet in Ohio’s capital city at Crew Stadium. And yes, I’m fully aware that the first soccer-specific stadium is now called MAPFRE Stadium, but it will always be Crew Stadium to true Crew/US fans who’ll never forget the legacy of the late Lamar Hunt who delivered the MLS team and stadium to our city.

Hopefully, every member of the USMNT coaching staff and players walk by the statue of Mr. Hunt at the main entrance of Crew Stadium tonight and pay their respects to the man responsible for bringing professional soccer to Columbus, OH.

Talk about a great photo opportunity and image for US Soccer.

There have been four Dos-a-Cero games in Columbus, OH for World Cup qualifying:

  • February 28, 2001
  • September 3, 2005
  • February 11, 2009
  • September 10, 2013

There have been other notable Dos-a-Cero results between the USMNT and That Team Down South (one of which was during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea), but tonight spotlights Crew Stadium’s unrivaled assembly line of delivering the prized scoreline in Columbus, OH for World Cup qualifying.

As it has been written about many, many times on Jimmy’s Daily Planet, I am not a fan of the roster that’s been continually produced by USMNT Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann, his tactical decisions (or lack thereof) or why he’s still managing the team. That aside, I am above all a fan of the USMNT and will be cheering for the Stars & Stripes to deliver a fifth-consecutive Dos-a-Cero! The pure magic of this game can overcome the aforementioned concerns for one night.

OH, that first night…

It’s amazing to have the USMNT back home in Columbus, OH:

THE Soccer Capital of the United States of America.

GO USA!

That 2nd (Well 2-0) Degree Burn

Dos-a-Cero: Enough said.

Okay, here are a few more words.

THE soccer capital of the United States of America will feature the Stars & Stripes vs. That Team Down South (trademark pending) for the fifth time tomorrow night. The forecast for Columbus, OH is projecting weather in the lower 40s on November 11th. Hopefully, it will be the coldest, most uncomfortable 40-degrees in recorded history. Why? Because the visiting opponent/hated rival Mexico That Team Down South hates the frigid weather of a particular Midwestern capital. For the first Dos-a-Cero match on February 28, 2001, the players from That Team Down South refused to warm-up due to the slightly chilly weather (in the teens).

More will be written about the unrivaled history and significance of Dos-a-Cero in Columbus, OH in tomorrow’s post. For now, let’s all enjoy (in the warm comfort of our homes) a throwback this Thursday to this legendary 2-nil series between the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) and, you know…

Again, a Jimmy’s Daily Planet trademark is pending.

Fun Fact: Josh Wolff is currently an Assistant Coach with, yes, Columbus Crew SC.

Hopefully, USMNT Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann asks Mr. Wolff to give the forwards (and, cough cough, the bench players) a pep-talk before the game tomorrow night.