The United States of America. A country that is almost as harsh a divider in the footballing world as the city of Manchester on a City v United fixture. Where natives to the country seem to hold a perceived dominance in most competitive sports, the same success has not been forthcoming in the world’s game. Because of that (and the American propensity for the word “soccer” over “football”), Americans and the view on the American footballers and teams are often harshly viewed on the world stage.
A “Hollywood story” saw the United States progress to a round of 16 tie against Ghana, where they were defeated and saw their World Cup 2010 hopes die. Two short years later and we saw the USA pull off a one-nil victory against Italy, a feat that had never before been accomplished by an American national team and a feat that once again sent followers of the USMNT into a frenzy on the “potential” of this squad. We also saw the replacement of American Bob Bradley at the helm by the extremely capable Jurgen Klinsmann, a coach whose success as a player and coach only further induced the “hype” involved with the American team. This is where I take this train of thought and smash into a perfectly unsuspecting mountainside.
Come on folks. Look at the facts and stats. The last outing for the USA in WC ’10 was impressive because the USA went farther than they should. Accept the fact that the only team worth anything that they play in their qualifying matches is Mexico (sorry Honduras and…Antigua and Barbuda? Come on, the total population of A&B could fit into one U.S. stadium), and also accept the fact that the U.S.A. will never have enough depth at any position outside of goalkeeper to ever push around the big boys. Furthermore, do not even begin to mention that they “topped their group” in 2010. England (more specifically Robert Green) gifted them a draw and the other two teams are International lightweights. It is not the USMNT’s fault. Most of the talented athletes in the country are not drawn to football the way that they are drawn into other sports. Do you think stars like Lebron ever considered playing “soccer?”
The team is massively dependent on aging players. The Stars and Stripes’ defense (the position that seems to one of their weakest) has an average age of twenty-nine and a half, based off of all players that are currently involved with the squad and have ten caps or more. The midfield does not have the same age problem, but the absolute dependence on the performance of Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey in regards to midfield success is ridiculous. If Donovan or Dempsey have one off night, the midfield follows them right down the drain. Although Donovan and Dempsey are largely considered to be forwards, the only midfielder that is able to maintain any type of decent consistency without D&D performing seems to be Roma’s, Michael Bradley. Once again, ’big’ teams sometimes have three to four players for any given position that can all perform at a world-class level, demonstrating the lack of depth that will prevent the U.S. from ever snagging the biggest title in the world of football.
Another massive problem for the USMNT is the MLS. Sure, I think the MLS has potential and that they are making some moves that will improve their future, but the fact remains that having almost half of your players in this league is not good for your short-term or long-term future. The most dependable players on the U.S. team are players that have proven themselves across the pond, with Bradley and Dempsey making themselves indefensible to their clubs while playing in Europe and bringing that talent out for their national team. Although I am not absolutely positive on how to get the future of the U.S. team out of the confines of the MLS and into the top leagues, it is certainly something that needs to be done in order for the team to move forward.
Although many of you will probably voice your opinion against my thoughts, bear in mind that I am an American and that I follow this team as close as possibly can be done by any person following their national team. I also hope for the best for this team every time they take the pitch, but the stats and constant viewings that I have made on the last few years of matches (we do our homework here at Soccer Reviews) shows that the current direction of the Stars and Stripes is one of mediocrity. Once again, I hope that this changes, but a one-off win against winning an entire tournament is a completely different thing. Although I celebrated when the USMNT emerged victorious against Italy, they have still not proven that they can get out of a group stage and win three to four games in a row in order to lift a trophy.