BY MIKE VALLO
All serious US national team fans have undoubtedly already read the incredibly interesting and alarming story by Brian Straus of the Sporting News.
If you haven’t, you should.
Now, if you are incredibly lazy and can’t be bothered, it’s basically a bunch of US Nats whining about the shortcomings of Jurgen Klinsmann and his assistant coach, Martin Vasquez.
After reading the story, it seems the US Men are at best in desperate need of an emphatic victory in Costa Rica to gain some confidence and at worst on the verge of collapse. The players are confused and annoyed by their newish coach and divisions are starting to emerge within the squad.
I’m by no means a strong supporter of Klinsmann. So far, many of his decisions have been puzzling. The team lacks consistency and he seems intent on setting a record for most defensive midfielders on a soccer field at one time. He’s equally enthusiastic in his support for Jermaine Jones in his quest to earn the most unnecessary yellows by any US player.
Add in the stifling boredom of recent performances by Klinsy’s squad and it’s understandable that the fanbase and players have some doubts.
At the same time, show me a US fan who never questioned Bob Bradley’s tactics and I’ll show you a liar. Show me a US fan who never doubted the direction of the team under Bradley and I’ll show you an even bigger liar. Remember two games into the 2009 Confederations Cup? Or two games and 90 minutes into the 2010 world cup?
By anonymously contributing quotes to Straus’ article, the US players have embarrassed themselves and insulted the fans. The quotes make the team sound entitled and egotistical, like a team with no heart that never gave their new coach a chance in the first place.
Let’s look at some of the most disappointing results recently. The scoreless draw against Canada sticks out as an underwhelming one that was also nearly unwatchable. Canada is a team that’s had three coaches in six months. They haven’t made it to the final round of World Cup Qualifying since MMMbop was atop the billboard charts. In the past year, they’ve fallen to Armenia and lost to Honduras by a touchdown (seriously, they gave up eight goals…in soccer). I’m pretty sure they took the field in Houston with hockey sticks in hand.
In other words, they aren’t very good. Even if the tactics employed and players chosen were less than stellar, surely a supposed power in CONCACAF should push aside Canada with ease.
The same goes for the 2-1 squeaker over Antigua and Barbuda. When playing a nation with the same population as Schenectady, it shouldn’t take a tactical genius to manage a two goal victory.
Then there is the nonsense about the clique of German players. Firstly, with the exception of Jones, you would have a hard time saying that any of the Germaricans are getting too much playing time. If anything, they’ve been a much needed boon to a talent pool in transition.
Secondly, that kind of situation is a two-way street. If the German-based players haven’t gelled with the rest of the squad, the whole team is at fault for not taking the necessary steps to create a good atmosphere. While I’d love if all my players fell to their knees in teary convulsions during the National Anthem, I’ll settle for someone who can play left back consistently.
The criticisms of the German-born players seem pathetically petty and small.
Of all the complaints levied against Klinsmann, the benching of Carlos Bocanegra in Honduras is the only one with any merit. That decision showed that despite what he says in interviews, Klinsmann doesn’t yet fully understand CONCACAF qualifying and the value of veterans in a hostile atmosphere like that of San Pedro Sula. But it’s also not unheard of for a coach to bench a player who hasn’t gotten regular club minutes in some time.
At the very least, the players could have leveled their complaints on the record instead of passive-aggressively attacking their coach behind the curtain of anonymity. Klinsmann deserves criticism and there should be a discussion about the direction of the National Team. Their needs to be more consistency in the starting eleven, some improved results and the grand plan needs to be clearer.
However, by throwing their tantrum, the players have just distracted everyone from real conversations about real issues and dragged us all into the mud. This is the kind of thing you expect from an English tabloid in the run-up to a major tournament, not from a team usually lauded for being blue collar and full of heart.
It’s time for the Yanks to put their big boy pants on and do their talking on the field with a convincing win over Costa Rica. If they don’t believe in Klinsmann, that’s fine; do it for self-respect and, more importantly, the fans.
And is being a professional soccer player really that tough, Landon?